How to create a sticker cut line (video tutorial)

Designer, Hayden Aube, shows how to create a custom cut line for your stickers or magnets.

For more design tutorials be sure to subscribe to the Sticker Mule YouTube channel.


Hayden here with Sticker Mule and today I'm gonna show you how to add cut lines to your sticker designs in Adobe Illustrator.

A cut line is a path that gets placed around your design to tell us exactly how you want it to be cut. Ever notice the white border around many stickers? That's what a cut line creates.

Now when printing with Sticker Mule, our team will automatically figure out the cut lines for you based on your design. This covers anything from simple sticker shapes such as squares, circles and, ovals, to complex and unique designs such as we're gonna work with in the tutorial today.

So, if you don't want to set up the cut lines yourself, you don't have to. But for those of you who want to design them yourself, or understand how we do it, lets jump in.

Once we've opened our design in Illustrator we'll want to make sure the sticker is set up properly for printing. For this design, that means making sure that all of these strokes have been outlined.

A good way to check this is by using the Outline View. By doing that I can see that there are two here that I've missed. All you need to do to turn your strokes into shapes is to select it, and then go to "object", "path" and "outline stroke".

As we can see from the outline view those strokes are now shapes. If your design has text, you also need to outline the text by right-clicking it and pressing "create outlines".

Now, onto setting up the cut line.

While holding "alt" on a PC or "option" if you're on a Mac drag the layer that your artwork is on on top of itself. This duplicate layer is where we're going to set up our cut line. So you can lock the one beneath. For organization's sake, let's call this layer "cut line".

Now this is considering that you're working with a vector image. If you're working with a raster image, such as a JPEG, PNG or GIF, we will need to use the "Image Trace" panel to convert the artwork in our cut line layer to vector.

Depending on your design, the options you should use for image trace will differ. Don't worry about colors, or the fine details when doing this, all you need to do is make sure that the perimeter of the shape matches your original design.

The default black and white mode seems to do a good job for my design. Press "expand" when you're happy with the preview and, you'll have a vector shape.

"Image Trace" will often add a bounding box to your design so, be sure to un-group it from your new shape and delete it.

Now, whether you began with a vector or a raster we continue the same.

Select everything in the cut line layer and use the pathfinder window to unite it into a single shape. Then, go to "object", "path", "offset path". The offset is how large you would like the border around your design to be. By clicking preview, this will allow us to get a sense of what that width is.

When printing with Sticker Mule, remember that there is a minimum border requirement of 1/16th of an inch.

When you're happy, press "OK".

Once we've offset our path let's select everything in the cut line layer and, use "unite" once again to make it into a single shape.

Depending on your design, you may have a hole in your shape. You can either use the "Direct Selection" tool to delete it or if the hole is larger than a quarter inch in diameter and, you would like to keep it, you can do so.

When printing with Sticker Mule, we allow one internal cut for each sticker or magnet design.

For this design, I will remove the hole by selecting a single anchor point and then pressing the "delete" key twice.

Now, we'll remove the fill from our shape and instead, give it a one-point stroke. This is typically what print shops use for cut lines.

It is possible that after using "offset path" you have two shapes that are not touching. All you will need to do in this scenario is bridge them together by creating a new joining shape.

For this design, I will do this by drawing up the desired shape with the "pen" tool and then, uniting it with the existing shapes.

We can also see that there are a lot of undesired holes in this design. Once again, I will just use the "Direct Selection" tool to remove them.

If you're like me, you may at this point notice some areas of your cut line that you would like to clean up. Knowing that this is how your sticker will be printed, go ahead and make those changes.

When you're done, save your Illustrator file, and you're finished. You can upload your file as is when ordering from Sticker Mule and, within a few hours you'll receive a proof showing you exactly what your sticker is going to look like once printed.

And, there you have it, everything you need to know about adding cut lines to your sticker designs. If you have any questions let us know in the comments.

And, if you liked the video, be sure to give it a thumbs-up and subscribe to stay up-to-date on future tutorials.

Happy designing.

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