I recently got a lot of offset printing jobs and with them the ability to choose options that were not available to me before.

So the Problem is that I generally have to make a presentation of the design to the client. Normally I would make a render in 3d or present the design as a flat image and that's it.

Since the last two jobs included silver pantone 877C and sectorized varnish coat (5th and 6th plates) I was at a loss when preparing the presentation. Ideally it should look like the real thing without the need of printing it out. There are a lot of photos out there where you can clearly see the varnish finish but I'll need to show approximately how it would work out on my designs...

A while ago I stumbled across an tutorial where this was made with fairly good results. But I was unable to find it again. Any help is appreciated! Hopefully I used the right terms... Corrections are also welcome.

here's an example photo with the effect I want to achieve using Photoshop or 3D software artwork with photoshopped metallic effect

  • Usually you'd just get various printed samples from the printer to show the client the effect you're going after.
    – DA01
    Feb 19, 2011 at 20:43
  • @DA01 You are right! In fact I got several of those samples. It just is frustrating having to resort to "hi, look, this is kind of what we would be getting" knowing I once stumbled upon a solution. Thank you for your comment
    – leugim
    Feb 19, 2011 at 23:21
  • Good question. Might be a good idea to give a quick explanation of what Spot UV is though.
    – e100
    Mar 2, 2011 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


This is as close as I have gotten to faking Spot UV for my customers... People usually like the printed version even more but that works for me because it has the element of exceeded expectations and surprise ;) Let me know if you like it and i can send you the .psd enter image description here

Here is the final product printed: enter image description here

  • 1
    That looks nice! What is the process you used to achieve this effect? Is your solution viable if the UV ink were on multicolored parts of the print?
    – leugim
    Feb 21, 2011 at 0:43
  • @leugum here is the .psd of another card (with color) bigswordfish.com/stuff/spot_uv_preview.psd The way you make the Spot_UV_Preview Layer is by coping the original spot_uv then press Q (for quick mask) then paste then ctrl+i (for inverse) then press Q to quit quick mask then press alt+backspace to fill the selection with white ;)
    – Miro
    Feb 21, 2011 at 13:10

So, I'm not a photoshop expert by any means, but it feels to me like you'd want to do something like the following:

  • Create a background layer, and fill it dark grey.
  • Create a new layer on top, and fill it black.
  • In the same layer, do a gradient fill which goes from white to black, and place this gradient at an interesting angle that'll cut across the key 'varnished' features. e.g. to emulate your photo above.
  • Switch to layer mask mode, and draw/cut-paste your 'varnish' layer into the mask.
  • Switch back to normal mode, and you should see something approaching what you're looking for.

At that point, I'd be into playing around with it to get the look I was aiming for - probably doing an emboss to try and make it look slightly raised, for example, or adding a bit of noise.

Sorry, I know that's probably not the world's best answer, but hopefully it'll get you going!

  • Russel. Your solution works well for black backgrounds. I think the concept is to somehow superimpose a reflection that is not (or at least less) blurred on the UV ink than on the rest of the print. I will definitedly try some more based on your approach. Thanks!
    – leugim
    Feb 21, 2011 at 0:42

I've been doing some fiddling about, based on earlier answers. It's not perfect, though.

  • On top of your stack, create a layer with a gradient. Preferably, draw it instead of using a gradient overlay.
  • Make this layer about 10~20% opauqe and give it a lightening blending mode. Optionally, mask it so it's only visible on the print sample, not on the background.
  • Duplicate the layer and make the copy ~50% opaque. This is going to be the varnish highlight.
  • Apply a Glass filter to the highlight layer.
  • Mask the hightlight layer so it only shows where your spot UV is going to be.

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