Embossing and Debossing

Denotative Meaning

An emboss is an effect whereby a pre-defined shape is raised in relief from the rest of the package, while a deboss is created when part of a surface is lowered. 1 These techniques, which are an added expense to packaging, consist of a structural change to the package that can also impact its appearance and visual appeal. There are three types of embossing: Blind embossing involves raising an image without ink; colour register embossing involves embossing with ink to create a different colour; and combination stamping is when embossing is done with foil stamping. 2, 3

Embossing and debossing features on cigarette packs include logos, coats of arms, monograms, brand descriptors, brand family names, and background patterns.


According to Tobacco Reporter Magazine, “structural and relief stamping are not only eye-catching, they also possess tactile characteristics offering even further potential for product positioning.” 4

“Textured materials suggest: creative, important, innovative, stylish, classiness.” 5

Connotative Meanings

Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle Luxury / Glamour Embossing/debossing –> Additional production cost, often found on premium cigarette packages –> Expense, Luxury

Embossing/debossing (especially combination stamping) –> Emphasis of already prestigious design elements (e.g. coats of armsmonogramshot foil stamping) –> Quality, Expense, Luxury


Lifestyle  Gender  The tactility of embossed/debossed features, combined with the visual suggestion of depth, can imbue already-gendered elements with more importance and prominence. For example:

  • Embossed feminine brand family name (Vogue) and icon (circle), debossed curves that form the background of the Vogue pack –> Emphasis of feminine design

    Lilas embossing1

  • Embossed masculine brand family names (Player’s; Parliament), logo (Sailor logo for Player’s; Chevron for Parliament), and debossed sharp line/geometric shape (Parliament) –> Emphasis of masculine design

    Players embossing

    Parliament debossing



  1. Collins English Dictionary. Emboss. Available at: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/emboss. Accessed July 21, 2011.
  2. Wikipedia. Paper Embossing. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embossing_%28paper%29. Accessed July 21, 2011.
  3. Kluge. FAQ’s – General. Available at: http://www.kluge.biz/index.php. Accessed August 17, 2011.
  4. Brinson B. “Sexy Packs”. Tobacco Reporter Magazine. Available at: http://www.tobaccoreporter.com/home.php?id=119&cid=4&article_id=10817. Accessed March 14, 2012.
  5. Philip Morris. Literature Review: Colour. http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/xxo92e00/pdf. Accessed December 13, 2011.