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Improve the longevity of your prints with a spot varnish

Added on Monday 28th of February 2011 02:32 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows


My client wants a spot varnish applied to an advertisement I’m designing in Photoshop. I told him it would be no trouble at all—not wanting to look like I don’t know what I’m doing—but I don’t have experience with varnishes. Can you suggest the best way to set one up?


A varnish is a clear resinous coating that a printer can apply to printed products. You can specify for the entire printed piece to have a varnish, so that it wears better, or apply the varnish to a specific area for effect. For example, you might apply a spot varnish to just the car in an ad to make it stand out more.

To set up a spot varnish for a Photoshop document, you need to create a spot channel and then save the file in a format that preserves spot channel information. A safe choice is the DCS (desktop color separated) 2.0 format. This format allows for both four-color process and spot color channels—even if you place the image in a page-layout application for output.



To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, and extract the file lipstick.png. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)


To create a spot varnish channel:

1.       Open the lipstick.png file (or an image of your own) in Photoshop.

2.      Select the image area you wish to varnish. To create the selection shown in Figure A, for example, use the Magic Wand tool to select the background, inverse the selection, and then use the Lasso tool to subtract the lipstick case from the selection.

3.      Choose Window > Channels to display the Channels panel.


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