During the early 19th century, in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution Die Cutting was invented to cut leather hides for the hand-made shoe business. Prior to the die-cutting process and individual would cut patterns of leather with shears or a straight razor in order to produce patterns that would be sewn together to make shoes. Much like foil stamping and embossing, die -cutting was born from craftsmen working with leather whose innovations have transitioned into the fine stationery business.
A die-cut is made by attaching razor sharp steel to a wooden base. This can be done by hand or with a machine that create the shape of the die-cut die. Like other engraving, embossing, letterpress, and foil dies, die-cut dies start as a digital file created and outlined by a graphic designer. This electronic file created via graphic software is transferred to a physical piece of equipment that will manipulate a sheet of paper. Think of a cookie cutter and how it is used to create a shape when pressed into a rolled sheet of cookie dough. A die-cut die is very similar and cuts paper into whatever specific shape is created using the artwork provided by the graphic designer.
The die-cut die is mounted to a bed of a press. The wooden base provide stability while a sheet of paper is feed into the press and pushed into the waiting die-cut die. The end result is that the paper is cut to the same shape as is the die-cut die. In stationery items and other printed communication a unique shape is common for business cards, envelopes, and wine labels. Many letterheads, brochures, or announcements are die-cut in order to give them a memorable impression for the recipient.
Kiss-Cutting follows the same technique as die-cutting but is most often used when the substrate is a label stock. Instead of cutting through the entire sheet, a kiss-cut penetrates only the top layer of the printed piece thereby leaving the sticky substrate unblemished. Kiss-cutting is popular with wine labels and other self-adhesive stationery items.