The Power of Light: Digital Laser Cutting

When it comes to online printing projects, one of the most eye-catching, stop-them-in-their-tracks design tactics you can employ is digital laser cutting. It immediately elevates a piece into the echelon of “never seen that before” and spurs the question, “How’d they do this?” With Smartpress, if you create it, we can cut it.

Digital laser cutting
Die-cut business cards

Can’t Take Your Eyes off It

Digital die-cutting uses a laser to cut paper and other materials into shapes. It can also create perforation, crease/score lines and etching. Laser die-cutting is much less expensive than traditional methods because there is no need to create expensive metal dies for individual projects. Instead, a laser simply traces the design on the material and leaves a smooth, precise cut. This allows for short-runs at an affordable price.

Innovative Ideas

Totally customizable, digital laser cutting is part of Smartpress’ impressive online printing services and can be added to all kinds of products… you’re only limited by your imagination! So add dimension. Play with negative space. Wow them with artistry and professionalism. Our perfectly clean cuts allow for endless possibilities.

  • Create a layered effect on a Brochure by cutting its cover to reveal pages beneath.
  • Fashion unique shapes for Stickers, Decals or Bookmarks.
  • Design a Self-Mailer with a perforated punch-out for a coupon.
  • Cut angled slits in Rack Cards to make gift cardholders.
  • Contact us for a Custom Quote if you’d like to score an item to create specialty envelopes or packaging.

Simple Set-up

As complicated and cool as it looks, digital laser cutting simply requires you to add a die line layer within your design file; the color of the die line indicates which type of cut is needed. So it’s really just a two-step process:


STEP 1: Decide the type of cut(s) you want and indicate as such on your design file:

  • Die-Cut: Cut paper and other materials into various shapes, or cut completely through to create a hole with a specific shape. Explore more intricate patterns like honeycomb or filigree, just remember to include enough connecting points so that it will remain intact when the remnants are removed.
  • Perforation: Very small holes are punched into the paper, allowing a portion of the paper to be easily torn away where the holes are located.
    Score/Crease Lines: In this process, creases are added to the paper so it will fold more easily. Scoring happens after printing and will remove the ink where the score occurs.
  • Kiss-Cut: Kiss cuts are light surface cuts that go through a single layer of a two-layered material such as stickers.
  • Etching: Once a design is printed onto paper, we can remove just the top layer of ink, revealing the original paper below it. This works best with colored and metallic stocks.
  • Variable Finishing: Use variable finishing to die-cut names or other personalization into individualized print pieces.

STEP 2: Assign a level of complexity to your design submission on the product page:

  • “Simple Design” is used when materials are cut into shapes or have a shape cut into them. It also includes designs with a basic cutout shape, score and/or perforation that can all be done on one side.
  • “Complex Design” is used for designs with filigree or multiple tiny cutouts. A hard proof is strongly recommended for complex cuts to be sure your design intent is produced as desired.
  • “Variable Finishing + Simple Design” is used when variable names or other information are cut into your piece along with Simple cut(s).
  • “Variable Finishing + Complex Design” is used when variable names or other information are cut into your piece along with Complex cut(s).

Custom die cutting
Personalized laser cutting

Design Tip: Die-Cut Fonts

Most fonts aren’t made for laser cutting since the cuts create “holes” where the paper would no longer be connected (the holes in “A” or “B,” for example). Fortunately, we have an Approved Font List that accounts for this challenge and thus keeps applicable parts of the characters connected to the paper. If you decide to use your own font, please just keep in mind that certain parts will fall away.

Die-cut stickers

Good to Know

Upon receiving your order, we’ll confirm your file is correct before printing and cutting it. If you’d like some guidance, our Layout Services team is always available to help create your design or add a die line layer.


Because it’s an online printing technique that involves a beam of light cutting the material, slight discoloration may occur on the cut edges of white stocks or light colored designs. This effect is minimal and will likely not appear at all – but it’s important to keep in mind amidst your design process.


To learn more about file set-up for digital laser cutting, check out Die-Cutting Support.




Hint: Dive deeper into our other specialty finishes:



Grow with Google Brochure Design by WE Codeword & Google Canada
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Saint Minneapolis Design by Derek Bolden | Owner | Saint Minneapolis

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