Sign Materials

How long will my sign last?

The lifespan of your sign depends on location, maintenance, and materials used. An indoor sign will always last longer than an outdoor sign because it is not exposed to weather, temperature extremes, and the sun. A sign in a high traffic area will also be worn down faster than a sign in a more private setting.

Due to these factors, it is difficult to predict how long an outdoor sign will last. Many strong sign cabinets are still standing after 20 years. Typically, if your outdoor sign lasts longer than 10 years, you got a great sign. If your outdoor sign lasts only two years, your sign was poorly made.

A well-maintained sign will get more years out of your product. Sign fasteners, adhesives and paints can all be redone to improve the lifespan.

Needless to say, some sign materials are more durable than others. Aluminum is one of the most durable materials available, lasting many years. And there are temporary sign substrates used for signs that only need to be up for a few months.

Vehicle graphics can last up to 8 years; window graphics can last up to 8 years; and other interior signs can last for many, many years if not affected by human interaction.

What are the various vinyl types?

Intermediate – Available in 30-40 colors with a general range of 5-6 years outdoor durability – used primary for indoor signage and temporary signs.

High Performance – Available in 90-100 colors with a general range of 8-10 years outdoor durability – used for all single-color vinyl applications on non-temporary signage.

Reflective – Available in 8-10 colors with a general range of 5-7 years outdoor durability – used primarily on vehicles and exterior directories to make them visible at night.

Translucent – Available in 60 colors with a general range of 6-7 years outdoor durability – used primarily on illuminated cabinets and faces. This vinyl allows interior light to shine through the vinyl color for night visibility.

Perforated – Allows for multi-color digital printing with generally a 3 years or longer outdoor durability. It is used on vehicles, as well as glass doors and windows. The advantage to perforated vinyl is that visibility is not blocked by the vinyl on the inside while a full color print appears on the outside.

Specialty Vinyl – Includes metallized vinyl, fluorescent vinyl, and dazzler vinyl. Durability generally ranges from 5-7 years.

Digital Print Films – Used for multi-color and high-resolution digital prints. Designed to absorb printer inks to resist water damage. Also designed with different adhesives backing, such as rapid air release for vehicle wrapping and other difficult applications.

With digital prints, the ink’s durability is shorter than with vinyl. Digital prints last 3-5 years based on UV exposure and lamination.

There is also a vast selection of other media types available from bond paper, to banner material, to static clings, and much more. Vinyl and paint are no longer the only options for signage.

What are the various sign substrates?

Solid, transparent or colored plastic that is resistant to breaking. Comes in various thicknesses and can be as clear as glass or have a matte finish to deflect glare from lights. Good indoor and outdoor durability. Acrylic’s transparency offers additional protection to graphics by allowing graphics to be seen from the inside, where they are protected from human interaction. Acrylic can also be routed to fit any shape.

Lexan is an even stronger transparent sheet of plastic that is virtually unbreakable. Lexan is good for use in illuminated cabinets that need better protection from harsh outdoor elements.

Aluminum composite material similar to dibond, but made with a corrugated plastic core. Alumalite is very similar to dibond in that is has very good outdoor durability and a smooth surface that allows for long lasting vinyl and digital print application. Alumalite is as sturdy as MDO board and far less likely to swell or erode in the sun or weather.

This metal substrate is the most durable and weather resistant sign substrate. Aluminum will last the longest of any sign substrate in the sun and all other outdoor elements. Aluminum will not rust and can be sprayed with paint to match any custom color. Its weight and sturdiness make it primarily an outdoor sign substrate, but can be cut to any size and is available in a variety of thicknesses for interior uses as well. Aluminum signs can be used in virtually any type of installation.

Light weight and affordable. Comes in a variety of colors, but also can be digitally printed. Used for special events and grand openings, the main advantage to banners is that they are portable and can be easily installed almost anywhere.

Coroplast (or Corrugated Plastic) 
A light weight and affordable material available in 8-10 colors or with multi-color prints. Used for short-term signage like yard signs, special events signs, and trade shows signage. Easily cut to any size and shape.

Aluminum composite material made of two very thin aluminum faces with a solid plastic core. Good indoor and outdoor durability. Smooth surface allows for long lasting vinyl and digital print graphics application. Comes in multiple colors and can be routed easily and cut to size. An excellent choice for panel signs.

Foam Core or Gatorboard
Similar to coroplast in that it is light weight and affordable. However, it is used primarily indoors, while coroplast can be used outside. The advantage to foam core is that is has a smooth surface compared to the grooves in coroplast. Foam core is great for easel signs and other types of store posters.

PVCs ( Komatex / Styrene / Sintra ) 
All three of these plastic-based materials are very similar in that they are all light-weight and for indoor and limited outdoor use. They are more rigid and durable than coroplast and foam core signs, but are also slightly more expensive. All three of these materials come in different thicknesses; and komatex comes in multiple colors. They are all great materials for posters, point of purchase signs, and portable signs.

MDO (or Composite Wood Material)
Made of a marine-grade composite wood material that is sanded, primed, and painted for an outdoor finish. MDO board is very durable and a solid choice for outdoor post and panel signs. MDO board can be routed to any shape and cut to any size. MDO signs are very weather- resistant and may be the best, most cost-efficient option for larger outdoor signs.

Polycarbonate Plastic
A very strong and bonded plastic used for illuminated cabinet faces. It is light-weight, but harder to break than acrylic sheets. It allows light to shine through while maintaining more flexibility than acrylic. Polycarbonate plastic is also a safer material to use in signs involving electricity. Polycarbonate plastic is very strong and takes paints well. Polycarbonates can also be used for smaller interior signs like ADAs.

The modern replacement for the more traditional wood carved signs. Urethane is made of very compact and high density urethane foam that allows for computerized routing, cutting, and sandblasting. Urethane is primarily used for outdoor architectural signs. It has very good outdoor durability. Urethane can be routed to any shape and can be finished with spray paint rather than outdated oil paints. The minimum thickness for urethane board is ½ inch.

What are the various types of dimensional letters?

Dimensional letters come in different sizes and thicknesses, and can be used on the interior or exterior walls. Most serif and sans serif type fonts are available, as well as a good selection of script lettering. Dimensional letters can be internally lit. There are four basic groups of dimensional letters: Foam, Plastic, Metal, and LED.

Keep in mind that logos and graphics are also available in the same materials as the dimensional letters.

For interior use only, foam letters are affordable and extremely light-weight, requiring very little adhesive for installation. Foam letters generally have a thickness of ½ inch or more and are made of substrates like gator foam. The biggest disadvantage to foam letters is that there are less type fonts to choose from because foam isn’t strong enough for some scripts or serifs.

Laser-cut acrylic, routed acrylic, PVCs, and formed plastic are all subcategories of plastic letters. Plastic letters can go both inside and outside, and can be installed with adhesives as well as studs. Plastic letters are lighter than metal letters and available in 40-50 colors.

Plastic letters have a good appearance, great durability, and are fade-resistant. Plastic letters are available with different finishes including flat, round, and prismatic surfaces. For extremely smooth edges, laser-cut plastic is recommended.

Plastic letters can also come with an aluminum laminate to make them look like metal letters, but at a much lower cost.

Cast metal letters are very professional-looking, long-lasting, and durable. The metals can be gold, bronze, or brass and are available in different textures and colors. Finishes include satins, baked enamels, and polishes.

Metals can be brushed with a vertical or horizontal grain. They can have smooth and rounded surfaces, as well as beveled edges.

Metal letters come in a variety of thicknesses, but almost always require a stud mounted installation.

LED channel letters are illuminated dimensional letters. LED letters can either be installed as self-contained letters or with an electrical raceway. Type fonts are a little more limited with LED letters due to the space needed for internal lights. Most LED letters are manufactured with acrylic faces and aluminum returns.

LED letters are available in a variety of colors and can also be produced with transparent vinyl faces for additional multi-color options.

How do I choose the right material for my sign?

With our help, of course. There are quite a few factors that go into choosing the right sign materials. We will work with you to choose the best material and the best type of sign for your business.

The most important questions that need answered are: What looks the best to you and what is your budget?

Once those questions are answered, there are other subsequent questions such as: Is the sign needed short term or long term? Is the sign an interior or exterior sign? Does it need to be lit up at night? Is the sign in a high traffic area or an area susceptible to human interaction? What does the background color need to be?

For all of these questions involving sign materials, rest assured that we will have the answers.