How to set up a cutter guide
The process of creating a cutter guide is not terribly difficult, however there are a few considerations that need to be made when working with more complex jobs. Probably the easiest tool to use is Adobe Illustrator, though it is possible to work in Photoshop or InDesign. In this guide we’ll concentrate on Illustrator as it’s the most commonly used method.
First of all you will need to size your artboard to a bit larger than the artwork you are working with, once you have done this you can place/import your artwork onto the the artboard. At this point it’s good practice to name the layer ‘Artwork’ and to lock the layer to prevent any accidental editing.
Once you have done this, create a new layer, and name this ‘Cutter Guide’, from here you can begin to design your guide, if you are making your own, or to drop one of our templates on if you are using that. If you are working with a fairly simple shape this will take you no time at, just bear in mind that you will want some bleed (3mm is ideal) around the outside of the guide.
To make the guide use the pen tool, or a specific shape if you’re after a simple square, or ellipse type shape. You want to have the stroke or outline set at no bigger than 1pt in size, and you should make a new spot colour up when assigning a colour to the stroke/guide. By assigning a spot colour it makes it easy for our pre-press team to separate the guide and the artwork, just make sure the spot colour isn’t used elsewhere on the document.
One important thing to remember with any type of cutter guide is that a cut is represented by a solid line, a fold is represented by a dashed line.
If you are working with a more complex shape, such as a folder or a wallet which will have glued or taped flaps/pockets then make the tabs at least 13mm wide, the capacity itself will depend on what is being put into the pocket/wallet, our studio can advise you on the thickness needed if you can tell them how many sheets you are inserting and what stock they are.
It is also worth thinking about where the tabs will sit, as if you are putting inserts into a wallet with a top opening, you don’t want a tab at the bottom, as the inserts may well get stuck on this and not fit snugly into the wallet. On the job above, it does have a bottom tab, this was due to the yield being better setting it up this way as we could get 2 copies to a sheet. Another consideration with pockets etc. is the orientation of the artwork, so if you have an image running from the folder onto the pocket, then the image on the pocket will need to be rotated 180 degrees so that it shows the correct way up when the pocket is folded up to its final position.
The die makers we use are vastly experienced, so if there are some small tweaks needed to the guide which will improve the design, or produce a better result, they will make any necessary amends. Our pre-press studio know how best to set up a job for die-cutting, so if you are looking to get several items (the same shape and size) out of one sheet, don’t worry about producing multiple guides, we will lay it up to be most economical in terms of cost per tool, and usage of paper.
Once you have your guide set up, save it (artwork included) as a hi-res PDF and send it over as you usually would.
If you do have any questions regarding cutter guides, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch and one of our team will be more than happy to help out.
Please note, whilst the above guide has dimensions on it, there is no need to add the dimensions, this was done so a client could see exactly what dimensions we were working with.