Luxury Matte and color shift

In the photo below, you can see how the color is darker and duller in the finished book  (left) than it is in the press approval proof (right) provided by the printer. The cover was printed offset (10pt C1S, 4/0) and finished with luxury matte coating.

comparison of color in matte lamination cover vs. pressmatch
Printed book with luxury matte coating on the left, matchprint from the printer on the right.

The printer always tells me that matte coatings will make the color darker, and it is useful to consider this side-by-side comparison. The cover stock is not as bright white as the proof stock. The cover stock is warmer (more yellow). So, some color shift is due to the difference in the stock.

On screen the image looks very bright (yes I know the screen doesn’t give an accurate color match). I had already made the image brighter and a bit more saturated to come closer to our expectations from the screen. I’m glad I did as the printed cover stepped it back down again.

Design note to self: Remember to think ahead and account for the likely difference between press proof and actual printed results.

Possible strategies: pull back the yellow 5%-10%, increase brightness and saturation, and in some circumstances pay for a proof on the actual stock for a better proof to begin with.

Author: VJB/Scribe

Book designer, project manager, publishing coach. Author of Bookbuilder's Almanac, the swatchbook for digital publishing design.

4 thoughts on “Luxury Matte and color shift”

  1. HI Valerie,

    Nice cover, looks good either way to me ;-).

    If the printer can’t accurately proof what he produces (shame, it’s not that hard) then I suggest a strategy for you to accurately account for this – but it’s only worth it if you use that print / laminate process a lot.

    Step 1 – if you can add a composite test image like mine to your next run on the stock that gets coated. I suggest get the RGB version of my testimage – download here:
    and convert to CMYK as you normally do before sending off to print..

    Step 2 Get the printed image matte laminated as you would the book cover.
    Now you have the image ( a composite of pics with memory colours and a wide range so you can see what happens to most colours on your skewed print run, not just a few).

    Step 3 Look at the image on your screen and compare the printed laminated result which, going on what you wrote, will likely be a bit darker.

    Step 4 Now, work out the Photoshop corrections needed to make the screen image match the proof (do this as adjustment layers) and save them as a layer set (let’s call this set “temp viewing layers for laminated covers”).
    Now you have what you need to make this right.

    Next time you some to proof on screen for this particular print process, I suggest you temporarily apply the layer set “temp viewing layers for laminated covers” to the image, visually correct your image in photoshop so it looks right which will mean pretty much doing the opposite of that the temp layers do. [in this case probably lightening a bit]
    Now [IMPORTANT step] remove the temp layer set, flatten your own adjustment layers and send off the file.
    [of course the image will look too light on screen once the temp layer set is removed – because is has been tweaked just the right amount to account for the printing process.]

    Does that make sense?
    I hope this helps

    neil barstow,


  2. Hello Neil. Thanks for your suggestion. Like many small-shop designers, I have a monitor/lighting situation that is okay, but not near top quality. My relationship with my monitor color is based on experience and intuition. Running a calibration with an image like yours is a great idea and the printer would likely support the effort. (Wonder if you have a beefcake version of your test image?) =;-> All the best!


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