Introduction: DIY Scratch Off Business Cards

About: I'm M@. If you know Prototype This, TechShop, The Best of Instructables, Show Me How, or AVPII: Requiem, you've seen some of my work and the cool stuff I've been involved in. I build and design and make and th…

Make your own scratch offs just like you find on lotto tickets. All it takes is a little planning, some clever screen printing, and a steady hand.

I love creating unique business cards . I've made them into flat pack vampire kits and used DIY embossing techniques . Not so long ago a friend of mine asked for some to promote his company Instinct Engineering . He'd just finished doing the engineering behind this massive awesome steampunk sculpture called the Raygun Gothic Rocket and wanted some cards showcasing it. I decided that it would be cool if you could scratch away the design plans to reveal the finished sculpture beneath.

At first I thought that it would be a pretty simple job, just assemble everything in Photoshop and hand it off to a printer. After getting quotes back from a few places (some over $1300) I was a bit flustered. I'd promised to make the project happen but couldn't believe how expensive it was to print. Then, I did a little research online. I found this project which gave me the idea: why not create my own scratch off ink and screenprint the cards myself? Then I could stamp them with the drawing on top and get them cut. By doing so much of the labor myself I could save my friend a mint in printing fees. Sufficed it was more work than I'd bargained for and ended up biting my teeth for a month waiting on printers, screenprinting, getting orders waylaid, and generally being tossed about on the choppy waters of fate but in the end I came up with some fantastic, beautiful, and pretty professional looking scratch cards.

Step 1: Design, Assemble, and Print

I chose to do a pretty complex project, here, with all the aligning, cutting, stamping, screening and everything needing to work out so precisely to make the cards work. It was a bit extreme and in retrospect I wish I'd allowed more room for error but the principle is pretty simple. You assemble your design in photoshop, creating separate layers for each of the elements. I made sure to add crop marks to my page so things could be aligned at Kinko's for cutting.

I saved the design for the front and back of the cards as high resolution jpegs. I sent those off to the printer to get printed on cardstock. I made a transparency for the scratch off design to get made into a screen (you can find out more about the process here).

When I first sent the design off to the printer's they messed up a bit of my order. The design got printed on plain paper instead of cardstock. After getting a refund I added all of my order information (4 color printing, front and back, cardstock, my name, my phone number) in the margins of the print to make sure they couldn't mess it up. I've had mixed luck with printing so make sure you are really specific about what you're ordering and be sure to call and make sure they get your order exactly right.

Step 2: Make Your Stamp

Having a clean, crisp image of the rocket's structure atop the scratch off layer was an essential part of this design. I figured the best way for me to get that illustration on the cards was to make myself a stamp. I considered carving my own. I considered somehow etching one. In the end I decided to laser cut a mold and cast my stamp.

The process worked remarkably well. I laser cut a few silhouettes of the design to act as walls for my mold, and then etched a little panel with the illustration on it. Since the laser removes material to create the etch and is so incredibly precise it worked really well to create the detailed illustration in 3d relief. When I stacked the mold together and added a spray release it worked amazingly. If you're curious about mold making you might consider reading some of my otherinstructables.

The trick with all this was finding the right material for the stamp. After some trial and error with wax, hot glue, and rubbers as casting material I eventually found that a 2 part soft urethane, like this one, worked perfectly.

Step 3: Screenprint

Screenprinting has already been covered by a couple awesomeinstructables.  What I can add to them is my recipe for scratch off ink and the few little tricks I used to get everything looking so good. I got some help from the fabulous and talented Marsha Pugachevsky over at Chevsky Studios.

The scratch off ink is 5 parts water soluble block printing ink, the kind you can find at most craft stores, to one part dish detergent. The detergent prevents the ink from binding together into a cohesive layer. This means it will dry flat and professional looking but crumble to dust when scratched off. It looks best when laid over a smooth, shiny surface. Make sure to print it on glossy paper, as rough matte paper will make the ink stick somewhat and the scratch will be muddled and blurry.

I hung all the printed sheets to dry after screening. The detergent causes the ink to dry very slowly. I'd allow it 24 hours to set up if you have the chance. If you stack the sheets together before they're fully dry the scratch off layer will stick and transfer to the other sheets. Not fun.

Step 4: Stamp

Now comes the longest step: stamp. I took my stamps, some ink, and my foam roller and got to work. It took me nearly eight hours to stamp all 1200 cards but it was worth it.

Step 5: Cut. Pack. Ship.

Once everything was stamped I just took it to Kinko's to use their cutting service. They stacked up my prints and cut everything on a huge guillotine. Having crop marks in between each card made the process super simple.

See how pretty they are? The work fabulously and look incredible. I am super satisfied with how everything came out. If I were to do this whole project over again I would try to space the cards out more, squeezing in so many on a sheet meant that any cuts that weren't exactly on the crop marks made the cards look a little funky. I also learned to let everything dry for a day before playing with it. Curiosity got the better of me a few times and left me with sheets of cards covered in fingerprints.

If you have any questions post them in the comments but be sure to read the whole instructable. There's a pretty good chance the answer is somewhere in there. If it's not I'll amend the tutorial here with a FAQ section.

I design laser cut jewelry for all you fashionable nerds out there. Check out Sleek and Destroy to get my latest designs.