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Printing Industry Exchange ( is pleased to have Steven Waxman writing and managing the Printing Industry Blog. As a printing consultant, Steven teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.

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Large Format Printing: Diecutting Intricacies of Standees

My fiancee and I installed a standee for Rio 2 tonight in a local theater. As I inserted all 57 screws, I came to appreciate the intricacy of its diecutting, scoring, and pattern gluing. Actually, it was more than intricate. It was precise. Everything that had been scored could be folded correctly, and everything drilled with holes for screws went together perfectly, too, in the almost three-hour assembly.

Description of the Standee

First of all, picture a multitude of cartoon birds and other creatures of various sorts draped over a 12-foot wide structure consisting of a cardboard wall resting on a wide pedestal. The title of the movie, Rio 2, is a three-dimensional construct attached to the center of the wall and surrounded by the birds, monkeys, a dog, a panther, etc.

Beyond the humor and aesthetic appeal of the standee in its brilliant coloration, the surprising thing is that it all goes together correctly. Everything fits where it should.

A Close Look at the Diecutting

If you check the instructions for the standee (imagine an IKEA assembly booklet for an exclusively paper and cardboard printed product), the first page shows drawings of all component parts of the large format print structure. All diecut tabs and slots are visible in the drawing, as are all screw holes and scores for folding. (The instruction book always rewards a close reading prior to installation.)

This is just the first page. It precedes up to about twelve pages of detailed instructions, depending on the complexity of the standee.

If you look at the drawings of the “lugs,” the diecut graphic elements (all the animals and birds), you will see the incredibly intricate diecutting around the silhouette of each animal. Tabs on the lugs fit into slots all around and all over the background. That’s how they stay attached to the box.

In many cases, cardboard easel backs have been attached to the diecut birds and other animals extending above the background box with hot-melt spot glue. These lugs must be screwed onto the top of the background box using nuts and bolts. In some cases, extra chipboard has been spot glued onto thin or fragile portions of the lugs to strengthen them.

What struck me tonight about the diecutting and drilling was that the easels had to be folded in a certain way before the screws could be inserted, and the seven or eight creatures poised on the top of the box all had easels that folded and fit exactly, with the screw holes precisely where I needed them to be. Wow. That’s accuracy, and forethought on the part of the designer.

Thinking Like a Designer

I could envision the designer producing the art for this (approximately) 8-foot x 12-foot x 2-foot large format print standee on a powerful computer workstation, but unlike a brochure or print book, the designer had to think in three dimensions and precisely position all folding lines, drill holes, tabs, and slots in such a way that when the job went to press, it would be completely flat, but once printed it could be assembled into a three-dimensional structure of amazing complexity.

This is hard mental work. And if it’s wrong, that’s a huge waste of money.

Thinking Like a Printer

I could envision the sides of the background box structure being laid out on a flat press sheet for custom printing via flexography (rubber relief plates printing ink directly onto fluted corrugated board).

I could envision the birds, monkeys, etc., all being laid out on large commercial printing sheets for offset lithographic printing, and then being laminated to corrugated board.

I could see the metal dies for the contours of the bird feathers, and dog and panther silhouettes, as well as the tabs, slots, and drill holes, being positioned so as to cut precisely through the 4-color press sheets laminated to the corrugated board.

And I could realize just how easy it would be to get something, anything, wrong.

Why You Should Care

Many, or even most, of you will probably not have an opportunity to design and produce a large format print movie standee. However, you might just need to produce a three-dimensional product, perhaps a POP stand that holds products or food, or maybe a small standee for a drugstore chain or department store (if you look closely, there are standees everywhere, not just in movie theaters).

If so, you will need to think in three dimensions. You will need to think in terms of creating a structure that will be rigid and functionally sound (if it needs to hold a product). You will need to consider the tools at your disposal beyond ink on paper (such as folding, gluing, diecutting, scoring, and drilling). And you will need to consider the requirements and limitations of the custom printing and finishing techniques at your disposal.

To open your mind to these options, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to look closely at a movie standee.

2 Responses to “Large Format Printing: Diecutting Intricacies of Standees”

  1. What company can print and die cut? I can’t find one that will take my work. Can you provide a specific name of a company?

    • admin says:

      Thank you for writing to the PIE Blog. To answer your question, it will depend on your geographic location. I think the best place to start is to “Google” Printing Industry of America (PIA) online. Each geographic region has a chapter of PIA and provides online listings of PIA members, usually describing their areas of expertise (including printing and diecutting). That said, any good offset print provider should be able to do both.


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