What is a Dieline? How to Make a Dieline for Packaging and Printing


What is a Dieline? 

In the packaging and printing world, a dieline is a template that ensures that the design of a physical package has the correct layout before going into production. Typically prepared by a packaging designer, a dieline is a flat diagram with markings, indicating where the package’s fold and cut lines are.

Need a custom dieline? Use our dieline request form and we’ll send you a custom made dieline for free. 

Who Creates the Dieline? 

Dielines are usually created by the packaging designers. They can also be created with die cutters or a printer. Dielines are used in many types of packaging, not just boxes. From simple folders with pockets to complex packaging, dielines make it possible to cut and fold to create the final product.

Types of Lines in the Dieline

Dielines are made up of three types of lines: 

  1. Dotted perforation lines

  2. Cut lines

  3. Fold lines

When your packaging design goes to be printed, these dielines guide the machine toward making the proper cuts and perforations so that the package can be folded. Since these two things are separate “chunks” of information that the printer receives, the perforation lines and the cutting lines will appear on different layers and as different colors. This allows the printer to know what to trim and what must be folded separately during the die cutting process. 

In addition, safety lines and bleed lines are included to ensure that all artwork does not exceed or “bleed” beyond the cut or fold line. These specific processes don’t happen at one time — rather, the printer takes care of the perforation process in one stage, and the cutting in another.

Note: Commonly used variations of the phrase dieline or dielines will separate the word into two (i.e. “die line” and “die lines”).

How to Make a Dieline

If you have an idea in mind for a unique type of packaging, you may be wondering how to create your own dielines. For the uninitiated, it’s a bit of a challenge, but to start, you can find a box or package that resembles the one you want. Unfold the tabs, flatten it out and measure it. The measurements you take will be the first step for creating your own dielines. 

It’s never a bad idea to send an example of how you want your final packaging to look to the company that will be printing the packaging. Look at the flattened packaging and you’ll see where the various markings are. 

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Once you have your measurements, it’s time to move onto design. Printers often use graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator to create their dielines, but there are several tools that do the job well and all of them are powerful in their own right. Obviously, if you have prior experience with a specific graphic design tool like this, you can use the one you prefer. 

Need a custom dieline? Use our dieline request form and we’ll send you a custom made dieline for free. 

Using Adobe Illustrator to Create Dielines

adobe illustrator dieline printing

If you’re using Adobe Illustrator, there are a few steps you’ll want to take in order to set up your dielines correctly, no matter what design software you’ve used to actually create the artwork. 

If you’ve used another graphic design tool like InDesign to create your artwork, you can simply save it as a flattened PDF file so that it can be opened in Illustrator. 

From there, you’ll want to make sure that the document color mode is set to CMYK.  To do this, go to File > Document > Color Mode > CMYK

If you want to create a spot color swatch, go to Window > Swatch Libraries > Color Books > Pantone+Solid Coated. When the window of color swatches comes up, just scroll down and click on a color to add it to the swatches. Rename that swatch to Full Cut or Fold depending on what it will be used for. 

Why You Can’t Use Adobe Photoshop to Create Dielines

The reason you can’t use other graphic design software like Adobe Photoshop is because the finished work must be vector art. Although it may look similar, vector art is actually made up of various mathematical calculations and numbers that computers and printers can easily understand. What’s more, vector images can be resized without any loss in quality. That means you could conceivably print a pattern for a box the size of a building, and it would look just as crisp and sharp as if it were printed on paper. 

The most important point to keep in mind if you are creating your own dielines is that specifications are of paramount importance. You need to know the exact size before you create the file in Illustrator or InDesign. It might also be a good idea, especially if this is your first time creating dielines, to print out a hard copy. This will allow the production team to spot any errors before the design goes into production. 

What Else Do Dielines Show?

packaging dieline template example

In addition to showing perforation, cutting and folding marks on flat packaging, dielines may also indicate where the logo, graphics or text go on the finished product. If you want to see dielines at work, take an empty cereal box and unfold it flat on the table. There, you’ll see the markings for how the box should be folded together, the tabs that should be glued, and how the top tabs work to help keep the product fresh by folding into each other.

Although your dielines are primarily used as a sort of “template” for your packaging, they actually have two purposes. They allow you to lay out the various marketing elements of your packaging in a way that makes it clear as to what goes where, and how the different elements play off of each other. For example, by laying out the individual “pieces” of the document process, you can see, for instance, if having the logo near certain graphics is too overwhelming, or if you need to add more or less text. 

Dielines provide an aesthetic outline, but beyond that, they also help to avoid manufacturing problems by giving the printer a sort of blueprint to work from. 

Taking the Next Steps

As you can see, creating dielines is a crucial step in the overall packaging process. Packages simply can’t go together (and look uniform and attractive) without dielines. Plus, having a team on hand that understands packaging and marketing, as well as design and printing can be invaluable in the process. 

In short, the more eyes you have on your dielines, the more any mistakes can be spotted or errors corrected before betting too far into the process and finding out that you have to start over and do everything from scratch again! 

Need a Hand Making Your Dieline? 

Read our packaging definitions and glossary guide to help you get up to speed with industry terminology as you create your own custom boxes.

Of course, it’s easy to look at something like dielines and feel overwhelmed. Whether it’s understanding how they’re laid out, trying to create them yourself or just putting your imagination to paper (or printer), we has you covered. 

Use our dieline request form and we’ll send you a custom made dieline for free. 

We have the experience, expertise and the team to help take your idea from concept to completion using the very latest in packaging and printing technology to help ensure flawless results from start to finish. 


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