Print & Cut Workflow: Full Bleed Decals

Having the right RIP software is essential to managing print and cut work flow. Even more essential is the design process. Whether you’re using an integrated printer cutter or a two machine system, creating a graphic to be printed and cut requires knowing how you want the finished graphic to look.

When you design a contour cut decal, keep in mind the final step is not cutting the printed graphic on your vinyl cutter. The final step is handing it to a customer who will peel and stick the decal. If you’ve not taken the final step into consideration, that last step can pose an additional problem. Does your newly peeled sticker have an uneven white border around where the unprinted media has snuck inside your cut path? This happens frequently when producing contour-cut vinyl appliqués. The end result is an unprinted halo around your graphic that despite its diminutive size detracts from the professional look you want.

Banish the Border

There is a simple way to prevent their appearance on your graphics – design your graphic with a full bleed border thick enough to account for the alignment error between the print line and the cut line.

A full bleed contour will give you an extra margin of error so that if your cutline is just a hair or two off the intended path, the end result is still a neat graphic without an unprinted halo. The solution will be slightly different depending on whether you’re working with a vector graphic or with in imported bitmap on a transparent background. Realistic expectations for the print and cut alignment are essential. It’s not realistic to cut a six foot long page of 3″ x 3″ decals with no border and expect every cut path to be precisely aligned. A reasonable expectation is a margin of error of approximately 1/16 of an inch. So design your decals accordingly and you will be a happy camper with happy customers.

Five Easy Steps

To produce a full bleed contour cut decal from an imported bitmap with a transparent background, simply set the contour cut path inside the printed area. You can do this by following five easy steps:

  1. Import your bitmap file
  2. Select the bitmap, then, select the Magic Wand tool (from the bitmap edit toolbar. If you don’t see it, go to File/View Toolbars, and check Bitmap)
  3. Using the magic wand, select the white area that will be outside the print. Then, from the top menu bar, click on Bitmap.
  4. From the drop down menu, select Make Transparent. This highlights the white area to be deleted. Then, you guessed it; delete these pixels. Now you have a bitmap with a transparent background around which you can place a contour cut line. If you don’t do this, your contour cut line will follow the rectangular outline of your raster file, which is very frustrating. (see Figure)
  5. Now select the bitmap and, from the Effects menu, select Contour Cut. This will open the Contour Cut dialog box in Design Central. In the second window, there is a numeric value that determines the border between the edge of the print and the placement of the cutting path. Click on the small down arrow at the right edge of this window until this number is reduced to a negative value. (See Figure 2) This places the cutting path inside the print area, automatically producing a professional quality, full bleed contour cut decal.