How to Make Scatch-Off Cards




About: I’m passionate about making Christmas cards!

Grab a lucky penny and start scratching! This Instructable will take you through the steps needed to indulge your family and friends in the fantasy of hitting it big with custom, instant lottery tickets.

To make these winning scratch-off cards, you'll need the following materials:

*If you're unfamiliar with letterpress and/or silkscreen printing, please don't be discouraged with the techniques highlighted in this post. With a little creativity, you can substitute the letterpress and silkscreen printing with inkjet printing instead.

Step 1: "Research" Instant Lottery Tickets by Purchasing a Few

Each year, I enjoy taking on the challenge of designing and making my family's unique (and often interactive) Christmas cards. My husband and I were very fortunate in 2018 - new job, new house, new baby. We wanted to share that lucky feeling by sending winning scratch-off tickets to our family and friends at Christmas.

After selecting the lottery theme for my cards, I headed to my local gas station and purchased several scratch-off tickets for a session of painstaking research (i.e. feverishly scratching the tickets with child-like excitement).

Even though I didn't hit the jackpot with those tickets, I did gain a better understanding of how the instant lottery tickets were made. I also gravitated towards the simpler "match a symbol" style games, which I thought would translate more easily to my Christmas card design than the more complex "crossword" style games.

Step 2: Select the Correct Paper

To match the weight/color/texture of the instant lottery paper, I gathered up the scratch-off tickets that I had purchased and brought them to my local PaperWorks store. The experts at PaperWorks recommended the Domtar Bristol Cover White 67lb paper, which gave my finished cards the look and feel of a real scratch-off ticket!

I purchased heavy-duty envelopes from Paper Presentation called THICK-E-LOPES to protect my cards from inadvertent scratching during transit. The A3 size envelopes fit the 4"x6" scratch-off cards perfectly.

Step 3: Design the Custom Graphics

Geared towards enticing a potential purchaser, instant lottery tickets share a similar aesthetic despite the thousands of different variations on the market. To give my Christmas cards the look of a real instant lottery ticket, I used the WhatTheFont app to reproduce the fonts used on the real tickets that I had purchased. I also used a barcode generator to create working barcodes and QR codes that are located throughout the design.

Even though the finished cards look like a simple, one color design, there are seven (7) layers of graphics that make up the finished product. The location, description, final print color, and printing method for each of the seven (7) layers is summarized in the bullets, below.

  • LAYER A: Back of Card / $0 Watermark / Gray / Letterpress
  • LAYER B: Back of Card / Official Rules Text / Black / Letterpress
  • LAYER C: Front of Card - Hidden / Security Confusion Layer / Gray / Silkscreen
  • LAYER D: Front of Card - Hidden / Symbols and Prize Amounts / Black / Letterpress
  • LAYER E: Front of Card - Hidden / Scratch-off Surface / White / Silhouette
  • LAYER F: Front of Card - Visible / Meowy Millionaire Graphics / Blue / Letterpress
  • LAYER G: Front of Card - Visible / Overprint Varnish / Clear / Silkscreen

I enjoyed creating Layer D the most, which includes the symbols and prize amounts. Designed as vector images in Adobe Illustrator, the symbols that I created include references to my family and our everyday lives. Each Christmas card was a winner with the recipients winning a "Meowy Christmas" salutation!

Tight registration was critical since the hidden graphics needed to land squarely beneath the scratch-off graphics. As depicted in the screen shots that I uploaded for Layers A to G, identical crosses were placed at each corner to align and correlate the layers. The final layouts, including the registration marks, were done in Adobe InDesign.

Step 4: Make the Letterpress Printing Plates and Silkscreen Stencils

For Layers A, B, D, and F, I emailed the PDF files that I exported from Adobe InDesign to the folks at Faces Imaging to produce negatives. As a member of AS220's Community Printshop, I used the negatives on their light table to expose a polymer plate, which was purchased from Boxcar Press. After exposing the plate for five (5) minutes, I washed away the unexposed material. After the plate was dry, I exposed it five (5) minutes longer on the light table. You can make your own polymer printing plates (like I did) or have them made by sending the PDF files to Boxcar Press.

I followed a similar process to create the silkscreen stencils for Layers C and G - this time using a transparency instead of a negative. I uploaded the PDF files for Layers C and G, which I exported from Adobe InDesign, to the FedEx Office printing website. I selected "transparency" from the paper options. I used the transparencies on AS220's light table to expose a screen coated with emulsion. After exposing the screen for 12 seconds and washing away the unexposed emulsion, the stencils for Layer C and G were finished.

Step 5: Print the Back of the Card

Once the printing plates/stencils were made, it was time to start printing!

I used letterpress as the printing method for the back of the card, which was made up of Layers A and B. I purchased blocks of time to print on the Vandercook letterpress located at AS220's Community Printshop.

By mixing a small amount of black ink with transparent white ink, I printed Layer A first. The final result was a light gray print that gave the appearance of a watermark.

After printing Layer A, I cleaned the press and printed Layer B in black ink. The back of the card was complete.

Step 6: Print the Front Hidden Area of the Card

To print Layer C, which included the security distraction layer, I used silkscreen for the printing method. I mixed a combination of white and black speedball ink to produce gray ink. After printing a few copies of Layer C, I held the paper up to a light source to confirm that the registration marks located on the back of the card aligned with the registration marks located on the font of the card. Thankfully, they did!

After Layer C had dried, it was time to print Layer D. I letterpress printed Layer D, which contained the symbols and prize amounts, in black.

Step 7: Cut and Apply the Scratch-off Sticker

I used the Silhouette Studio Software, which came with my Silhouette Cameo 3, to digitize the shape necessary to cover Layers C and D. After a bit of finagling, I managed to squeeze five (5) shapes onto a single scratch-off sticker sheet (8.5" x 11").

From the "Cut Settings" window, I turned on the cut lines and selected "Scratch-off Sticker Sheets" from the "Material Type" list. I loaded the scratch-off sticker sheet onto the cutting mat and into the Silhouette Cameo 3. Since I was manually placing the stickers onto each card, I did not weed away any of the excess sticker material. Instead, I simply peeled the scratch-off stickers and placed them over the area I wanted to hide (Layers C and D).

Step 8: Print the Front Visible Area of the Card

After applying a scratch-off sticker to each card, it was back to the letterpress to print Layer F. I used blue ink to print Layer F, which included the "Meowy Millionaire" and snowflake graphics.

I was nervous about how the scratch-off sticker would handle the letterpress process, since letterpress isn't the gentlest of printing methods. However, I was thrilled with how the scratch-off sticker performed; the sticker did not bubble or scratch, even when it when rolled around the letterpress drum under pressure.

After I printed Layer F, I waited a couple of days for the ink to dry. I then silkscreened Layer G, which was a clear varnish coat. To emulate the instant lottery tickets that I had purchased for research, I only applied the clear varnish to the front of the card. Even though it would have been easy to skip the clear varnish step, I think that it gave my Christmas cards an even more authentic look.

Step 9: Cut the Perforated Edges and Complete the Final Finishing

Real instant lottery tickets come in fan-folded packs, which are attached to each other by perforations. Wanting my cards to look as authentic as possible, I decided to add the perforations to the top and bottom of each of my scratch-off cards.

In the Silhouette Studio Software, I drew a 4"x6" rectangle out of four (4) individual intersecting lines (as opposed to drawing it with the rectangle shape tool). For the lines located on the right and left sides of the rectangle, I used a solid line. However, I selected a dashed line for the top and bottom lines of my rectangle, which would cut as a perforation.

From the "Cut Settings" window, I turned on the cut lines and selected "Cardstock, Textured - Heavy (80lb)" from the "Material Type" list. I loaded the scratch-off card onto the cutting mat and into the Silhouette Cameo 3.

Each of the scratch-off cards were exactly 4"x6" with perforations on the top and bottom.

Step 10: Mail the Scratch-Off Cards

Christmas cards are a cherished way for family and friends to stay in touch. I made 110 instant lottery Christmas cards for the 2018 holiday season, which were mailed to family and friends located in 17 States across the country.

Step 11: Scratch the Card - We Have a Winner!

I have entered this Instructable into the Paper Contest and would greatly appreciate your vote - THANK YOU!

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    9 Discussions

    Penolopy Bulnick

    2 months ago

    These look like so much fun and so professional!


    2 months ago

    Fabulous. Looks like a lot of fun (and a lot of work, but hey, what the heck... It's fun... :)

    How did the receivers respond to this?

    Would love to repeat this process. Now all I need is some silkscreen and a letterpress installation and learn how to use them... ;)

    1 reply
    emily hamelkwalletje

    Reply 2 months ago

    Hi! Thanks for the comment. With a little creativity, you can easily substitute the letterpress/silkscreen with ink jet!

    The cards were well received and we received serveral calls to the “Christmas Problem Hotline” from family and friends!

    Thanks again.


    Reply 2 months ago

    If you already have a design... Buy the scratch off stickers. Use a regular printer that can print heavier stock (card stock), print the front of the card including the initial underlay design and then the reverse side. Print the overlay design on the scratch off sticker sheet, cut and apply sticker to the area to scratch on the front. This might take some trial an error to get it lined up probably. Use a white background on the card and the scratch area to cut down on ink use. No need to have a solid color card. (for on the cheap I mean)

    The method provided by author is overkill professional if it's for friends or family. You can also buy a cheap mini rotary perforator online if you want to go that far. If you want to make money selling novelty cards or do in bulk, follow authors method.

    emily hamelgormly

    Reply 2 months ago

    The most challenging part of this card is the graphic design, the printing is relatively easy. I do one project a year (my Christmas cards) and always use letterpress because I enjoy the feeling of making each card by hand. I take great pride in making my cards as professional as possible since it’s a great networking tool.

    Even though my preference is letterpress/silkscreen, I made a note in Step 1 that the letterpress/silkscreen could be substituted with ink jet. This should make them less expensive. You could also use less expensive envelopes, the scratch-off sticker was very durable and the thick-e-lopes were overkill!

    I do want to point out that the “white” scratch off sticker sheet is actually light gray. If you do a white-on-white card, you will see an obvious color difference between the two materials.


    3 months ago

    Fantastic job. Your attention to detail shows.

    1 reply

    3 months ago

    How fun! I like the idea of doing this for party favors! Yours came out so well, thanks for sharing your skills and tips!