Comparing Matte vs. Glossy Book Cover Finish

Matte and Glossy book covers

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The old adage about people not judging a book by its cover is bogus, and an often-overlooked aspect of a book’s cover is its finish. Cover finish refers to the texture and appearance of the cover’s surface, and the two common options are matte and glossy finishes. Each has its merits, and choosing the right finish for your book is a signature touch of your book’s design.

The impact of a book cover finish

The choice of a book cover finish can influence how your book is perceived by potential readers. The finish not only affects the visual appearance but also contributes to the tactile experience. Just like the cover design itself, it sets the tone and contributes to the first impression of your book.

For example, if you’re writing a thriller novel with dark themes and suspenseful content, a glossy cover might not be the best choice. Glossy paper finishes are more vibrant and shiny, which may not match the mood and tone of your story. A matte finish might provide a more understated and sophisticated look that better suits the genre.

Matte cover overview

Matte covers have a non-reflective, velvety finish that gives them a soft, elegant appearance. They are often preferred for literary works, poetry collections, or books with a more serious or artistic tone.

They are also currently en vogue for Young Adult titles. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of choosing a matte book cover finish.


  1. Sophisticated and elegant. Matte paper finishes can give your book a refined and classy look, appealing to readers who appreciate a more subdued aesthetic.
  2. Minimal glare. The lack of reflective properties makes matte covers easier to read and view under different lighting conditions.
  3. Minimal fingerprints. Matte finishes are less prone to fingerprints and smudges, keeping your book looking clean and professional.
  4. Absorbs scratches. Matte finishes are less likely to look scuffed up from small scratches.


  1. Colors may appear muted. Matte finishes absorb light rather than reflecting it, which can result in slightly muted colors compared to glossy finishes.
  2. Limited sheen. Matte covers lack the glossy shine that can make certain elements, such as metallic accents or vibrant illustrations, stand out.

Glossy cover overview

Glossy covers have a reflective, smooth, shiny finish that can make colors appear vibrant. They are often associated with commercial or mainstream genres such as romance and fantasy, or for a graphic novel or comic book. Here are some key points to know about glossy book cover finishes.


  1. Enhanced color saturation. Glossy finishes can make colors appear more vibrant, allowing designs and illustrations to better stand out.
  2. Attention-grabbing. The reflective surface of glossy covers can catch the eye of potential readers, particularly in well-lit environments or bookstore displays. 
  3. Professional look. Glossy finishes are commonly used in commercial publishing, making them a familiar and expected choice for certain genres.


  1. Prone to glare. The shiny surface of glossy covers can create glare or reflections, which may make reading or viewing the cover more challenging in certain lighting conditions.
  2. Fingerprints, smudges, and scratches. Glossy finishes tend to show fingerprints and smudges more easily than matte finishes.

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How to choose the right book cover finish

When deciding between matte and glossy book cover finishes, it’s important to consider various factors to ensure the best match for your book — not to mention your personal preference and expectations. As a self-published author, you get to make the final decision, after all. Here are some things to consider.

  1. Genre and tone. Reflect on the genre and tone of your book. Consider whether a matte or glossy finish better aligns with the content, themes, and target audience. For example, a nonfiction self-help book may benefit from a matte finish to convey a sense of credibility and seriousness.
  2. Analyzing your visual elements. Evaluate the design elements on your cover, such as illustrations, photographs, or typography. Determine how each element would be enhanced or affected by a matte or glossy finish. Experiment with mock-ups or seek feedback from design professionals to make an informed decision.
  3. Consult with design and print professionals. Reach out to professional designers or print professionals who specialize in book cover design. They can provide expert advice and help you understand how different finishes can impact the overall look and feel of your cover.

Remember, there are no strict rules when it comes to choosing a book cover finish. Ultimately, the decision should align with your vision for the book and resonate with your target audience. Check with your printer to make sure they offer both options. BookBaby’s book printing services offer both matte and glossy finishes for your printed books.

Whatever you choose, the BookBaby’s Complete Self-Publishing Packages will ensure your finished product looks professional and enticing to your eager readers.

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