Packaging Prepress 101- Dielines and Proofs

Prepress consists of the processes that are needed to cut and print the packaging for your business. It involves dielines and proofs, i.e. preparing the digital copy of the box that includes the shape and the design of the box.

Once you design the box and forward it to your manufacturing partner, you will have to work along with them to get the design done right. It is only after the prepress process, the actual manufacturing can begin.


The objective of making dielines is to digitally replicate the exact cuts that will be made by the machines during manufacturing.

When you completely unfold a box and lay it flat on a surface, the outline of the box formed is the dieline. Whether you are working with a designer or a manufacturing partner on the design of your box, you will be using the dielines.

The dielines are not only a guide to cutting boards for making boxes, but they are also a guide to positioning the graphic material that will be printed on the boxes.

Packaging Prepress - Dieline

Generally, there are four different kinds of dielines, listed as below:

Type of Dieline #1: The Trim Line

The trim lines are the dielines that form the path along the corrugated or paperboard that needs to be cut. These lines are like a map for the die cutting machines.

Type of Dieline #2: The Bleed Line

For printing, two lines are used.

One line marks the bleed (the area which is printed but later trimmed off) while the other marks the safe zone for the print. The bleed lines are placed outside the trim line and the safe zone lines. This also acts as the margin and are placed on the inside.

The bleed lines are offset outwards from the trim lines. They also do not mark any of the holes. The graphics that are made to be printed on the box use the bleed lines as their outline. The print is intentionally extended beyond the trim lines so that even if the board moves a bit in the printing machine, no part would be left unprinted.

Type of Dieline #3: The Safe Zone Line

The safe zone lines are usually marked using dotted lines and are offset inwards from the trim lines. They mark the areas that will contain important printed content, such as branding, product name and any other readable information.

Type of Dieline #4: The Fold Line

Finally, the fold lines are the lines along which the board will be folded to make the box.

The orientation of text and graphics on the box can be really confusing. Since the box contains multiple flaps and folds, you do not want the text to be upside down, mirrored or covered by a flap. The best way to solve the problem is by making a prototype box from a simple card stock or board, marking the surfaces and their orientation and then unfolding the box.

Once the dielines and the design are finalized, you can send your order to your manufacturing partner.

Packaging Dieline Components
Image Courtesy: Fiverr


The next part of prepress is proofing. Once the prepress team has reviewed your design, they will send you the Proof. It is similar to drawing the dielines, but comes attached with comments and notes on how the design can be optimized for manufacturing. The dielines may also be a bit changed by the prepress team to perfect it for manufacturing.

Once the proof is approved, you form an agreement between you and your manufacturing partner. So, you need to look at the proof thoroughly and make sure that it perfectly meets your expectations. Also, it is important that you make decisions quickly since a day wasted in approving the proof means a day’s delay before the manufacturing starts.

So, when you design your boxes, make sure you keep in mind the practical challenges faced during manufacturing and be extra careful in reviewing the proof.

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