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Channel Letters: Common signage configurations

Photos courtesy Direct Sign Wholesale

By John Baylis
As channel letters are highly customized signage products, specifying their design can become an information-intensive process. While it is impossible to address and prepare for all potential developments, it can be helpful for sign shops to refer to a ‘fast-track’ guide to some of the most common options and configurations, as follows.

Front-lit
One of the most important variables for front-lit letters is their colour combination. Some retailers, by way of example, are not aware of the three separate colour elements of a front-lit channel letter: the acrylic face, the return—with a standard depth of 76 or 127 mm (3 or 5 in.)—and the trim cap. The specific combination of these three elements can significantly affect the overall effectiveness of a letter set.

The colour selection and combination should be based not only on the original branding, artwork and design, but also on the colour and material of the mounting location (e.g. the building façade). Indeed, a common mistake among clients is to commission the production and installation of channel letters in their basic branding colours without regard for the site’s characteristics; this can easily lead to poor sign visibility, with too little background contrast (see Figure 1).

Vinyl-faced
While many channel letters feature basic acrylic faces, vinyl offers another option, with the capability to completely change the appearance of a front-lit letter set.

For one thing, vinyl is available in many hues outside the standard acrylic colour selection. For another, vinyl can also be used to outline a letter within the face, using either a border or ‘reveal’ configuration, which can help ensure excellent legibility at night in comparison to a ‘full cover’ configuration (see Figures 2 and 3).

Day/night vinyl
So-called ‘day/night’ perforated vinyl is an innovative technology for channel letters, providing a method for changing the colour of a front-lit face when it is illuminated. As the name suggests, it allows the letter faces to exhibit one colour for daytime and another for nighttime.

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As shown in Figures 4 and 5, perforated vinyl can thus solve the common contrast problem where the colour of a letter face may be optimal by day, but much less visible at night.

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