4 min read

Die Cut vs. Kiss Cut: Are They the Same?

By Scott Chambers on Jul 19, 2022 8:59:49 AM

An adhesive enters a die and comes out kiss cut

People are often confused about die cuts and kiss cuts. As it turns out, asking about the difference between these two is equivalent to asking the difference between a square and a rectangle.


Kiss cutting, also known as pressure sensitive cutting, is a type of die cutting where the blade does not penetrate the entire stack of material, but rather cuts through a precise number of layers. 

The application of kiss cuts occurs when the sharp edge or blade punctures the surface layer(s) of a material but stops at the top of another one

An example of kiss cutting would be a sheet of stickers: the blade goes through the sticker layer with the design but stops before puncturing the liner, allowing the sticker to remain on the sheet.

Kiss cutting is applicable in layered flexible material designs, meaning products with kiss cuts can range from sticker sheets to industrial signs.


You might be asking yourself, “Okay, so if kiss cutting is a TYPE of die cutting, then what is die cutting?”

Die cutting punches specific shapes from sheets of raw material as it runs through the factory press. Depending on the tooling of each project, the die cuts could be kiss cuts OR through cuts (a.k.a. metal-to-metal cuts). 

Unlike kiss cuts, through cuts pass through ALL the layers of a material and make contact with the metal anvil. 


Referring back to our analogy, all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. All kiss cutting is a type of die cutting, but not all die cutting is kiss cutting.

The distinction between die cuts and kiss cuts is as follows: 

Die cuts:

  1. A combination of through and kiss cuts
  2. The blade can pass all the way through

Kiss cuts:

  1. Are a technique used in die cutting
  2. The blade never passes all the way through

Through cuts:

  1. Are a technique used in die cutting
  2. The blade passes all the way through

Depending on the pressure between the die and the material underneath, you can create a setup where the die's sharp edges only penetrate to a certain depth.

A finished product with its main body attached to the liner would result from the combined process of kiss cutting and through cutting. The slicing depth can be calculated to the millimeter; therefore, it's possible only to remove the top layer of material and leave behind a specific shape attached to the backing. 

Kiss cuts are a valuable tool in die cutting projects, especially through direct application on the rotary die press.

As the material is sent through the press at a quick and efficient pace, the die rotates with the exact level of pressure to achieve the finished product.  

One side effect of a rotating die, in this case, is the formation of the excess waste left over from the layer that was kiss cut away. Yet, thanks to the continuous motion of the rotary die press; the waste is pulled in a different direction to boost the project's efficiency.

When used in tandem with through die cutting, kiss cutting can consolidate the steps of an otherwise tedious process.

Additionally, kiss cutting isn't limited to a rotary die cut press, and can be implemented in alternative die cutting processes.


Although they're often paired with rotary die cutting, kiss cuts can also be made through laser cutting.

Laser kiss cutting uses a weakened laser to make shallow cuts in a material. Because the laser's actual power is adjustable, its beam's strength can be lowered, so it doesn't cut all the way through.

Depending on the project, however, a laser might not be the ideal tool to use in certain situations due to its unique drawbacks.

For starters, using a laser involves searing off material, which may have dire consequences for certain adhesive materials (i.e., liquifying them).

The searing of a laser may leave behind char or residue, and its bright beam renders it incompatible for specific light-sensitive projects.

Even so, rotary and laser die cutting are popular options for creating kiss cuts due to their unique benefits.


While kiss cutting can be an excellent die cutting method to boost project efficiency, it will not be simple for every project or material.

Kiss cutting requires close monitoring so that each cut is made precisely. If done incorrectly, kiss cutting might render products imperfect or even unusable.

If the kiss cut is too shallow, which may be difficult to spot initially, the product might not work. However, if the cut is too deep, the adhesive can enter the gap and cause problems between the material and its backing. It can also cause “deep die strikes,” which leave an imprint on the liner below the material. Depending on your process, this might be a deal breaker. 

Defective kiss cutting may create imperfect rolls that are sloppy in the placement of their parts due to shifting during the delivery process. These imperfect rolls also risk possessing inconsistent tension, which might hinder any automation the product needs to undergo.

We know it can be challenging to know which cutting methods to use. Let us know if you have any questions, and we can help start your next project today.

Scott Chambers

Written by Scott Chambers

As the VP of Marketing for Strouse, Scott oversees the content creation team and drives demand to the sales team. Scott graduated from Coastal Carolina with a degree in Business Management. He then attended the University of Baltimore School of Law, earned his JD, and passed the bar in 2016. In addition to marketing and business development, Scott serves as Strouse's In House Counsel. Scott is currently earning an MBA from Indiana University.

Stay Current on Converting News and Insights

Subscribe to our Blog now!