Should I go to my printer or directly to a die shop to have custom dies made?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder, Print Buyers

Do most printers have in-house capabilities of making dies for custom die-cut printed materials or are there certain companies that specialize in making dies so you're not paying a mark-up through the printer?


Many print shops do not make their own dies since they can't be a jack of all trades. Some shops do the die-cutting in house but not the die-making while others send out to custom die shops for both. Finally, there are some print shops that have die-making and cutting capabilities in house. For instance, print shops that do a large volume of custom die-cutting work on a regular basis may invest in the equipment and personnel so they can have better control of time and costs by keeping all aspects of the finishing processes under their own roofs. Most larger-run, specialized label printers also make their own dies since most labels require some die-cutting.

If you are concerned about the markup you’ll pay for your printer to have a die made, you needn’t be. Die-making is a customized skill/process but it is relatively inexpensive. Custom dies can cost as low as $200 to $500 to $1,000 for low to medium complexity die-cuts. Print shops usually do mark up any outside costs they incur for projects but you can ask them to break out the die cost separately so you can see how inexpensive it is relative to the entire project.

Unless you are extremely well versed in all the technical aspects of the printing and die-cutting processes, I would caution against having a die shop make the die, a print supplier print the job and a die-cutter (or the die making shop again) die-cut the job. You will pay far more in time spent than what you might save in that printer’s mark up. More importantly, should something go wrong with the job (such as the printing layout wasn't set up properly for the die-cutting process or vice versa) you may be at fault for not communicating something critical from one shop to the other. An issue more critical than laying blame will be who bears the responsibility for paying the costs of reprinting and die-cutting correctly. Because printers typically have very close relationships with die makers/cutters, they will work hand-in-hand to make sure jobs run smoothly and correctly. That peace of mind is worth the small mark up on the cost of a die.
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