How to Add Cutting Lines in Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is a powerful and versatile tool used by professionals and enthusiasts alike for creating and editing digital images. In many instances, graphic designers and photographers need to add cutting lines to their designs, especially when it comes to print materials, such as business cards, flyers, or custom packaging. This guide will take you through the step-by-step process of adding cutting lines to your images in Photoshop.

Setting up your document

Before starting the process of adding cutting lines, it is crucial to set up your document correctly. Follow these steps to create a new document with the right settings:

  1. Open Photoshop and click on ‘File’ in the top menu. Select ‘New’ to create a new document.
  2. In the ‘New Document’ window, set your desired dimensions (width and height) in either inches, millimeters, or pixels. Make sure to include a bleed area, which is typically 0.125 inches (3.175 mm) on each side. For example, if your final design is 3.5 x 2 inches, you should set the dimensions to 3.75 x 2.25 inches, including the bleed.
  3. Set the resolution to 300 pixels per inch (PPI) for high-quality print output.
  4. Select ‘RGB Color’ or ‘CMYK Color’ as the color mode, depending on your printer’s specifications.
  5. Click ‘Create’ to open your new document.

Understanding bleed and safety margins

Before adding cutting lines, it’s essential to understand the concepts of bleed and safety margins.

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Bleed: The bleed area is the additional space around the edges of your design that allows for slight inconsistencies when cutting the final printed product. This area prevents any white edges or borders from appearing on your final print. It’s essential to extend your design elements and background colors into the bleed area.

Safety Margin: The safety margin is the space inside the cutting line where you should keep your important design elements, such as text and logos. This margin ensures that these elements aren’t accidentally cut off during the trimming process. A typical safety margin is 0.125 inches (3.175 mm) inside the cutting line.

Creating cutting lines with guides

Photoshop’s guides are a handy feature for creating cutting lines. Follow these steps to create cutting lines using guides:

  1. Make sure the ‘Rulers’ are visible by clicking on ‘View’ in the top menu and selecting ‘Rulers’ or pressing Ctrl+R (Cmd+R on a Mac).
  2. Click on the horizontal ruler at the top of your workspace and drag downwards to create a horizontal guide. Position it at the top cutting line, which should be 0.125 inches (3.175 mm) from the edge if you’ve set up your document correctly.
  3. Repeat the process with the vertical ruler on the left side of your workspace to create a vertical guide. Position it at the left cutting line.
  4. Continue adding guides for the right and bottom cutting lines.
  5. To lock your guides in place, click ‘View’ in the top menu, hover over ‘Guides,’ and select ‘Lock Guides.’

Using shape tools to create cutting lines

In addition to guides, you can also use shape tools in Photoshop to create cutting lines. Here’s how:

  1. Select the ‘Rectangle Tool’ from the toolbar on the left side of the screen. If you don’t see it, click and hold the ‘Ellipse Tool’ or another shape
  2. tool, and then choose the ‘Rectangle Tool’ from the dropdown menu. 2. In the ‘Tool Options’ bar at the top of the screen, set the fill to ‘No Color’ by clicking the fill icon and selecting the red diagonal line. Set the stroke color to a contrasting color, such as red or blue, and choose a stroke width of 1 or 2 pixels.
  3. Click and drag to draw a rectangle starting from the top-left corner of your document, using the guides as a reference. Make sure the rectangle aligns with the cutting lines on all four sides.
  4. To create a safety margin, repeat steps 1-3 but make the rectangle smaller, leaving a 0.125-inch (3.175-mm) gap between the cutting lines and the safety margin rectangle. You can use guides to help position the safety margin accurately.
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Saving your file with cutting lines

Now that you’ve added cutting lines and safety margins to your design, it’s time to save your file. It’s essential to save your work in different formats to accommodate various print requirements and for future editing.

  1. Save your original Photoshop file by clicking ‘File’ in the top menu and selecting ‘Save As.’ Choose the ‘Photoshop’ format (PSD) to preserve all layers, guides, and other editable elements. Store this file in a safe place for future editing.
  2. To create a print-ready file, save a copy of your document in a format that your printer can use, such as TIFF, PDF, or JPEG. Click ‘File’ in the top menu and select ‘Save As.’ Choose the desired file format from the dropdown menu, and click ‘Save.’
  3. Before saving your print-ready file, make sure to hide the cutting line and safety margin layers if you’ve used shape tools to create them. This step ensures that the lines won’t appear on the final printed product. You can do this by clicking the eye icon next to each layer in the ‘Layers’ panel.
  4. If your printer requires a file with crop marks, you can add them in Photoshop or use other software like Adobe Acrobat or Illustrator to add them after saving your file as a PDF.


Adding cutting lines in Photoshop is an essential skill for any graphic designer or photographer who works with print materials. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your designs have accurate cutting lines and safety margins, which will lead to a professional-looking final product. Remember to communicate with your printer to understand their specific requirements and to save your files in the appropriate formats for the best results.

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