What is die cutting in custom packaging?

metal die on rotary die cutting machine

A versatile process used extensively in the packaging industry, custom die cutting is particularly important for creating custom labels and folding cartons. This technique allows manufacturers to produce unique shapes and designs that are consistent and repeatable, perfect for branding and product packaging. In this article, we’ll explore the die-cutting process, the types of dies used, and how this method is essential for businesses looking to stand out on the shelves with their custom packaging and labels.

The Basics of Die Cutting

Die cutting is a manufacturing process that uses a specialized machine and a custom-made die to cut out shapes from various materials. It’s akin to using a cookie cutter to shape dough—except, in this case, the dough can be paper, cardboard, plastic, or even metal.

What is a Die?

A die is a specialized tool made of sharp steel that is shaped into a specific pattern or design. When the die presses into the material, it cuts out the intended shape. Dies come in various types, each suited to different materials and production needs.

Die Cutting Machines

Die cut machines come in two primary forms: flatbed and rotary. A flatbed die cutter works by pressing the die onto the material from above, much like a stamp. Rotary die cutters, on the other hand, involve cylindrical dies that roll over the material to cut it as it feeds through the machine.

Types of Die Cutting

There are different types of die cutting based on the process and the types of dies used. Let’s look at some common methods.

Flatbed Die Cutting

Flatbed die cutting is often used for larger, less intricate designs and is ideal for thicker materials, like folding cartons. The flatbed die cut machine applies pressure from a hydraulic press to push the die through the material.

Rotary Die Cutting

In rotary die cutting, the die is wrapped around a cylindrical anvil. As the material passes through the machine, the rotary die quickly cuts the shape into the material. This method is fast and precise, making it suitable for high-volume orders of roll labels and intricate designs.

Through Cutting vs. Kiss Cutting

Through cutting, also known as metal-to-metal die cutting, involves cutting a material all the way through. This is what happens when you produce individual die cut stickers or parts.

Kiss cutting, however, only cuts through the top layer of the material, leaving the backing sheet intact. This technique is often used for sticker sheets, where the stickers can be easily peeled off.

Die Cut Stickers and Labels

Die cut stickers and labels are a popular way to brand products or promote businesses. These stickers can be tailored to any shape, ranging from simple circles to complex outlines that match a logo or product silhouette.

Circle Cutting Die

A circular die is a specific type of die used to create round labels and stickers. It’s a common request because circle stickers are versatile and brands use them for a variety of products and purposes.

Die Cutting for Folding Cartons

Folding cartons are a staple in product packaging, offering protection and a canvas for branding. Die cutting allows brands to create cartons that aren’t just rectangular boxes but have unique shapes, windows, and closures.

Benefits of Die Cut Folding Cartons

Custom die cut folding cartons have several advantages:

  • Enhanced Branding: Unique packaging shapes can make a product stand out on the shelf and reinforce brand identity.
  • Functionality: Die cut cartons can include features like easy-open tabs or security locks that improve the customer experience.
  • Efficiency: Opting for a custom die allows your packaging to be designed to optimize space during shipping and storage, reducing costs.

The Importance of Die Cutting in Packaging

  • Consistency: Dies ensure that every cut is identical, which is crucial for branding and the assembly of packaging.
  • Speed: Rotary die cutters can quickly cut labels, allowing for efficient production runs, which is great for longer runs.
  • Versatility: You can die cut a wide range of materials, making it a flexible option for different packaging needs.

How to Choose the Right Die Cut Label & Packaging Printer

When looking for a die cut label printer for your custom packaging needs, be sure to consider the following:

Experience and Expertise

Choose a company with a solid track record and expertise in the printing industry. They should be able to advise you on the best type of die for your project and help you troubleshoot any potential design issues.

Material Compatibility

Ensure the die cutting service can work with the specific materials you need for your labels or packaging. If you have complex shapes for your labels, you want to ensure the printer can produce quality labels and cartons for you.

Capacity and Turnaround Time

If you have large orders or tight deadlines, you’ll need a service that can accommodate your production needs and deliver on time.


Get quotes from several services to find the best balance between quality and price. Keep in mind that custom dies can be an investment, but they’re reusable for future runs.


Die cutting is an essential process for creating custom labels and folding cartons that capture attention and showcase your products. With its precision, consistency, and versatility, die cutting offers endless possibilities for packaging design. By understanding the basics of die cutting and how to choose the right printer, you can elevate your product presentation and make a lasting impression on your customers.

Remember, the packaging is often the first interaction a customer has with your product, so make it count with custom die cut designs that reflect the quality and uniqueness of what’s inside.

At Sttark, we pride ourselves on providing fast, high-quality service & products. Our team can create custom die shapes and sizes to fit your unique products for a one-time fee. Reach out to our Customer Care Team who will happily provide you with a quote for die creation services.

« Back to Latest Blog Posts