File Preparation: Print/Cut Contour (Stickers)

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The following data sheet explains how to setup files for Print/Cut Contour (Sticker) applications in Adobe Illustrator. When files are correctly prepared, the print software and printer will recognize a designated shape(s) as a contour that should be lightly cut out instead of being printed.

Step 1: Design your image/layout in Adobe Illustrator or import image file into Adobe Illustrator.

The image itself can be created using any application. Just be sure to save it according to DOC recommendations (find those instructions on the DOC tutorials page on my.cia or by clicking here) then import the file into Adobe Illustrator. If you import a .png or .jpeg, or any other file format not recommended by the DOC, your cutlines may not process correctly causing the line(s) to print instead of designating the shape for contour cutting.

Step 2: Draw a vector line around the image to be cut out.

Using the pen tool or other vector drawing instrument in Adobe Illustrator, make sure that the start and end point of the line meet (so that the shape is closed).

Image w/ line selected
Step 3: Create "CutContour" color swatch.
  1. Open the Color window and use the color sliders to make a color (the color itself makes no difference but using a bright hue helps call attention to the cutline).
  2. Open the Swatches window and drag the color from the line or fill indicator (whichever you had selected when creating the color) to add the color to the swatches palette and then double click on the new color swatch.
  3. Name the color "CutContour" and select "Spot Color" from the color type drop down menu then click "OK" (if this is something you plan on doing again in the future you may want to check the "Add to my Library" box).

If the steps in #3 are not followed properly, and both the color swatch name is not entered exactly as CutContour (all one word with both C's capitalized) and the color type is not set to "Spot Color", then your cut line will print instead of cutting and you will have to manually trim out your decals.

Color Swatch Dialogue
Step 4: Assign color to the cutline.
  1. Using the selection tool in Adobe Illutrator, click on the vector shape(s) to be designated as the cutline(s).
  2. Be sure the line indicator is selected in the Swatches window.
  3. Click on the CutContour swatch in the Swatches window that was created in Step 3 to designate your cutline.
  4. The cutline will show as the color designated for the CutContour swatch.
Select cutline
Step 5: Save file as PDF.
  1. From the dropdown File menu at top-left select "Save As".
  2. Select the location to save the file, enter a file name, select "Adobe PDF" from the Format dropdown menu and click "Save".
  3. Select the "PDF/X–4" option from the PDF Preset drop down menu the click "Save PDF".
Ill: Save as

In the event your cutlines do not work or undesirable results occur you may be asked to reformat your file according to the following specifications. If you have concerns about the complexity of a file, it may help to follow these file formatting instructions to simplify your file for processing by saving it as an EPS.

Step 1: Convert type to outlines.
  1. Select all live type.
  2. From the "Type" dropdown menu, select "Create Outlines".
  3. The type has now been converted to vector paths.
Convert type to outlines
Step 2: Flatten transparencies.
  1. Select all CutContour cutlines (the lines designated to be cut out).
  2. From the Object dropdown menu select "Lock>Selection".
  3. From the Select dropdown menu select "Select> All"
  4. From the Object dropdown menu select "Flatten Transparency"
  5. In the flatten transparency dialogue click "OK".

Check for any changes with the image after this step. Flattening objects can have undesirable results. See DOC Manager at this point if flattening creates any issues.

Flatten tranparency
Step 3: Save file as EPS.
  1. From the dropdown File menu at top-left select "Save As"
  2. Select the location to save the file, enter a file name, select "Illustrator EPS" from the Format dropdown menu and click "Save".
  3. Click "OK" in the EPS dialogue

If the Transparency section, shown in red below in fig.3, is not ghosted out then there are still transparencies present in the file that could cause the cutline to fail. If so, cancel the save and repeat step 2.

Save as EPS Dialogue
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