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Die Cut Custom Shape Card , Clubcard Logo dude flashing a peace sign.

Graphic Design Tutorial Setting Up A Custom Shape Die Cut Card

Welcome to the Clubcard Printing Graphic Design School. This tutorial with supporting video lays out the steps to set up a card that will be due cut to a custom shape in Adobe Illustrator.


The very first thing we need to do is creating the art board. In this tutorial we are die-cutting a business card, so we will set the art board at 2” x 3.5" plus an 1/8" for bleed. Check to ensure your raster effects resolution is set to at least 300dpi and that the colour mode is CMYK. Once the file opens, we can start laying out our artwork.


A good second step is to save your file so you don’t lose your work. We have a habit of saving often as this ensures there is an up-to-date version of your work in case you wish to go back to that point or in the event of computer problems.


We are now ready to start setting up the business card artwork. We already have artwork so we drop that into the design on a layer we have named “FRONT”. At this step you can setup the art as you would for any design.


Once the front side of the card is laid out the next step is to indicate the custom shape die cut. The die cut line (aka die line) has to be saved on a separate layer and set to 100% black ink for the "stroke".

With this design, we want to cut to the shape of our Clubcard Peace Guy character in the center of the card. We can see there is no bleed on this art so we need to have a 1/8” margin between the artwork and the dieline.

We use this card as hang tag and have included a hole, in this case the size of the hole is 1/8” in diameter which is our minimum hole size.

Please Note: If you intend on having a bleed on the front side of your cards, the art must extend 1/8” past the dieline.  


Ok the front of the card is set up so we will hide both of these front layers and create a new layer for the Back side of the card and a die line for the back.


We'll bring in the die line for the back of the card, keep in mind that the die line shape will be a mirrored version of the shape on the back of the card. The artwork on the backside will also be mirrored, so you need to flip the image when setting up your file. This is easy to do - select your object (artwork) go to the Object menu, select Transform and then select reflect and be sure to reflect the image vertically.


Now it's time to bring in your artwork for the back side of the card. You same steps however make sure that you’ve kept all important graphics and text a safe distance (1/8”) away from the die line and be sure to extend any art that  will bleed 1/8” past the dieline. There is a small degree of fluctuation during printing and cutting and this ensures, no critical text or graphics get cut off.


We are now ready to save our files for print. Go up to the File menu and select save as then choose save as PDF. Each layer must be exported individually and labelled correctly so the printer can confirm the files during file checking. For the front file we will hide all the other layers and export a PDF with only the elements meant to print on the front. We will name the front CMYK layer: Diecut_Front.pdf


For the die line layer, we only need the layer for the die line. The die line needs to be sent as 100% black to help us separate this layer out of the print file - please make sure nothing else is on that layer before you export.  You only need to submit a die line for the front. The back die line is only needed during your file setup for a visual reference to when placing your artwork. We will name the front die line layer Diecut_Front-dieline.pdf

Save the backside using the same steps as the front side and name it: Diecut_Back.pdf.


Voila our files all setup for die cutting and ready to send to print, be sure to check out all of the die cut card printing options we offer at Clubcard.


For more information on the proper PDF settings, please check out our tutorial on “How to Create a Print Ready PDF File in Illustrator”.

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Next article Choosing The Right Card Stock For Printing.

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