Developing practical data hiding schemes that approach theoretical steganographic capacity limits is still a challenging research area. In this aspect, this problem is approached from a different perspective by proposing a novel method that relies on the newly introduced forbidden zone concept, which is defined as the host signal range, where no alterations are allowed. The proposed method, Forbidden Zone Data Hiding (FZDH), combines the forbidden zone with binning schemes and it is formulated both in general and simple parametric forms. This novel scheme is compared against the canonical binning-based data hiding schemes, such as QIM and DC-QIM, empirically, as well as in a theoretical framework. The results indicate that FZDH outperforms QIM, whereas performing competitive with DC-QIM. (C) 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.