What is a dieline and why do I need one?

A dieline is the exact size and shape you want your custom label to be once it is finished or trimmed. You can have any shape or size for a custom dieline. However, you will need to ensure it is in your file on a separate layer. In its simplest form, a dieline is a shape in Illustrator with a stroke of at least 0.5 pt in a spot color that is not used anywhere else in the file. Dielines are extremely important in your file regardless of shape or size. We need to make sure your final label size is correct, including a dieline helps us both. Before you create your dieline, you need to make sure your document is set up correctly from the start. This is an essential but often overlooked step.

For example, if the label finished size is 4” x 4”. This is how you fill set up your Illustrator (preferred program) file when creating a new document.
  1. Width 4 in, height 4 in
  2. Set your bleed in this box as well. a. Top, bottom, left, and right are all set to 0.125.”
  3. CMYK color – this is VERY important. Using any other color profile will result in unexpected color shifts when converted and printed in CMYK.

Now that you have the file size (artboard) and bleed set up. You can create the dieline. There are a few steps you need to do before creating the shape. Using the same 4” x 4” trim size (also the same size as your artboard as assigned above.

  1. Create new Layer (for more information on how to create, use and edit layers visit https://helpx.adobe.com/illustrator/how-to/ai-layers-basics.html
  2. Name your new layer Dieline – it should always be the top layer, especially if you have an unusual shape.
  3. There shouldn’t be any other art or text on this layer.
  4. Create a new spot color named Dieline with Cyan 0, Magenta 100, Yellow 100, Black 0. For more information on how to create a new color, visit https://helpx.adobe.com/illustrator/using/using-creating-swatches.html
  5. Using your Rectangle Tool create a 4” x 4” square. 5. In the Transform Palette make sure your new 4” x 4” square fits in the artboard exactly centered.
  6. In the Transform palette, you can set your corner radius measurement as well. This is another crucial step. For example, you may want your corner radius to be .125”, while another customer may need their radius to be .25”. We may have a 4” x 4” die on hand, but it has a .5” radius specified. Those are considered too different dies that are we use on press.
  7. With your new dieline shape still selected. Make sure the fill is specified to None, and the stroke is specified to your newly created Dieline spot color. Again, make sure you don’t use this color in the rest of your file.
  8. Lock the dieline layer. Locking the layer is a great way to avoid being on the wrong layer when you start designing. Again, you don’t want any other art on this layer.