Most engravers suggest that artwork for creating dies be sent as an original art file versus a file in a layout program such as QuarkXPress®, Pagemaker® or InDesign®. In most cases Illustrator® or other vector files are recommended, however bitmap images with resolutions of 600 dpi or higher can be used depending on the die-making process. Consult the die manufacturer to determine which type of file is best for the project.
When preparing artwork for flat stamping dies, which will be photo-etched or CNC engraved, it must be solid line art without the use of any screens. The digital files must be 100% of size, and the artwork also should be saved at 600 dpi or higher to ensure a crisp engraved image and best results.
These same rules apply to single-level embossing dies as well – the only addition is to ensure the engraver knows the type and thickness of the stock that will be embossed. This will tell the engraver how deep the die can be etched.
Artwork for brass multi-level or brass sculptured engravings can be a bit more complicated. If the image is to be multi-level embossed, the type of embossing effect must be indicated. The most common choices are either raised round (round lift), raised flat (beveled flat lift), or raised roof (raised faceted). On a multi-level image, a portion of the artwork might indicate to raise flat the first level and indicate a raised round effect on the second level.
With sculptured embossed dies that are, for the most part, completely hand-engraved by a talented master engraver, the designer can have input and make suggestions, but must trust the creation to the expertise of the engraver. It is recommended to take the artwork that will include sculptured embossing and indicate what areas on the image should include intricate detail in the embossing die. If there is a printed image that is partially sculptured embossed, separating out a layer in the digital artwork that indicates the portion of the image to emboss is the best solution. Then on a key line or black and white laser print, the embossing effects and amount of detail can be indicated. Combination (foil and embossing) dies must follow the same guidelines as above. The only exception is when an image is flat foil stamped in certain areas and foil and embossed in others on the same die. This must be well marked on the artwork.