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Which coating is best for my book cover?

There are many options when it comes to the type of coating you can choose for a book’s cover. At Steuben Press we have tried to simplify the process by making available what we feel are the best and most economical choices. Below we will go through the choices you have through our website and lay out the pros and cons of each choice.

No Coating

Let’s start with the most basic of coatings… no coating at all! This is undoubtedly the least expensive choice for your book as it saves from material costs as well as any additional labor involved with the process of producing your book’s cover.

Besides being economical, there are lots of authors who prefer to not have their covers coated as it gives a more rugged feel to the book where you can better feel the grain of the paper. A lack of coating also makes for a more pliable cover. Sometimes when a paperback book has been opened over and over again the cover will start to take on a curled shape from being bent back against itself. This will happen less with an uncoated cover.

One of the drawbacks to an uncoated cover is the fact it’s just paper and toner, with nothing on top to protect it. This means the book cover will be marred more easily. Additionally there is no coating on the spine of the book and so during production you may see more imperfections from where it is cut.

UV Coating

UV coating is common in digital printing and stands for “ultra-violet” as the coating is dried by exposure to special bulbs emitting ultra-violet radiation. Though there are options for what’s called matte UV, most UV coatings are glossy and will give a very shiny appearance to your books cover. This is very nice for colorful, vibrant artwork on book covers.

During the UV coating process your book cover will be flooded with UV fluid and then passed under an ultra-violet lamp to harden the fluid. As your book cover will be printed using a wax-based toner, it will also pass under an infrared lamp for final curing to make it scratch resistant.

Glossy UV coating can give an almost wet appearance to dark colors, and one of the chief complaints among book printers is the appearance of fingerprints on covers finished this way. If a print shop properly calibrates their coater and runs it at a consistent temperature this should not be a problem, but it is something to be considered if your cover is very dark.

Lastly, since the fluid is baked on the cover sheet of your book, it makes for a harder surface which can cause some cracking during the finishing process. Since it’s so hard, UV coating gives your cover the most scratch resistance of all options. Overall UV gives a beautiful finish to very colorful book covers, and is an economical option for your book production.


The final choice we’ll cover here is film lamination. We believe this is the best option for your book and will give you the most durable product available.

Gloss lamination is similar to UV coating, and will give a very shiny finish to your book’s cover. However there is an actual film being applied with heat to your book cover, and this extra surface provides a far greater protection than a fluid can. You will not have a problem with fingerprints or smudges, and depending upon the thickness of the film being applied should do nothing to decrease the pliability of your book’s cover. We use a 1.7mil laminate at Steuben Press.

You also have the choice to have a matte laminate applied to your book cover. One of the chief complaints about film laminate is that it’s too shiny. With matte laminate you get a much softer look to your book’s cover, and while it gives a duller finish to your colors it has a fantastic feel and many authors think it makes for a much more professional-looking book.

Cover coating is a very subjective choice and if you do a little more research online you’re sure to read all kinds of strong opinions about what’s the best. We’d encourage you to really think about what your preference is and don’t be swayed what other “experts” have to say. It’s your book and your vision!

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

Leave a comment

over 1 year ago

There is a satiny coating that several of my books have. Beautiful when new, but over time it curls. I have pressed them at the bottom of a stack of tomes & tried everything to undo this. I just bought 2 new books that have it. Im thinking of putting clear contact paper on the to try & prevent the curling. (BTW the library cope (paperback & original finish) had glossy coating so I was surprised when my reprint came with this.) Any hints on preventing the curls?

12 months ago

Lamination looks good, I agree, but I've heard that film lamination does not allow the paper to get recycled. So perhaps the first two options may be better environmental choices?


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