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When using custom packaging, the printing process needs just as much attention as the design process.
Packaging printing is a vital component in the overall look and feel of your packaging.
The design is what makes your packaging stand out, so it’s imperative to get that part right and have a standard process in place for printing.
One of the main processes you need to get right from the start are your dielines.
Your dielines act as a blueprint for the die-cutting and printing machines to ensure your design is accurate and up to par with your expectations.
Custom packaging can be a little tricky to maneuver, especially if you are new to the concept.
Dielines are a great place to start, especially if you are still in the planning phase of your packaging design.
Before we jump into our step-by-step guide, let’s take some time to understand what a dieline actually is!
Dielines are vector files and are essentially the flat laying version of your finished packaging.
They usually come blank giving you, or a packaging designer, the exact guidelines for design preparation.
It acts as a guide when making cuts, scores, and indentations in the die-cutting process to construct your packaging.
Complete dielines are printed on large sheets of whatever material you have chosen and cut out by die-cutting machines to prepare packaging for the final construction.
Read more about dielines.
Now that you have a better idea of what a dieline is and what it looks like, let’s jump into a quick step-by-step guide to preparing your dielines for print!
1. Working out the Details
How big is the custom packaging that you need to package your product?
Ideally your packaging should be the minimum size your product needs to sit comfortably inside.
Your dielines will be printed on sheets that fit the printer’s industry standard size, so make sure you are not opting for astronomically large packaging sizes for printing, as printers may not be able to accommodate the size sheet your dieline will require for the die-cutting process.
The weight of your product also needs to be considered for your dieline.
Heavier weight products may require thicker stock like corrugated cardboard to hold and protect products adequately, which will affect the type of dieline you will require.
The purpose of your packaging plays into how you will be serving your industry.
Are you an e-commerce business who relies on shipping your products? Or are you a retail business who needs to create a strong shelf impact in store?
This will also affect how your dieline will look.
E-commerce businesses will be more likely to choose thicker card stock like corrugated paperboard to protect products in transit.
Note: Thicker cardstock requires careful consideration in dimensions as the structural design may shrink the amount of interior space you had initially calculated with.
As an e-commerce business, It’s also important to consider how your packaging will deliver to your customers and what conditions it may face along the way.
This aspect is important to consider because your dielines are in fact the structural design of your packaging, so it may include some additional flaps or tabs to account for extra cushioning when constructed.
Retail businesses on the other hand, are likely to choose folding carton or rigid boxes for packaging lighter weight products, meaning the dieline may feature less flaps and tabs.
Understanding how your packaging will be serving your industry gives you a better idea of what to expect from the dielines you receive from a manufacturer.
Read more on e-commerce and retail ready packaging!
2. Making A Dieline
Once you have the details set and know what your packaging needs to withstand, it’s time to translate that into a guide the printer and die-cutting machine can understand.
There are technical details that need to be kept in mind when preparing dielines for printing, so it can be a little challenging to understand.
Dielines are usually provided by custom packaging companies or manufacturers to ensure the structural design of your packaging will actually work when constructed.
This way all you have to do is position your artwork designs and make sure colors are matched for printing.
To place your artwork design, you’ll need Adobe Illustrator to open your dieline which will be a vector file.
The dieline you will be working with will feature a number of different colored lines correlating to instructions for the die-cutting machine.
When placing and positioning your artwork designs, it’s important to understand what these lines mean.
Note: Each company will have their own industry standard for the colors mentioned. The colors outlined below are related to PakFactory’s industry standard for dielines.
Marked in black, cut lines are probably the most crucial part of your dieline.
They communicate where your dieline should be cut to ultimately construct your packaging thereafter.
Fold lines are usually marked in red and communicate where your packaging should be folded for construction.
The red dotted lines ensure that your packaging can be constructed with ease.
Bleed lines are marked in green and separate the excess space from the space that will be used by the artwork design.
Bleed lines help prevent any obscuring of your artwork and ensure your packaging design remains the way you planned it on your vector file!
The bleed line is used outside of the cutline to prevent a white border from forming around the design’s edge – a crucial part in ensuring your customers feel as if they are opening a quality product.
The safe zone is marked as a green dotted line and indicates to the printer which areas are guaranteed to be seen on your custom printed boxes.
This helps printers with alignment and ensuring that printed artwork is placed correctly on the finished project and accounts for any movement of the stock during printing.
Your glue tabs will be shown as green criss cross markers to indicate where glue needs to be placed in the construction of your packaging.
Some packaging structures like auto lock bottom boxes do not require a glue tab as they are designed to be constructed without glue or tape.
3. Positioning Artwork Designs
Now that you have a good understanding of the lines mapped out on your blank dieline, it is time to start preparing your artwork design.
The first step is to determine where exactly the top, bottom, sides and interior of your box is on your dieline.
It can be tricky to distinguish what parts of your packaging will be showing and which parts will be tucked away by looking at a flat laying version of it.
So, make sure you mark the sections of your packaging you want to be printing on before moving on to positioning your artwork designs.
Artwork can be created directly on the dieline you’ve opened on Adobe Illustrator or transferred from another file.
Make sure you take your bleed lines into account when placing your artwork,if you don’t want white borders around the edges of your design.
However, if you are looking to create a white border, make sure your artwork doesn’t surpass the cut line!
The next step is to place any text your packaging will feature. This could include, brand name, product name, ingredients, instructions or quotes.
Make sure all your text is outlined in your dieline file.
To outline your typeface, simply select all your text and you should be able to find “Create Outlines” under the “Type” menu.
Outlining your text ensures that the typefaces you’ve chosen will be included in your final design and avoids any issues of missing fonts when you send your dielines off for print.
Read more on how to prepare your artwork on Adobe Illustrator.
4. Consider Your Printing Method
Before getting too excited about your finished dieline, your printing method also needs to be considered when preparing your dielines for print.
As previously discussed, dielines are printed on large sheets of the material of your choice before being cut out and constructed.
Linking back to the size of your packaging, opting for astronomical sizes of your dieline may not be effective for your packaging as it may not hold its shape after construction and printing may not be possible on sheets as large as you would need.
So, once again it’s very important to consider the minimal size your product needs to comfortably be packaged, in order to ensure your dieline is a reasonable size for printing.
If your artwork designs are vibrant in color and complex, you’ll likely want to opt for offset printing to ensure the highest quality results.
This is also important for designs that feature a lot of text, as it needs to be easily legible and clear for customers.
For designs that are more minimalistic or simply don’t require exceptional clarity to be impactful, digital printing may be more suitable for your packaging design.
5. Getting Ready for Manufacturing
Once your dieline is finalized, it’s pretty easy to feel 100% confident in your design and send it off for mass production.
However, it’s important to put your packaging through some quality control checks to ensure it is capable of withstanding any conditions your packaging may face.
This will also give you a better idea of how durable your structure is and how successful it will be in protecting your product.
This way your packaging designer or manufacturer can go back and alter your dielines depending on any structural issues it may have faced during the quality control process.
It’s also important to work with your manufacturer and schedule in time to request a prototype of your final design before giving mass production the green light.
Ordering a sample of your finished design will give you the opportunity to interact with your packaging off-screen as well as reposition and fix any errors in artwork design or text on your dieline.
Read more on why ordering samples is important for your packaging
Once you have approved your samples and made necessary changes, that’s it!
Send it off for mass printing and production.
Here is a quick checklist to refer to during your process!
Creating dielines can be quite daunting, which is why packaging design and structural engineering services come in handy!
PakFactory has a lot of experience working with different businesses across industries on their packaging designs!
Get in contact with one of PakFactory’s product specialists today and get started on your first custom packaging project!