Merck has developed a range of reactive liquid crystal materials (Reactive Mesogens) that are designed to form thin, birefringent, coatable films for optical applications. Reactive Mesogen (RM) films are typically coated from solution and polymerized in-situ to form thin, optics-grade coatings. Merck RM materials are customized formulations including reactive liquid crystals, surfactants, photoinitiators and other proprietary additives. Merck have optimized the materials to achieve the optimum physical performance in each application. In this paper we focus on the optimization of RM materials to achieve the finest patterning resolution and defined feature shape whilst maintaining good physical properties of the films. Several conventional trade-offs are investigated and circumvented using novel material concepts. Different methods of patterning RM materials are discussed and the merits of each considered. Thermal annealing of non-polymerized regions can create isotropic islands within the polymerized anisotropic matrix. Alternatively, the non polymerized material can be re-dissolved in the coating solvent and rinsed away. Each of these techniques has benefits depending on the processing conditions and these are discussed in depth.© (2008) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.