Can I use the same die for two different die-cutting applications?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder, Print Buyers

I am looking to produce custom die-cut labels and gift tags and I would like to use the same die for both. Should I work directly with a die maker so I own the die and thus, can use it with different printers or should I ask my main printer to have the die created and then take it to the second printer?


It sounds like there are two issues here. I will address them separately:

If a customer pays for the creation of a custom die, it is usually their property. However, there are exceptions and it usually comes down to each supplier’s policy. Some suppliers have a clause in their Terms of Sale contract stating that dies they make (or have made) are their property, even if the customer pays for having the die made. Other suppliers require that the customer should indicate ownership of the die on the purchase order in order to take possession. Many suppliers will allow their customers to take ownership of custom dies without having to go through these steps but it is always best to ask each of your suppliers what their policy is about die ownership.

If you want a custom die returned to you after the job is complete, clearly indicate this at the bidding stage and find out your supplier’s policy. This will also minimize miscommunication in the event that the supplier can use a “stock” die for your project (one that the supplier owns which they use on many "standard" jobs).

Finally, you always have the right to purchase your own custom die from a die making shop however; this brings up some issues that have to do with your second question.

If you plan to use the same die for two very different applications (like adhesive labels and gift tags) potential problems could arise if the die isn't interchangeable between the die cutting equipment for those two processes. Depending on the specs of both elements of your project, you may or may not be able to use the same die for both applications. Some dies are made for use on specific equipment and may not be compatible with other die cutting equipment. This can also be true for producing the same exact project with two different suppliers who may have different die cutting equipment.

It is wise to check with your main printer about this as they may be able to produce both components with the same die or offer suggestions on how else to produce both elements most efficiently and cost-effectively. Also, by having your printer manage the die making, you can be certain the die will be made exactly as the printer needs in order to fit their equipment and they will lay out the print job properly to fit the die (i.e. 8 images up vs. 12 images up.) It is well worth the small mark up that print suppliers charge for outsourcing things like dies to ensure the job runs smoothly.
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