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Printing Lingo: What is a Die Cut Decal?

Die-Cutting adds interesting shapes and contours to decals

Decals provide the ideal method for affixing an attention-getting logo, slogan, image, and/or promotional message to products, containers, print materials, and many other surfaces. Compared to a common label or sticker, a decal is usually custom-printed with a colorful design in order to grab attention and get noticed. Most decals also have a shiny finish for extra vibrancy.

In addition to the creative use of color and sheen, another way to draw attention with a decal is to create it as an interesting shape. Decals can be made into unique shapes using a process known as Die-Cutting. Die-cutting uses a thin, razor-sharp blade that has been pre-formed into a specific pattern or outline. Similar to an automated cookie-cutter, this sharp die cuts the decals into the desired shape.

Standard dies commonly used for decals include basic geometric shapes, such as circles, ovals, starbursts, and squares/rectangles with rounded corners. Conversely, custom dies can create just about any shape imaginable: a guitar, a bicycle, a corporate symbol or trademark…basically any unique design you may want.

Sometimes, the die is used to cut all the way through the decal and its backer sheet. This creates individual decals. However, most of the time the die is used to cut the perimeter of the decal while leaving the backer sheet uncut. This method, known as Kiss-Cutting, allows single or multiple decals to remain on a backer sheet or roll.

Laser Cut Decals: The Short-Run Alternative

Although die-cutting is the most cost-effective option for medium to long production runs of custom-shaped decals, there is another economical option you should consider for smaller runs - Laser Cutting. The laser-cutting process can produce about any perimeter shape that die-cutting can, but laser-cutting does not require the creation of a die. This makes laser-cutting a more affordable alternative for short runs of custom-shaped decals.

As the name implies, laser-cutting uses a high-powered laser beam to trace the perimeter of the decal. The process is very accurate and can produce very distinctive shapes of decals. Laser cutting is better suited for creating individual labels, rather than those kiss cut on a backer sheet.

Although the quality of a laser-cut decal is the same as a die-cut decal, laser-cut decals are not as well-suited for automated application; laser-cut decals are best applied by hand.

Whether you need a short-run, medium-run, or long-run of custom-printed decals, give Formax Printing Solutions a call at 314-434-5500 or 866-367-6221. We can produce high-quality decals in virtually any shape or color you need. As always, we look forward to assisting with your next decal project!

Take care! Keith

About the Author

Keith Beaty is the owner of Formax Printing Solutions in St. Louis, MO. Formax provides a complete array of offset and digital printing services. Specialty areas include book printing, full-color printing, laminated printing, map printing, plus mailing services. If you ever have a printing question or project you would like to discuss, Keith is always happy to help. He can be reached at 866-367-6221. Keith and Formax have been providing worry-free printing and related services since 1985.

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