Lift-off is a method of patterning a target material (typical a metal) using a sacrificial layer (typically photoresist) to define the pattern. First, the sacrificial layer is applied and patterned optically; then the target material is deposited on top. The final step is to dissolve the resist, lifting away any metal that was on top of it and leaving the rest of the patterned metal on the substrate. Link to Lift-off Processing at SNF.
UCSB has an excellent lift-off tutorial here.