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PM Signs - World Fuels

Channel Letters

What Is A Channel Letter Sign?

Channel letter signs are ones that are composed of large, 3D, individual letters/numbers/symbols with optional illumination. The letters are individually installed to compose a word, nearly always the name of the business. This is one of the most popular sign types for larger buildings such as hotels and malls.

How Big Is It?

Channel letter signs are usually quite large. They can come in smaller sizes (approximately 1 ft high) for indoor use in malls for example, but usually each letter will be multiple feet tall. This is ideal for visibility from large distances.

What Is It Made Of?

Channel letter signs are made of aluminum sheeting, acrylic, and usually some sort of light source like LED lights or neon. There will also be some plastic used to piece together each component of the sign. Paint is often used on the interior of the letters to improve the lighting effect of illuminated channel letter signs. Of course, if you do go forward with an illumination style instead of a non-illuminated sign, you will also have electrical components included in order to provide power.

Why Is This Sign Type Needed?

Channel letter signs are one of the best ways to attract attention to a business from a distance. They are also often used as landmarks since they are predominantly used on taller buildings like hotel roofs. They are the perfect choice for both daytime and nighttime attraction to a building. They are always easy to read, and even the smaller sized signs are large enough to be seen easily from quite a ways away. They are best used to represent the name of a business due to the size; it would take up too much space and cost too much money to say much more than that.

When Was This Sign Type Invented and Why?

The early 1970’s saw the beginning of channel letter sign installation on buildings. It was important for storefronts to have a noticeable and attractive sign to encourage customers to enter the shop, and as technology and materials continued to become more advanced and available, the signs became more and more popular. Since people could read them from down the street, no one would ever accidentally walk or drive past their shop again. Illuminated channel letter signs were also incredibly easy to see at night, so businesses could remain open later and still be recognizable after dark.

Types of Channel Letter Signs

There are two broad categories for channel letter signs; those that are illuminated and those that aren’t. Signs that do not have their own illumination can sometimes be referred to as dimensional letters, but they are the same style as lit signs. Illuminated channel letter signs will be constructed the exact same way as non-illuminated ones, but they will have the addition of neon or LED lights inside each letter.

Illuminated channel letter signs can be broken down into a handful of categories based on their illumination style. The most popular lighting style is front lit channel letters.  These signs will have aluminum on their side and back pieces, and an acrylic face. The lighting underneath the face allows each letter to glow from within, making them the easiest to read at nighttime. Another illumination method is back lit/reverse/halo channel letters. The pieces in these signs will have metal faces, aluminum sides, and a Lexan or poly-carbonate back. The lighting within the letter will exit the back of each piece and produce a halo effect. The overall appearance of back lit channel letter signs is one of class and elegance. The final method for lighting a channel letter sign is a combination of back lighting and front lighting. These signs will have aluminum sides, acrylic faces, and clear backs. The acrylic face at the front will allow the light from within to shine in the same color as the acrylic face, the exact same as front lit signs. The back face will be customized to produce different halo colors using translucent vinyl graphics. This combination lighting style is incredibly unique, and is sure to attract an extra amount of attention to your business and increase your overall visibility to the public.

Channel letter signs can also be differentiated by the way they are mounted. There are three main styles: raceway mount, backer mount, and flush/direct mount. A flush/direct mount is the best for aesthetic. In this style, the letters are attached directly to the building at multiple points. Front lit signs will be very close to the building, as flush as they can most often, but backlit signs will have standoff spacers to allow the light to escape out the back and produce the desired halo effect. Raceway mounts are used to minimize the amount of attachment sites into the building, often chosen my owners who want to limit the number of holes drilled into their structure. The raceway mount is a metal box that contains all of the wiring and electrical technology needed to power the sign. Each letter will be attached to this box, painted to match the color of the building to make it blend as much as possible. A backer mount is quite similar to a raceway mount, except a metal cabinet or backer panel is used instead of a box. This panel will be larger than the sign itself. No matter the mount style, the attachments will all be made of non-corrosive materials to guarantee longevity and security.

How Is A Channel Letter Sign Made?

Channel letter signs are some of the easier signs to make since each piece can be constructed individually. This allows the manufacturers to focus on each piece and get it as close to perfect as possible. With the help of machinery and experience, construction of channel letter signs has never been easier. Let’s find out what the manufacturing process entails.

What Is the Manufacturing Process Like?

The manufacturing of channel letter signs is conducted piece by piece. There is something to know about manufacturing the back, return, face, trim cap, and lighting elements in channel letters. Since there are different methods for constructing each type of channel letter, we will focus on the manufacturing of front lit letters, since they are the most common and popular style.

The face of a front lit channel letter is made of colored acrylic sheeting. This will usually be 3/16” in thickness and it will be cut by a CNC or multicam router. There are many standard colors for this acrylic sheeting that can be used without additional work, but you can also get custom colors using translucent or perforated vinyl. This acrylic face will be attached to the rest of the letter using trim caps.

The trim caps on a channel letter sign are made of highly durable plastic and aluminum foil. This plastic will be eco-friendly and UV stable. The trim cap plastic will be extruded around aluminum foil, and then attached to the acrylic face. A liquid bonding agent is used to accomplish this step; it essentially welds the trim cap to the acrylic face. Then, the acrylic face-trim cap combo is ready for attachment to the return of the channel letter.

The return of a channel letter describes the sides of the letter. The depth of this section is quite variable, but common sizes include 3”, 5”, and 8”. This value is often regulated by your city, so you will have to check that your design plans meet the regulations. This information can often be found in a lease agreement for easy reference. The return of the size will be made of aluminum sheeting. It will be cut to the right size, and then shaped by computer-driven bending machines. This sheeting is available in many standard colors, but you can get custom colors for this section of the sign as well.

The back of a front lit channel size will also be made of aluminum, similar to the return. This aluminum sheeting will be cut using a router, and it can come in a variety of thicknesses. The most common are 0.04, 0.063, and 0.09. The back and return pieces of a channel letter will be welded together to form a durable, 3D final product.

Another thing to touch on is the lighting in an illuminated channel letter sign. Nearly all modern-day channel letter signs will illumination are made with LED lights. A computer program is used to determine how mane lights are needed inside a letter to give the ideal level of brightness, and then they will be secured to the interior surface of the letter. Often, the interior of the letters is also painted to increase the brightness of a sign. Some cities will have regulations in place for how bright your lights can be, so accommodations may be needed to comply with those standards.

How Can Channel Letter Signs Be Customized?

There are many, many components of a channel letter sign that can be customized, and that is one reason they are so popular. Structural elements such as letter size, return depth, the presence of illumination, and the mount style are all up to the client. Aesthetic elements such as the font style, lighting colours, and illumination style are all customizable. No matter what vision you have for your sign or where you would like it located on your building, there are options to choose from.

What is the Price Range?

The average price of a channel letter sign is between $3000 and $4000. Of course, there are many factors that influence the final number, so let’s discuss them briefly. First off, there is the consideration of how many numbers/letters/symbols will be used to complete the sign. Each piece will be individually constructed, so there is both the labor and material cost to think about. The size of each piece is also a component that affects price, since larger pieces will require more materials. Customizable pieces such as font, lighting type, mount type, thickness, non-standard colors, and more can all impact the cost o manufacturing your sign. It is important to work closely with the design team to ensure you can achieve your final look without going over budget. Keep in mind that it is always better to invest more money up front to choose the best materials and construction choices in order to keep the sign functional and looking the way it is supposed to for years to come.

Our Channel Letter Sign Manufacturing Service

Here at PM Signs, we are dedicated to constructing your channel letter sign to perfection, or as close as we can get, anyway. Our design team has an extensive history of producing high quality, unique channel letter signs that promote your business in the most effective way possible. With the level of customizability that comes with signs of this type, a knowledgeable design team like ours can be indescribably beneficial, even if you are walking through the door with a design in mind already.

Since the manufacturing of channel letter signs is pretty straightforward, we are excited to offer our clients the opportunity to tour the facility and see the quality materials we use to construct all of our channel letter signs. You can meet the team and become engaged in every aspect of your sign’s manufacturing process. Once it’s time for installation, our certified technicians will be sure to take extreme care not to damage any piece of your sign, and install it however is best for your building. If you don’t want a lot of holes from each letter being drilled individually into your building, we can attach them to a raceway mount first. Essentially, we will do whatever it takes to bring your creation to life and give your business the sign it deserves.

Our channel letter sign manufacturing process ensures that your custom sign is completed on time and without error. Plus, we’ll stick to your budget without fail. We understand how important your sign is to your business, and that’s why your business is important to us.