Sign Installation: The benefits of backer panels


Photos courtesy Direct Sign Wholesale

By John Baylis
A backer panel is an optional feature for channel letter signs that can help optimize their appearance. It is basically a flat structure that is mounted behind the sign letters, to serve as a sort of ‘picture frame.’

These structures are also sometimes known as backers, backing boards or backer plates. They are usually painted in a colour that has been specifically chosen to present the sign most favourably.

Despite the use of terms like ‘panel’ and ‘board,’ this type of structure is not necessary rectangular. It can be custom-designed in any number of shapes, including a silhouette of the unique form of the channel letters.

Backer panels may be used with any types of channel letters. One common application is to install them to support reverse-lit letters, as the boards can provide an ideal reflection surface for ‘halo’ lighting, but they are also often added for frontlit letters.

Common designs and purposes
The primary purpose of a backer panel is to provide a high-contrast background colour for a sign.

A set of channel letters will be far more conspicuous when it is mounted on a surface that provides a higher degree of contrast or halo effect than the surface of the actual building façade to which it is attached. So, a well-chosen backer panel can substantially increase the overall effectiveness of a sign.


This sign’s backer panel was not only cut into a custom shape as a silhouette of the lettering, but also enhanced with vinyl applied to the upper area to add related imagery.

A second, related purpose for backer panels is to cover up a visually problematic building façade. If the building features a multicoloured, interlaced brick façade, for example, it can compromise the contrast level and exposure for the sign attached to it. A backer panel can handily eliminate this issue.

A third purpose of a backer panel is to cover 
or hide a raceway mount. Some channel letter sign designs can otherwise be compromised by the visibility of their raceway mount, even when the raceway has been painted to blend in with the building façade. Adding a backer panel to the design can help minimize this esthetic compromise.

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One of the creative design possibilities is to combine a backer panel with a reverse logo 
box. This type of layout can provide a strong combination of day and night visibility.

Reverse-lit channel letters should not be mounted 
to a glossy backer panel surface, however, or it will generate a mirror image of the back of the letters, including the light-emitting diode (LED) modules and wiring. To prevent this problem, it is preferable to use 
a matte or satin finish in these instances.

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