Denotative Meanings

In general a finish is a process or coating that alters the surface of a material. One key type of finish used on cigarette packs is varnish, an ‘ink’ without pigment. Best in Packaging defines varnish as a transparent liquid coating that is applied to a printed product to either protect it or make it more visually pleasing. Varnishes can be high gloss, semi-gloss, satin, matte, iridescent, opalescent, and soft touch. Varnishes can also be tinted and/or metalicized by adding pigment.

Contrast can be achieved by designing a cigarette package such that a glossy area lies next to an area with lower lustre, and this contrast provides emphasis or creates the impression of depth. 1 As recognized by the tobacco industry, “[Matte and gloss varnish are] used to highlight contrasts effectively with a gloss varnish standing out prominently on a matte background, almost creating an embossed effect with the same colors.” 2

The effect of a finish is often influenced by the use of colour, hot foil stamping, and embossing and debossing. Finishes can affect the appearance of both the pack and the cigarette’s filter tip.


Overarching Theme Sub-Theme Connotative Chains
Lifestyle Luxury / Glamour  Finishes that connote luxury:

  • High gloss –> A more complex and expensive process as compared to ordinary printing –> Extra value, luxury


  • Combination of matte and gloss –>  Relatively uncommon on cigarette packages, novel and technologically advanced –> Status symbols

    (Both Wrigley’s 5 “Cobalt” gum pack — launched as a premium product — and Belmont Edge use a combination of matte and gloss black; the areas that appear lighter in the following photos are matte, and the areas that appear darker black are gloss)


Lifestyle  Gender  In general, it appears that female-oriented packs appear are shinier than packs targeted towards a mixed or primarily masculine audience:

  • Gloss, shine, and sparkle –> Feminine fashion (Consider, for instance, shiny lip gloss, shimmering illuminator, sparkling jewelry, and clothing made with sequins or shiny fabrics such as taffeta, satin, lycra, and metallic spandex)
  • Examples of mixed/female-oriented packs that are glossy/shiny:


    du Maurier Distinct

  • Examples of low-gloss finishes on packs that are targeted towards a more exclusively masculine audience:

    Canadian classics




  1. Best In Packaging. Packaging Dictionary. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2011.
  2. Tuinstra T. Packaging Possibilities. Tobacco Reporter Magazine. Available at: Accessed July 20, 2011.