Tutorial: Drawing, Designing and Printing Die Cut Stickers

Hello, my name is Jake Gillispie, and I am a sticker addict.

I’m also a sticker artist and the one man wrecking crew behind Grindhouse Graphix in Phoenix, Arizona. The good people at Sticker Robot are handing me the mic today, so I’m going to share my steps of creating a hand drawn Sticker and then getting it print ready for Sticker Robot to make into custom vinyl die cut stickers

oh and for a limited time, we are giving away the die cut sticker in this tutorial! details within…

how to make die cut stickers

The Concept

First a word about the character itself. My Sticker design is based on The SpankyStokes.com Stroll Mascot. A few months ago on Instagram a bunch of artists started drawing his Stroll character. I don’t know the reasoning but it went viral on IG fast & Dozens of artists posted their own versions of the Stroll.

spanky stoked stroll character
Now that’s a whole lotta “Strolls!”

Since I am a Spanky Stokes fan I wanted to try and put the “Grindhouse” stamp on it, so I jumped in headfirst. If you follow me on Instagram (@jakegillispie) you’ll know I am a big fan of documenting the process. Here are some progress shots of my drawing.

The Drawing

My weapon of choice here are markers and a 2H pencil. I start with a rough loose sketch and get my proportions and pose how I want them, and go heaviest on the outline of the character. I also lightly outline my highlights in this stage, creating a blueprint. With markers you always go light to dark, so by outlining the highlights in pencil I know exactly where not to lay down any ink, keeping the paper white and shiny creating a reflection highlight once surrounded by color.


Once I have things how I want them I erase the stray pencil marks leaving just the basic outlines and start with the focal point of the image, his head.


When I do a marker piece I like to do the most difficult parts up front, so in the event I screw it up early, it’s not a big deal to start over from scratch. The tusks and tongue are the most difficult part, also the most forward objects in the 3D space and the lightest shades. So I color those first, one small section at a time, starting with the lightest shade and blending darker shades outward from the outlined highlights. I continue on from the teeth and tongue to the lips, the beard, etc., until the entire head is complete.


The next section I tackle the teeshirt and then on to the hands, belly, arms and legs. I find that it’s best to approach marker projects the same as eating a whale, one bite at a time. Compartmentalize it in it’s space by color. The final image was done on 9″ x 12″ Bristol, and took me about twenty hours to complete start to finish.



File Set Up

Now that I’ve got the drawing done, I do what every sticker addict would, prep for sticker printing. For this tutorial I am using Adobe Photoshop CS5 on an iMac.

Scan It

First you want to scan the image into Photoshop. The Stroll was slightly larger than my home scanner so I took it to a office supply store and had them scan it to a thumb drive.

Create a New File

Open the image in Photoshop and create a new file. I want my final sticker to be 4″ high by 3″ wide at it’s furthest points. So I make the document 4.25″high by 3.25″ wide. You need 1/8″ of space from your artwork to create the die cut and another 1/8″ of bleed past the die cut that will be trimmed off later. The extra .25″ accounts for this.

Color Modes & Resolution

Make sure you are in CMYK mode, put the resolution at least 300dpi. This sticker will be printed on clear vinyl so make the background transparent.

die cut sticker set up

Clean it Up (If Needed)

Since this is going to be a clear sticker we need to ditch the white background, it’s full of stray marks, drips, blood, sweat and tears that I don’t want on my sticker.

Take the magic wand tool and select the white background. Now notice the closed gaps that were not selected below. Make sure and add them to your selection. Most of them are obvious, but pay attention and get every last gap selected, some are tiny and barely noticeable but they will show up in the final product if you forget one. I’ve marked them in the pic below to demonstrate my point.


Paste Artwork

Once you have all your gaps and background selected go to the Select Menu and click Inverse and Delete. Then drag (Or copy and Paste) the image into the new file we just created and you have a nice clean, transparent background.

The Trim Line (Or The Die-Cut Line)

We need to show the printers where to cut the sticker. To do this, we will created a new layer with a cutline. First step is to create a new layer above the image layer. With the new layer highlighted hold command and click the image layer icon to precisely select the image. We need to expand the selection in order to create the die cut line 1/8″ inch beyond the artwork. From the “Select” menu, choose “Modify” then click “Expand.” Since my resolution is 300dpi, I need to expand my selection by 38 pixels to equal 1/8″, (If you work in a higher resolution the pixel width will be greater than 38). It should look like this.

die cut sticker tutorial

Now go to “Edit” and click “Stroke.” The stroke should be 2-3 pixels. Magenta is a good color to use since it usually stands out.. This will be the die cut line and edge of the sticker. Label the layer “Diecut.” It should look something like this.

die line for the diecut sticker

Save it

Save the file as a (layered) TIF and the front sticker side is done.

Sticker Back Printing

Now for the sticker backing you have a couple of options. For the actual Stroll sticker I used Sticker Robot’s logo. If you choose this option you get a discount on your sticker order and Sticker Robot gets some free advertising so it’s a win-win. However you can also have your design, social media info, etc, printed on the back in black and white. Below is an example of both.

If your sticker is a custom shape, like the sticker in this tutorial, simple flip your front (magenta) die line horizontally. Add your black and white graphics, making sure to pay attention to the 1/8″ bleed and safety guidelines and save the file. It’s simple.


For this  Lets go through the quick steps of adding a design to the sticker backing. Flip your image by going to Edit, highlight Transform, and click Flip Canvas Horizontal. I deleted the image layer keeping just the die cut layer and filled it with white. Then created anew layer behind it, select the diecut layer while in the new layer and go to the Select menu highlight Modify and click Expand. Again I want to expand it another 38 pixels or 1/8″ to create the bleed. I am doing this because the design I am dropping in it I want edge to edge so it needs to continue into the bleed where it will be trimmed off. Below is the result, also you can see 3 strokes. The green is the safety which is 1/8″ inside the die cut line. You want all artwork and type inside the safety, and make sure your type is a least 8PT. Once you have your design situated delete the safety stroke, it’s just here to demonstrate and use as a guide. Then the magenta stroke which is the die cut line and represents the edge of the back. Finally the blue stroke represents the bleed 1/8″ past the die cut. Notice how the circular pattern extends past the die cut which will be trimmed off creating an edge to edge design.

Now I delete the green safety stroke and the blue bleed stroke, only leaving the Magenta die cut stroke. Before saving it, I would advise printing it out on paper in full size to check for mistakes and because I added a QR code I want to test it on a QR reader to make sure it works and isn’t too small. I have found that if you go less than .75″ squared my phone has issues reading them.

Now that I’ve tested my QR codes go back and save the file as a TIF or PSD, and you’re ready to order your stickers. Go to stickerrobot.com place your order, upload your artwork and then comes the hardest part of the process, waiting for that box full of magic to show up at your door. Now go forth and stick’em up.


Silkscreen Sticker Printing Progress Pics!

The guys at Sticker Robot snapped some images of the sticker printing process. Pretty awesome to see some behind the scenes images.

die cut film
This is an image of the film that is used to create the custom shape dielines.
silkscreen sticker ink
the cyan and magenta ink have been printed. next up is yellow and black…
silkscreen cmyk sticker printing
all colors have been printed, cyan, magenta, yellow and black.


Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. Silkscreen Ink.

sticker printing silkscreen ink


The Sticker Giveaway…

Ok, Now that we’ve inundated you with information on how to make a custom die cut sticker, now we’ll tell you how to get a custom die cut sticker! Simply follow the 2 steps below and you will be peeling and slapping one of these adhesive beauties before you know it.

1. Leave a comment below.

2. Send a S.A.S.E. to

Grindhouse Graphix
C/O Stroll Sticker 
P.O. Box 67595
Phoenix, AZ 85082


Sticker Robot Custom Stickers