We are assuming that the majority of you are using Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop or Procreate to create your sticker designs. If you are using a different design software, let us know and we will try to help. Most of these guides generally apply to all programs so it should help you regardless. Apologies in advance for all the techsplaining.

Alternatively, if you don't have access to any of these programs or you are struggling to understand any of the info below you can select YES to a proof when ordering stickers and we will do our best to help.

Best Setup Practices

Here are some tips and things to look out for when setting up your document before you start creating your sticker design.

The best colour profile

Our printer uses CMYK inks so setting up your artwork using a CMYK profile will give the closest approximation to what you see on your screen. If you use an RGB profile, the chances are that your artwork will look much more dull when printed. You can switch between profiles at any time but it’s best to do it at the start when you first create your document.

Sizing up your design

When you first create your document, it’s good practice to set it up to the size you want your sticker (or larger). This way, when it comes to printing you will have no scale blurring issues and your artwork will look as sharp as it does on screen.

Print vs screen resolution

This is really important to do straight away when you create your document as it will basically mean starting again if you want to scale up. We print at 300 DPI but computer screens are only set to 72 DPI so something that looks sharp onscreen won’t translate well when printed. If you want to set it up to a larger DPI that’s fine as well, but anything larger than 300 DPI is kind of wasted for our printer.

Setup in Photoshop (click to view)

Setup in Illustrator (click to view)

Creating your cutline

We’ll try our best to simplify this as much as possible, this is how we create our cutlines and hopefully it will help you.

If you just want a simple, standard cutline like a square, rectangle or circle then it’s easy for us to sort. If you want a custom shape you could always just freehand your own cutline around your sticker. But usually, we find that cutlines work best when they conform to the design you have created. There are a few ways to achieve this. These guides work best when working with designs that have blank backgrounds, like our mascot in the images below.

For artwork created in Adobe Photoshop

Select the empty background of your design with the magic wand tool and inverse the selection (COMMAND + SHIFT + I), this will select all the main elements of your design.

Expand (Select > Modify > Expand) these selected elements by 30px giving it roughly a 3mm border around the edge of your design. You can experiment with a thicker or thinner border but we find that 30px works great for sticker artwork generally.

Create a new fill layer (Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Colour) and colour it in black. This layer is your rough cutline shape. Finally, convert the layer to a smart object (Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object).

If you want to make any adjustments to the black filled in area, you can do this by connecting or filling in any unwanted parts to the shape manually using the brush tool. We find that smoother areas work best for stickers.

Save your document as a PSD and upload it on our stickers page when ordering.

If you still want to make adjustments from here, get in touch with us and we'll be able to help. Alternatively, you can take a look at the steps in Adobe Illustrator below.

For artwork created in Adobe Illustrator

Select the artwork you want to create your cutline with. Create an offset path (Object > Path > Offset Path…) to make a solid border around your design. A box will pop up, for best results offset by 3mm and select a Round join.

The next step is to get rid of any unwanted gaps in the border so you need to release any compound paths (Object > Compound Path > Release).

To create one whole shape you need to combine the border (Window > Pathfinder > Shape Modes > Unite).

The next step is to swap the fill and stroke line so you can see the border as a stroke around your design (SHIFT + X). This is your cutline.

Everything from here is down to preference. As a general rule, vinyl stickers cut better when the cutlines are smoother, more rounded and have less anchor points. There are a few ways to achieve this.

You can simplify your cutline if you think it looks too rough (Object > Path > Simplify). This will remove anchor points without ruining the overall shape. This can be adjusted so it's best to play with it.

A great trick we use all the time is to select your cutline and create an offset path (Object > Path > Offset Path…) to make a border around your design. When the box pops up, offset by 1 mm and select a Round join.

From there create another offset path but this time we are going to invert the path (Object > Path > Offset Path…), now when the box pops up, offset by -1mm and select a Round join, this will automatically smooth out any sharp edges and make your cutline much more suitable for printing. Delete the previous cutlines so you just have the smoother cutline you just created. Below is an example of the difference this makes.

Alternatively You can also use the Smooth tool or you can manually edit anchor points using the Pencil tool. It’s all down to preference. These are less accurate ways of doing it but will more or less give you the same results.

If you are happy with your cutline, save your document as an AI or PDF and you are done.

Artwork issues, bleed and layers

You’ve got a great image, it’s all set up perfectly. But you forgot to add the required 3mm bleed. This isn’t ideal if you are wanting the cutline right at the edge of your design. It’s always good practice to design beyond the printable area, unless you are planning to have a solid border around your sticker so it looks like the design is floating. If this is the case, there is no real need to add bleed.

This example below highlights the need for bleed. If the cutline is right at the edge of your design, all it takes is 0.5mm movement and there will be a small but unwanted white border on part of your artwork.

Also, while we are on the subject of cutting off pieces of artwork. If you are working in Photoshop and are providing a cutline, remember to save the cutline on a separate layer and not to flatten your artwork or merge any relevant layers. A flattened cutline is almost impossible to fix and the thought of it keeps us awake at night.

Border or no border

This one just comes down to preference and there really is no right and wrong. It’s impossible to have a hard and fast rule because some designs look better cut to the edge and some are much more suited to a solid border. Below are a few examples of artwork with and without borders and that will hopefully help you decide for yourself.

Outlines, strokes and text

This is mainly if you are working in Adobe Illustrator and if you are saving the file as a pdf or an ai. Sometimes stroke lines can change size and shape if they aren’t changed to an outline. To prevent this, use the command Object > Path > Outline Stroke

It's the same principle when working with text. If you haven’t turned your chosen font into an outline and we don't have that font on our system, then Adobe will get a bit wacky and will choose one of their default fonts, which nobody wants to happen ever. To solve this, use the command Type > Create Outlines

Best design file formats

If you are working in Adobe Illustrator and exclusively with vectors, the best thing to do is to save your file as an AI, EPS or PDF. If you are working with embedded images in Adobe Illustrator, don’t forget to supply those images alongside your document.

If you are working from Adobe Photoshop, your best option would be to save as a layered PSD or a PDF. We will be able to accept a JPG if it is set up to the correct specifications but we would have to provide the cut line, which will slow the process down. In this case, please specify how you want your cutline.

If you are working from Procreate, simply export your file as a PSD and send it to us. We will be able to treat it exactly like we do an Adobe Photoshop document.

Still unsure? Get in touch

You might still have a bunch of questions. We don’t expect everybody who buys stickers to be experts in print and we want to help take the fuss out of all that. So if you have any questions or need our help with making any aspect of your artwork suitable for print, we will do our best to assist you.

Enjoy making your sticker artwork, we can’t wait to see what you send us.