You may have heard of the term “Keyline” or “dieline” In the packaging world, these words represent the same thing. They simply refer to the template or a blueprint that is required to ensure the final layout of the physical package or box is correct. Creating dielines are a specific skill set but can be created by graphic designers, Die cutters or printing companies. The lines on a dieline are normally colour coded to represent 3 types of lines.

-Perforation line

-The cut line

-The fold line

When the designer has created the Keyline. The file can be sent to a plotting machine where a quick physical sample can be made for the customer. This is a great option that lets the designer and the customer hold and feel the actual packaging prior to going in to production. Once the designer and customer are happy with the sample then the keyline is sent to a Laser cutting machine where the Keyline lasers out the cutting forme on an MDF board (This forme is needed for the Die cutting stage)

Why do Dielines Matter?

SInce dielines provide the main blueprint for a package design they are super important in the box production process. They ensure the following factors are accurate:

  • Package sizing, scale, and dimensions.
  • The location of all the printed elements, like logos, text, and images.
  • Placement of creases, cutlines, glue tabs, eye marks, folds, and other points.
  • Unique manufacturing notes and bleed requirements.

As a simple exercise, go in to the kitchen and grab an empty cereal box, unfold all the tabs and flatten the box.The creases, folds, and other visual elements will now be easily visible in relation to the box’s sides, front, and back. If you trace out these lines and mark out the 3 different types of lines and creases you will essentially have a dieline! Simple really!

How to Make a Dieline

You can begin by just finding a box that resembles the one you are designing. Again, unfold the tabs, flatten, and measure it. These measurements will be the basis for the creation of your own Keylines.

A client may send an example of how they’d like the final product to look. In this case, you can take that model and see where the graphic print and tucks are. You can also use wrapped paper to take the proper measurements of the product to estimate the needed size.

Next step is choosing the designing tool. Dielines are typically created using Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Design, or Artioscad. They all perform the same job so it is up to the designer to choose which one suits them best.

Requirements for Creating Dielines

  • Keylines must be created in Vector files. (eg, AI or PDF)
  • Accurate specifications are very important when building a dieline.
  • This step may not be required, but inexperienced designers might also want to make a hard copy of the dieline before sending the design to print. This stage can help you catch any unforeseen errors before production. This can be done with a plotter where a sample can be produced

Creating a dieline is a collaborative effort between you, your design team, and any other coworkers helping in your particular project, so always make sure to keep your creative team involved early on the creation process. More sets of eyes mean fewer chances of mistakes happening. Nothing is worse than spending days or even weeks on a project only to be told your material is inadequate and you must start over from scratch.


Keyline design

-Keyline design using Adobe illustrator software