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DIY Scratch-Off Cards For Super-Crafty Thank-You Notes

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Writing a thank-you note is, let’s face it, a tedious art that's being replaced by easier means; I’m used to getting texted all-caps THANK YOU!!'s and emails that say about as much, and am guilty of using those same expressions rather than heeding my parents' instructions to always, always—even when it feels unnecessary—write a thank-you note. Of course, any sign of gratitude is better than none at all, but it's no secret that a handwritten note will mean the world, and arguably even more than a gift would these days.

Maybe what thank-you note-writing needs is a jolt of the unexpected—and clever, playful directness rather than a stuffy essay. After all the tidy wrapping paper has been shredded, the good bows tucked away for next year (if you're my grandmother), and the gifts received, consider taking a lazy day of vacation to make a set of scratch-off message cards to send your thanks. Here's how to do it:

Photo by James Ransom

What you'll need:

  • Blank tent-style note cards
  • Felt-tipped pen
  • A roll of packing tape
  • Acrylic metallic paint in hue of your choice
  • Dish soap
  • Soft-haired paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Gratitude
Photo by James Ransom

1. Plan your scratch-off message.

Since the whole point of scratch-off paint is to cover up part of the message and tease the reader into revealing it, you'll have to drop a clue in your messaging so they know to scratch it off. (Alternatively, you could cover the whole message with scratch-off paint and drop a penny in the envelope as a clue). Write the message on the front of the card, keeping these things in mind:

  • Space out the part of the message that you don't want to cover up from the part you want to go under scratch-off paint, to make application easier.

  • Write the message you do want to cover up pretty small; it's got to fit under a piece of tape from your roll.

  • Drop a hint. You can get as clever, as coy, or as direct as you want with your scratch-off message. Write "Scratch here!" or do as I did and add a line like "I'm writing to say..." before the scratch-off part. I also tossed a penny into each envelope to help the reader along.

Dish soap + acrylic paint = nearly scratch off paint.
Dish soap + acrylic paint = nearly scratch off paint. Photo by James Ransom

2. Mix the scratch-off paint.

Mix together equal parts acrylic paint and dish soap with a soft brush—it's fine to just eyeball the proportions. This is scratch-off paint! The only catch is that it won't scratch off of just any surface. That's where the tape comes in.

Coated on tape, dish soap and acrylic paint can be scratched right off when dry.
Coated on tape, dish soap and acrylic paint can be scratched right off when dry. Photo by James Ransom

3. Paint it onto the tape.

Stretch out a piece of clear packing tape and tack it across the top of an open bowl, sticky side facing the inside of the bowl. Paint your solution of dish soap and paint across the not-sticky side of it, creating an opaque layer.

Wait about an hour until it dries, then paint on a second coat.

Experimenting with all different metallic paints.
Experimenting with all different metallic paints. Photo by James Ransom

4. Experiment with colors.

I loved this coppery metallic paint, but it was actually a bit goopy. A tube of silver paint from the same pack painted on perfectly smooth, and the gold paint did too—although it was a little thin. Experiment with the paints you have until your solution paints on opaque and smooth.

By keeping one side of the tape affixed, it's easy to snip off.
By keeping one side of the tape affixed, it's easy to snip off. Photo by James Ransom

5. Snip the tape to cover your text.

Keeping one side of the tape affixed to the bowl, lift the other and snip off a piece with a pair of long, sharp scissors. The size of the piece you cut will be determined by how big your writing is; since packing tape is only a few inches wide, writing small is smart. But experiment!

Tape on your scratch-off paint.
Tape on your scratch-off paint. Photo by James Ransom

6. Tape it on.

Cover part of your message with the tape, pressing the sticky part against the card. When the recipient scratches off the paint—which comes off in perfect little curls that reminded me of a lottery ticket—they'll be able to see the message through the clear tape.

The craftiest way to say thanks.
The craftiest way to say thanks. Photo by James Ransom

Have you ever made your own stationery? Tell us how in the comments below.

Tags: stationery, writing, note cards, scratch-off paint