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Scratch & Sniff Basics

Feb 1, 2005 12:00 AM


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Good registration and the right surface are essential

What’s the best part about an instant lottery ticket—aside from winning, of course? Most likely, it’s the growing anticipation as you scratch off the game piece to reveal what’s underneath. Lottery tickets and similar game pieces might be the best-known uses of scratch-off and scratch-and-sniff coatings, which provide a great way to build interest in any brand or message. One of the surest ways to get the attention of consumers is to allow them to interact with your message.

There are several design and planning considerations to keep in mind for projects that will include scratch-off components.

Scratch-off material choices
There are two main types of materials used for scratch-off applications: ultraviolet (UV) and foil. UV scratch-off formulas typically are applied using a screen printing process. This allows them to dry quickly, making UV scratch-off economical for long-run applications. The downside is that UV scratch-off limits color choices to silver and gold metallics.

Foil scratch-offs are available in a variety of colors and patterns. They are applied more thickly than UV scratch-off coatings, obscuring any printing underneath. This feature makes foil a better choice if dark inks will be printed underneath or if security is an issue.

Messages such as "scratch here" or images such as company logos can be screen-printed or inkjet printed onto either UV or foil coatings to enhance the products.

Scented scratch-off
Scented scratch-off applications (popularly called "scratch-and-sniff") are a great way to draw attention to the piece, and they offer a host of creative possibilities. The process is ideal for fragrance promotions. The mimicked smell of a new car interior can enhance automobile promotions.

Although school kids might think it’s magic, the process of embedding a scent into scratch-off material involves science. Through micro-encapsulation, microscopic scent-bearing capsules are mixed with UV scratch-off material prior to application. These capsules are then broken by fingernails or other scratching devices to release the scent.

Scents are applied during the screen printing process. Most scratch-and-sniff suppliers have a library of stock scents that are suitable for most applications. Custom scents can be mixed for special projects, but they can be costly and time-consuming to source. Custom scents often have minimum purchase requirements, and certain scents—such as brand-name perfumes and colognes—might be copyrighted and will require proper licensing before they can be reproduced.

Effective planning for scratch designs
As with many finishing techniques, scratch-offs and scratch-and-sniff pieces will be produced more easily and efficiently by following a few simple guidelines. Here are some tips for higher-quality pieces:

  • Maintain proper registration. While scratch-off and scratch-and-sniff material can be applied in any shape, size and pattern, slight registration variance should be expected. To ensure your pieces will look their best, keep a 1/16-inch margin around the scratch-off area to ensure complete coverage.
  • Add a wax-based surface. When planning a scratch-off application, don’t forget to add a wax-based surface underneath. While wax-based varnishes and coatings should be avoided for finishing processes such as gluing, they are essential to the success of a scratch-off application. Without a wax surface underneath, the coating might bond to the paper and prevent it from being removed easily.
  • Specify coated stocks. Using coated paper can protect the entire job by preventing the fragrance or scratch-off covering from sinking into the paper. Choosing an uncoated stock often means a larger deposit of wax or other varnish will be necessary to place a barrier between the substrate and the coating.

Scratch-offs and scratch-and-sniff applications can turn any marketing or promotional piece into an interactive device that allows consumers to engage with your message. The intrigue factor can be the critical "extra" that gets a product noticed. With a wide range of options for style, scent and design, scratch-off applications can creatively convey any message.



Cool Facts
You have a choice:

There are two main types of materials used for scratch-off applications: ultraviolet (UV) and foil.


The smell of success:
The process of embedding a scent into scratch-off material involves science. Through micro-encapsulation, microscopic scent-bearing capsules are mixed with UV scratch-off material prior to application. These capsules are then broken by fingernails or other scratching devices to release the scent.



Fred Daubert is president of the Riverside Group (Rochester, NY), a bookbinding and finishing company. For more information, contact Fred Daubert at (800) 777-2463 or book@riversidegroup.com.