What is Contour Cutting?
A key to good marketing is to think “outside the box.” The box, in this case, would be the common visual of printed material like a poster or signage that almost always takes the shape of a rectangle or square. These boxes full of advertising appear so often that many people subconsciously ignore them as they go about their daily business of life and work.
However, by altering this regular shape, we can use the unlimited variations of 2D shapes to draw the eye to exactly what we want our potential customers to see. This process is called contour cutting. Another distinct feature of contour cutting is that you won’t need any background for the image or design, whether clear or solid. Your target audience sees only the most important part of your work.
While we specialize at SpeedPro in creating large format printed materials for your marketing campaign or events, we also offer the ability to create these printed materials in attention-grabbing shapes via contour cutting. SpeedPro can offer big flatbed computer-controlled cutters to contour cut rigid substrates like aluminum, foam core and plastic.
Printing products that present excellent opportunities for contour cutting are widely used for numerous purposes by marketers and printed-product sellers. These include, but are not limited to:
- Wall & door fabric
- Seasonal decorations
- Poster boards
- Party props
- Wind banner flags
- Museum and gallery wall narrative
- Sintra / PVC boards
- Vehicle decals
- Window clings
- Self-adhesive removable vinyl
Contour cutting is when cutting plotter machines (like a vinyl cutter, for instance) uses an automated blade to follow a digitally predetermined path around the edge of your printed design, or in some other designated shape. That edge is known as the “contour line,” which is how the term contour cutting was coined. An easy-to-visualize example of this would be the sheet of stickers that you may have loved to play with as a child. The cutting blade slices through material like paper, vinyl, or mylar which is on a flat surface in a cutting plotter machine. Small cutting plotters, often also known as die-cut devices, recently have grown in popularity for scrapbooking, cardmaking and other craft uses for the creation of gifts, decals and much more.
At SpeedPro, we can provide contour cutting services that accurately create a clean, crisp cut to your exact specifications. While traditional large format printing uses data from a single file, contour cutting requires 2 files: the artwork file and a special cutting file. While the art file provides the data for your design, the cutting file provides the data specific to the contour you want to cut, including the exact dimensions.
Your artwork file includes small black dots in non-printed areas that are evenly spaced. Called registration marks, they guide the cutting plotter’s blade and enable the precise cutting of your chosen material. Various printing companies will have different requirements for the size of these registration marks, but it is generally best to use one-quarter inch as the size guideline for them if you are unsure of a specific requirement.
Once you have added the registration marks into your art file, you need to create the second layer in the art file that will allow you to overlay the outlines in the cutting file. This will help you see how your cutting file aligns with your art file and detect any potential problems or mismatches between the two files.
Next, all text in the design needs to be converted to outlines to ensure there aren’t any missing fonts when the project goes into production. After this step, both files should be saved as high-quality PDFs
The cutting plotter will use the registration marks in the art file as well as the data in the digital cutting file which denotes the actual outline in order to accurately contour-cut your project. Using these two methods together allows for great precision in the cut.
Though there are a few steps, they are relatively simple. If you have any questions, SpeedPro engineers are standing by to offer guidance as needed.
Types of Contour Cutting
The two primary contour cutting choices are known as “cut through” and “kiss cut.” The method you choose really depends on what kind of material, or medium, you want to contour cut.
Cut Through contour cutting: This is perhaps the most often-used method. “Cut through” refers to the blade slicing all the way through the medium, which leaves behind your desired custom-cut shape. “Cut through” is ideal for creating big cut-outs of images and shapes. You can think of movie theater standees as examples of “cut through” contour cutting.
Kiss Cut contour cutting: “Kiss cut” contour cutting takes advantage of the precision inherent in using an automated computer-based system. This method actually controls the depth of your requested contour cuts and is utilized to create those popular sticker sheets. The top sheet of sticky material is cut while leaving the liner material beneath it completely intact.
Contour Cutting vs. Die Cutting
It is important not to confuse contour cutting with die-cutting. The die-cut process involves creating custom metal dies, or cutting stamps made of metal, that are used to repeatedly press through the material and create your shaped product. The creation of the metal die itself has a cost all in its own, in extra time and money. This is above and beyond any setup required for contour cutting done with an automated cutter plotter machine using a digital source for your design.
For projects that require only a handful to a few hundred products, this cost may not be worth it. However, die-cutting may be a process to consider if your project involves a very high volume of custom-cut items such as specialty boxing, pocket folders, unique packages and uniquely-shaped cardboard items.
For SpeedPro’s large format digital printing, a die is not required. Our flatbed cutting plotters can cut a wide variety of media for almost any type of project you can imagine and get you the great results you want.
The Apex/Cary area of North Carolina has grown quickly in recent years, with new technology and improving infrastructure attracting new residents. The increasing size of the population has led to more businesses raising their flags. It’s a great time to start a small- or medium-sized business, and when you do it, you’ll want to stand out from the competition.
The best way to make a statement? Bold, eye-catching graphics that let people know who you are and why you can help them. The experts at SpeedPro Apex can make your vision a reality. Our large-format printing solutions meet your needs and accomplish your aims, whether you want to advertise an upcoming sale with an elevator wrap or send delivery vans with full, partial or decal vehicle wraps around town to expand your branding.
You can find so many ways to use wide-format printing to make a difference in your business’s bottom line and improve your name recognition. Creative, well-planned graphics executed by SpeedPro Apex put you in the driver’s seat. See how we can aid your small- or medium-sized business with your visual communication needs.
Get Large-Format Printing for Your NC Company
What do you need to help your business grow? Whether you want trade show displays or step and repeat that will pop, indoor signage to guide people around the office or outdoor signage to signal where your retail shop is located, our sign company can help. We specialize in visual communications that relay useful information to your potential customers. The right signage and graphics can create new relationships that grow into steady business.
No task is too big or small for the team at SpeedPro Apex. Our capabilities and services include:
- Wall graphics
- Fleet wraps
- Window graphics and decals
- Backlit graphics
- Floor graphics
- And more
Why Pick SpeedPro Apex?
As the nation’s leader in wide-format graphics, we have aided companies just like yours throughout the region in North Carolina. We understand what customers in this area respond to and how you can set yourself apart from the competition. With experiencing working with companies in dozens of sectors, including real estate, athletic organizations and government, you can trust us to help grow your bottom line.
We rely on state-of-the-art technology to provide winning solutions for our clients. Each graphic we design has a specific purpose — to achieve your goals. We collaborate closely with you to develop a solution that truly works for your business. You’ll appreciate many things about working with us, such as our:
- Speed: We can meet quick deadlines.
- Dedication to the environment: We use green approaches such as quick-dry printing processes.
- Reliability: We communicate with you throughout the graphic design, creation and installation process.
- Precision: We use digital measurements to ensure an exact fit on our graphics.
Contact SpeedPro Apex Today
We have assisted customers in Apex and Cary as well as Raleigh, Wake and Chatham counties. We start with a one-on-one discussion, determine your specific needs and decide what will benefit you the most. What are you waiting for? Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation or request a quote from SpeedPro Apex.