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Die cut stickers, printed in full colour

What are die-cut stickers?

By David Willis © 2019

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Die cut stickers are self-adhesive vinyl stickers that have been cut to the same size and shape as the backing paper to which they are attached.

All stickers are made of two parts, the self-adhesive substrate which holds the printed design, and the silicone release backing paper which the sticker is attached to until the time it is ready to be used. The release paper plays an important part and allows the sticker to be removed easily, which is done by locating the edge of the sticker and peeling it away from the paper.

die cut stickers, printed in full colour

Since self-adhesive vinyl begins as either large sheets or on rolls, stickers need to be individually cut out from the vinyl. There are essentially two ways to do this. Either, a precision cutting machine is used to cut through the self-adhesive substrate, but not through the backing paper (known as kiss-cutting), or a cutting tool is prepared (called a ‘die’) and is used to cut through both the substrate and the backing paper (called ‘die-cutting’).

Die-cut stickers, therefore, have two main characteristics. Firstly, the sticker and the backing paper share the same edge, making them a little harder to peel off than times that their kiss-cut cousins. Secondly, since the die cuts through both the sticker and paper, die-cut stickers are always presented as individuals, and not as multiple stickers on a sheet.

Die cutting is often used in screen print jobs, and due to the fact that a die tool has to be made there is additional setup costs associated with die-cutting. That being said, over large jobs, the extra setup costs are negligible.

The Technical Bit

In the sticker industry 'Die cut to shape', 'Punch cut to shape', 'Forme cut to shape', and 'Shape cut to shape' all have the same meaning. A cutting die or 'forme' in the shape of the required sticker is made before the sticker job commences production.

The die that is made is essentially a sharp blade that is bent to the shape and size of sticker, and is used to punch out the sticker from the sheet of vinyl. In this sense it is not dissimilar to a kitchen pastry cutter! The stickers are cut out by the die under pressure, leaving as waste the vinyl around them.

Several cutting dies can be made for large jobs as multiple cutters. Multiple stickers are then cut at the same time which shortens the production. This offers faster delivery times to the customer.

During the die-cutting process the sticker and it’s backing paper are cut through together in a single cut.

David Willis
David Willis
This article was written by David Willis, a print entrepreneur and respected industry expert.

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