Illustration Styles

TABLE OF THE MOST COMMON SIGNAGE MATERIALS.  PART 1: Fixed content signs -- Substrates1

Strengths Durability Look Sizes Formation Process Compatible Materials Installation Locations Relative Cost2 Uses
A.  Paper Illustration Board Posterboard Cardboard3 Paper, wood, cloth; sometimes recycled, sometimes plasticized. Low Short Term Matte, glossy, smooth or rough depending on process. Paper: all colors Brds: most colors. Various sizes. Water squeezed out of pulp mat with a binder. Rolled or pressed. Wet or dry traditional media. Glued 2D/3D objects. Digital inks.4 Self-stick products. Interior mostly. Low Professional and amateur posters, notices, signs, announcements. Hung or folded, self-standing. Recyclable.
B.  Foam Board Polystyrene foam core clay-coat paper. Medium Long term. Easily dented Matte surfaces, White, black, gray, several colors. Self-stick surfaces available. 4’x8’ sheets 1/8”-1” thick. Extruded polystyrene core. Laminated both sides with high quality clay-coated paper. Same as A. Same as A. Low Same as A. Citable, foldable for model making and display. Archival, flame retardant, and memory foam available.
C. Gatorfoam Polystyrene foam core Luxcell wood-fiber veneer. Or multi-layered plastic/paper/
adhesive veneer.
High Long term. Matte surfaces, White, Black, “natural” colors. 4’x8’ sheets 5’x10’ sheets. 3/16”-2” thick. Extruded polystyrene core. Laminated both sides. Same as A. Can be nailed, sawed, routed, glued. Interior Exterior if painted/coated/edge-coated. Medium For displays, signs, walls, exhibits.
D. GatorPlast Polystyrene foam core 15-mil High-impact Polystyrene cap sheet. Medium Same as C. Matte finish. 4’x8’ sheets 3/16”-1/2” Same as C. Paint, screen ink, self-sticks, cut, sawed, routed. Interior Exterior. Medium For signs.
E. High Density Overlay (HDO) Exterior-grade plywood with high resin solid overlays. Phenolic on one or both surfaces. Very High Very long term. Smooth surfaces. Buff or black colors. 2’ or 4’ w. 8,’ 10,’ or 12’ l. 3/8”-1” thick. Multiple wood layers glued under pressure. Coated. Paint, coatings, reflective film. Self-sticks. Can be nailed, sawed, routed, glued. Exterior High For Highway signs and other permanent installations.
F. Medium Density Overlay (MDO) Exterior-grade plywood with high resin solid overlays. Phenolic on both sides. UV curing available. Very High Very long term. Smooth surfaces. Minimum grain. Wood color. 4’ w. 8,’ 10,’ or 12’ l. 5/16”-3/4” thick. Multiple wood layers glued under pressure. Coated. Paint, coatings, self-sticks. Can be nailed, sawed, routed, glued. Exterior Medium to high. For permanent installations.
G. Plywood Exterior grade. Interior grade. Thin wood layers. High. Long term. Smooth surfaces with minimum grain on one or both sides. Wood color. 4’ or 5’ w. 8’ or 10’ l. 1/8”-3/4” thick. Multiple wood layers glued under pressure. Same as F. Interior. Exterior with coatings. Medium. Semi-permanent installations. Not good with water/humidity.
H. Ultra aluminum Polystyrene foam core. 1 aluminum face. 1 high impact polystyrene face. High. Long term. White. Brushed/polished gold or chrome. 4’ x 8’ sheets. 3/16_-2” thick. .016” or .020” aluminum face & Polystyrene face bonded to Polystyrene core. Screen printing, photo mounting, laminating. Custom cut letters/logos. Self-stick products. Interior. Exterior. Medium Signs. Individual letters. Cut shapes/logos.
I. Dibond [Omega-Bond] Thermoplastic core. 2 aluminum faces. High. [Med.] Long term. Silver, bronze, white, black, red, yellow, blue, brushed gold/silver. 4’x8,’ 4’x10,’ 5’x10’ 2, 3, 4 mm thick. [4’x8,’ 3mm thick] Solid Polyethylene core bonded to 2 .012” sheets of polyester painted aluminum. Screen printing, photo mounting, laminating. Folding, bending. Interior. Exterior. Vehicles. Medium. [Low] Architecture, display, signs, cladding, UL recognized for electrical signs (UL94V-O)
J. Alucobond Polyethylene core. 2 aluminum faces. 85% recycled aluminum.5 High. Very long term. Virtually any color or finish. 4’2”x14’2” sheets. 5’2”x16’4” sheets Others. 3, 4, 6 mm thick. Solid Polyethylene core bonded to 2 .02” sheets of Kynar system painted aluminum. Can be folded, bent, cut, painted, printed. Interior. Exterior. High. Architecture, display, signs, cladding.
K. Alumacorr Corrugated copolymer core. 2 aluminum faces. Medium. Long term. Smooth finish. ¼,” 3/8,” ½” cores 4’x8,’ 10,’ 12’ sheets rd. grn, blu, almnd, blk, ylw, bronze. Corrugated copolymer core bonded to 2 .015” baked enamel coated aluminum sheets. Paint, screen ink, self-sticks, cut, sawed, routed. Interior. Exterior. Medium. For signs, displays, 3D letters/effects/ objects.
L. Alumalite (D-Lite) [Econolite] Corrugated polyallomer core. 2 aluminum faces (1 or 2 aluminum faces) [1 aluminum face] High (Med.) [Low.] Long term. Glossy surfaces. 12 colors. 4’ x 8’ sheets. (3 mm thick) Corrugated polyallomer core. 2 Baked polyester painted aluminum sheets. Paint, coatings, screen/digital inks, self-sticks. Can be cut, sawed, routed. Interior. Exterior. Medium. (Med.) [Low.} For signs. Wind resistant for its weight. [For wall mounting.]
M. LusterBoard (SignPly) Furniture-grade exterior plywood core. 2 aluminum faces. (1 face unfinished.) High. Medium to long term. (Med.) Smooth surfaces. Minimum grain. 4’x8,’ 4’ x 10’ shts 1/4",” ½” thick. (1200x2400mm) (10 or 12mm thick) Multiple wood layers glued under pressure, bonded to 2 (1) baked polyester painted aluminum sheets. Paint, inks, self-sticks. Can be sawed. Interior. Exterior. Medium to high. For permanent installations. Lighter than MDO.
N. Omega Signboard Furniture-grade exterior plywood core. (1) or 2 vinyl faces. High. (Med.) Medium term. Smooth surface with minimum grain. White. ¼,” ½,” ¾” thick. 4’x8,’ 4’x10’ Multiple wood layers glued under pressure bonded to (1) or 2 .015” vinyl sheets. Self-sticks. Can be sawed. Interior. Exterior with edge-seal. Medium to low. Semi-permanent installations. Real estate signs.
O. Pro-Lite Plastic core. 2 aluminum faces. High. Long term. High gloss faces. 10mm olastic core bonded to 2 baked polyester painted aluminum sheets. Inks, paints, self-sticks. Interior. Exterior. Medium. Signs. Individual letters.
P. Coroplast [Cloroplast] Corrugated plastic. Low to medium. Long term. Varied surfaces. Many colors. Additives: anti-UV, flame retardant, anti-static/corrosion custom colors, etc. Widths to 106,” 2-10 mm thick. High impact polypropylene copolymer extruded twin-wall corrugated sheets. [recycled material] Screen printing, paint, self-sticks. Can be die cut, cut, hot air/sonic welded & glued into custom shapes/packages. Interior. Exterior. Low. Packaging, display, signs.
Q. Sintra Komatex Celtec PVC plastic. Low to high depend. On thickness. Long term. Matte finishes. 12 homogeneous colors. 4’x8,’ 5’x10’ sheets. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 13, 19 mm thick. Closed-cell high density expanded polyvinyl chloride sheets. Can be heat/vacuum formed, bent, sawed, cut (to 3mm). Print, paint w/ some, prod’s, self-stick, glued, screwed, riveted. Interior. Exterior. High. Signs, displays, shapes, 3D prod’s.
R. Walkon film Orajet 1663 [Oraguard 250 AS] PVC film. Medium. Medium term. Gloss, matte. White. 30/36/48/54/60” w. 164”rolls. 4.25 mil thick. Cast vinyl. Solvent dyes [overlaminant] Interior recommended. Medium. Floor graphics.
S. Sign Foam Urithane. Medium to high. Long term. Smooth finish. 10, 15, 18 lb. densities. 4’x8-10,’ 5’x8-10’ sheets, ½”-12” thick. Poured & expanded closed-cell high-density urithane. Paint, screen ink, self-sticks, glued. Can be carved, sawed, routed, cut, sand blasted, machined. Interior. Exterior. Medium. For signs, displays, 3D letters. Works like wood.
T. High impact styrene (Styrofoam) Thermoplastic. High (Low) Long term. Glossy surfaces. Clear, many colors. 4’x8’ sheets. .02, .03, .04, .06, .08, .1, .125, .187” (Expandable foam) Petroleum based polymer. (Expanded poly-styrene) Paint, self-sticks, sawed, sheared, punched, heat/ vacuum formed. (molded) Interior. Exterior. Medium (Med.) For signs, esp. ADA, displays, 3D products. (Insulation, packaging)
U. Acrylic glass. Plexiglas, Limacryl, Lucite, Acrylite, etc. Poly(methyl methacrylate). High. Brittle. Long to Med. Term. (exter.) Glossy surfaces. Clear or many colors/textures. 4’x8’ sheets, custom. 1/16”-1” thick. Shapes/coatings. Polymerization. Injection, com-pression, extrusion, molding. Can be sawed, drilled, bent, formed, glued, heat welded. Interior. Exterior. Medium to high. For temporary/perm. Installations, internally lit sign faces.
V. Lexan Tuffak Makrolon Polycarbonate resin. Very high. “Bullet-proof.” Long term. Glossy surface. Clear, gray, bronze. 4,’ 5,’ 6’x8,’ 4’x10.’ Rolls, molded. .03-.48” thick. Polycarbonization of Bisphenol A with carbonyl chloride. Self-sticks, ink. Can be sawed, formed, molded. Interior. Exterior. High. Signs, displays, 3D products requiring extreme strength & scratch resistance. CDs & DVDs.
W. Uvex Gemex Celulose Acetate Butyrate. High. Long term. High gloss faces. UV resistant. 4’x8’ sheets. .06”-.25” film rolls: .003-.03” Cellulose modified by butyric and acetic acids. Non-petroleum, renew-able resource. Inks, paints, self-sticks, colorants. Interior. Exterior. Medium. For signs, displays, individual letters. As panels for illuminated signs.
X. Laminate #1 Phenolic resin [Melamine resin] Phenol and simple aldehyde [Melamine and formaldehyde] Plastic “sandwich.” High. Long term. Matte or glossy surfaces. Unlimited colors/images. Shapes/sizes standard/custom by manufacturer. Transparent thermosetting polymerized high-pressure laminate with imbedded graphic sheet. No additives. Graphic sheet is usually paper & can contain any image. Can be recycled material & printed with water-based ink. Interior. Exterior. Low to medium. For signs, displays, sometimes used together. [Can be molded into 3D shapes.] Not recyclable.
Y. Laminate #2 Urea Formaldehyde Plastic “sandwich.” High. Long term. Matte/semi-matte surface. Unlimited colors/images. Shapes/sizes standard/custom by manufacturer. Transparent thermosetting resin of urea and formaldehyde in a base like ammonia sandwiched with a graphic sheet and bonded to a base. No additives. Graphic sheet is usually paper & can contain any image. Interior. Exterior. High. Signs, displays, shapes, 3D prod’s. Used less frequently. Not recyclable.
Z. Laminate #3 Imbedded fiberglass Plastic “sandwich.” High. Long to med. Term. Matte/semi-matte surfaces. Unlimited colors/images. Shapes/sizes standard/custom by manufacturer. Poured and set composit of fine glass fibers in epoxy, polyester, or vinylester with an imbedded graphic layer. No additives. Graphic layer can contain image created with any media or technique. Interior. Exterior. Medium to high. For signs. Used less frequently. Subject to clouding, “spider” cracking. Not recyclable.
AA. Enameled steel Porcelain enamel. Metal base. Very high. Long term. Glossy surfaces. Unlimited colors/images. Shapes/sizes standard/custom by manufacturer. Inorganic glassy coating fused to metal substrate (usually steel) at high heat. No additives. Manufactured using silk screen, photo images, air brush, colors. Interior. Exterior. High. For signs, 3D products requiring permanence/resistance to weather/ substances. Not recyclable.
BB. Flexible magnetic sheeting Vinyl sandwich. Medium depend on exposure. Long to med. Term (exter.) Semi-gloss surface. Flexible & flat on metal. Variable thickness. Laminate with 1 magnetic layer. Can be cut, die stamped, printed, applied with self-sticks, hand painted. Interior. Exterior. Medium to high. For temporary/perm. Installations. Can be put on/taken off autos & metal surfaces.
CC. Wood Pine Cedar [Redwood] Medium to high. Long to med. Term (ext.) Coated/finished to any luster. To 12”w x 6” thick. 16’ l. Cut, milled, cured trees. Sometimes coated or impregnated. Self-sticks, inks, paint. Can be sawed, cut, sand-blasted, etc. Interior. Exterior. Coatings extend life. Low to medium. Signs, displays, 3D products, letters. Easy to work. [used less frequently] Recyclable.
DD. Banner #1 Vinyl (Vinyl/nylon) [Nylon] Organic ethenyl (combination) [polyamide] High. Long to med. Term exter. Gloss/semi finish (matte finish, woven look) [woven, “rip-stop”] Standard/ custom sizes-16’ w. Any l. Any color. Extruded strands woven to cloth. Print inks, paint, self-sticks, appliqués. Interior. Exterior. Medium. Signs, displays, flags, backdrops. Flame retardant.
EE. Banner #2 Satin Silk, nylon, or polyester cotton: sateen. Medium. Long to med. Term-exter. High luster. Width/length standard/custom by manufacturer. Most colors. Woven cloth. Digital printing. Interior. High to medium. Signs, flags for a sophisticated look. Flammable.
FF. Banner #3 Polyester [BIOflex] Polyethylene [PVC coated] Medium to high Long to med. Term-exter. Matte surfaces. Width/length standard/custom by manufacturer. White. [widths 54”-196”] Woven cloth. Digital printing. Screen printing. Self-sticks. [Screen printing] Interior. Exterior. Medium. Signs, displays, flags, backdrops. Flame retardant.
GG. Banner #4 Paper-based [Tyvek] Various pulps/binders. [High-density polyethylene] Low to medium. [High] Short term. [Med. Term exterior, long interior] Matte-gloss dep. On material. Sizes to 54”w x 160’ l for digital printing. [Semi-gloss, 50’w x 60’l, max.] Water squeezed out of pulp mat with a binder. Rolled or pressed. Various thickness. [Fibers spun & pressed with binder.] Inks/paint/self-sticks/markers/light 3D add-ons. [Aqueous & water-based inks.] Interior [Interior exterior] Low [Med.] Small-large format signs & banners. Recyclable. [Same. Water resistant with pigment inks.
HH. Metal Bronze, brass, aluminum. [Steel] High. Long term. Glossy, matte, brushed, textured surfaces. Shapes & sizes standard/custom by manufacturer. Molded/cast/formed from raw/recycled materials. Paint, self-sticks, printed, cut, drilled, sheared, punched, bent, sand/water blasted, molded. Interior. Exterior. High. For signs, displays, architectural/3D elements, bases for other materials. Letters. [Magnetic.]
II. Stone Granite, marble, slate, sandstone, limestone. [Brick, cement] High. Long term. Matte to polished surfaces. Shapes & sizes standard/custom by manufacturer. Colors by material. Quarried/polished or not. [Manufactured from raw materials.] Can be cut, drilled, routed, sand/water blasted, painted, carved.  [Poured, molded, formed] Interior. Exterior. High. For permanent signs, letters, architectural/3D elements. [Patios, walkways, public spaces.]
JJ. Cast stone Terazzo Stone particles polymer. High. Long term. Polished surface. Infinite colors. Shapes & sizes standard/ custom by manufacturer. Mold/cast. Large surfaces poured in place. Same as II. Interior. Exterior. High. Same as II. Floors, some with intricate designs. Patios, walkways, public spaces.
KK. Plastic lumber PlasTEAK [Origins] [Enviropoly] Recycled high-density polyethylene, sometimes w/ fiberglass strands. From “milk jugs and paint buckets.” High. Long term. Semi-matte. Wood grain. White, 4 colors. Most wood shapes. Specialty shapes. [White sheets.] Extrusion. [Self-sticks, paint, screened.] Interior. Exterior. Interior. Exterior. Medium. Signs, decks, fencing, benches, speed bumps, picnic tables, built objects, etc. [Signs]
LL. X-Board 97% post-consumer paper waste. Organic adhesives. High. Crush resist. Long term inter. Matte to gloss. White surfaces 1220w x 2440 or 2900 mm l. 10, 12, 16, 20, or 32 mm thick. Stiff paper surfaces bonded to a honeycomb interior. Self-sticks, paint, print, laminated with veneers. Can be cut, sawed & miter folded. Interior. Medium. Signs, walls, 3D products, furniture. Recyclable.
MM. Mondi indoor [Mondi Xtreme] Kraft paper. Biodegradable adhesives. 92% recycled material. Low [Medium] inter. In low humid. [Med. Term.] Short term. White surfaces. Layered kraft fiber interior. [One brown surf.] 1300 micron thick [1400 micron thick] 1250wx1800l mm [760x1020 or 580x2100 mm] Stiff paper surfaces bonded to paper fibers. [Water proof additives/coatings.] Self-sticks, paint, print, laminated with veneers. Can be cut, sawed. Interior. [Interior exterior] Low. Signs, graphics.
NN. Medium-density fiberboard (MDF, MDFB, Customwood, Craftwood. [Particle board] Soft wood fibers, binders, resins. Sometimes scrap/waste wood, bamboo, glass, steel, recycled paper. [Larger particles, different glues.] High. Long term, inter., exterior when sealed. Grainless various surf’s, or: Green: moisture resistant. Red: fire retard. 2.5-30 mm thick. Sizes standard /custom by manufacturer. Fibered materials combined with resins under heat and pressure. Paints, inks, self-sticks, veneers. Can be sawed, cut, routed, etc., like plywood. Primarily interior. [Not good with water/ humidity] Lower than wood. Architectural/3D products, furniture. Signs, displays. Can be made from recycled materials & be recycled.
OO. Paperstone 100% FSC6 certified recycled paper. Water-based phenolic resin with cashew nut shell binder. Pigments. High. Long. Grainless panels: 60”x 144” ¾,” 1,” & 1 ¼.” 6 standard edges. Custom. Heat and pressure. Can be pressure “embossed” for signage. Paints, coatings. Can be worked like hardwood. Interior. Exterior. Medium. Signs, esp. ADA. Counter tops & other architectural uses.



Strengths Durability Look Sizes Formation Process Compatible Materials Installation Locations Relative Cost2 Uses
A. Adhesive vinyl Polyvinyl chloride-PVC. Plasticizers. Additives such as colors, UV absorbers, stabilizers, fillers. 1 adhesive surface. High. Long term, inter. Med. Exter. Matte-glossy. Dozens of colors, clear, metallic, transparent, translucent. 2-7 mil thick. Rolls 15”-48”w x 5, 10, 20 yards l. Cast: Formulation mixed/poured onto a sheet and moved through a series of ovens. Calendered: No solvents. “Dough” is extruded/squeezed between rollers. Faster, less dim. Stable. Can be printed or cut by hand or CNC7 machine, and applied to most surfaces. Comes with backing paper. Interior. Exterior. Medium. Letters, logos, shapes, windows (forward or backward) backlit surfaces.
B. Static cling vinyl Same as A. No adhesive. Medium. Same as A Same as A. Fewer colors/size options. Same as A. Same as A. Must be clean and applied to smooth surfaces like glass/steel. Repositional. Interior. Exterior. Medium. Letters, logos, & small shapes, mostly.
C. Ink/paint #18 Solvent-based Various petroleum-based vehicles. Pigments. High VOC9 4-butyrolacto cyclohexanone. High. Long term. Matte to gloss, dep. on additives. Unlimited colors. Cartridge or bulk. Solvents, dyes, pigments, resins, lubricants, etc.8 Most surfaces porous, or non-. Dries fast. Cures slowly. Interior. Exterior. Medium to high dep on add’t’vs. Apply images/text to almost any surface. High color brilliance. Toxic fumes. Non-biodegradable.
D. Ink/paint #2 Low-solvent based Diethylene glycol. Diethyl ether. Tetraethylene glycol. Pigments. Medium-low VOC.9 High. Same as C. Same as C. Same as C. Most porous surfaces. Dries fast. Interior. Most exterior. Low. Same as C, but low toxic fumes.

E. Ink/paint #3

Mineral oil. Pigments. Medium to low. Med. Term inter. Low, ext. Same as C. Mineral oil, dyes, pigments, etc. Lengthens print-head life. Most porous surfaces.3 Dries fast. Cures fast. Interior. Most exterior. Low. Same as C. Low-toxic fumes.
F. Ink/paint #4 Water-based. [Aqueous] Latex/acetylene glycol/pigment. [ethylene oxide surf-actant /wetting agent /penetrating agent/pigment/ water. Low. Long term inter. Short, exter. Same as C. Dyes, pigments, etc. Sometimes drying inhibitors. Water solvent. Most porous surfaces.3 Dries fast. Interior. Some exterior. Low. Paper surfaces. Non-toxic fumes. Non-biodegradable.
G. Ink/paint #5 Eco-solvent based Various vegetable solvents: soy, corn. Binders: Cotton, wood pulp. Pigments. Medium to low. Same as F. Matte. Unlimited color. High color brilliance. Lighter solvent. Less pigment needed. Most porous surfaces. Dries slowly. Interior. Some exterior. High initially. Low ultm’tly. Apply images/text to most porous materials. Non-toxic. Mostly biodegradable.
H. 3D Objects Paper/metal/ plastic/wood/ stone/etc. N/A Long-med. Objects that fit/stay on substrates. By material. Screwed/stapled/glued/nailed/etc. Interior. Exterior. By material. Add content to any sign/display/ exhibit.



Flexibility Look Sizes Formation Process Compatible Materials Installation Locations Relative Cost Uses
A. Non-electric #1 “Menu Boards” Frame of plastic, wood, bronze, or aluminum. Grooved felt board. Plastic letters inserted into the grooves with pegs on back. Individual letters inserted in felt grooves form lines of words. Some lighted. Some covered with acrylic. Some boards switch with cork boards. Frame colors by material. 12”x18”-96”x48.” Felt in several colors. Letters black/white. 5/16”-2”height. Wall mount. 1 0r 2 pedestal styles. Extruded metal/ plastic frame. Rigid felt board in frame. Molded acrylic letters. Symbols/arrows available with letters. Interior. Exterior with cover or under shelter. Low. Churches, schools, restaurants, any place with constantly changing messages.
B. Non-electric #2 “Slider” add-ons Frames of aluminum, bronze, wood, PVC, acrylic, etc. Text strips acrylic, paper, vinyl, metal. Text strips slide into channels from the side. Some covered. Some lighted. Frame colors by material. Standard/custom sizes. Text strips in standard /custom sizes /colors/typestyles/materials. Extruded metal/plastic frames. Text strip channels integral with frame or inserted in frame. Text strips printed, routed, etched, dep. on material. Larger custom panels available: maps, graphics, phrases, logos. Same as A. Medium to high dep. on material. Directories, room door, or function identifiers. Any place needing semi-permanent text/graphics, or an expanding list. Some include Braille.
C. Non-electric #3 “Face” add-ons Frames of bronze, wood, PVC, metals, acrylic, etc. Attachments of various woods, plastics, metals, cast stone, depending on use. Attachments onto backing by clips, clip channels, magnets, screws, pressure, Velcro. Some covered. Some lighted. Frame/panel colors by material. Standard/custom sizes/shapes. Attachments in standard/custom sizes/colors/type styles. Shapes: strips or standard/custom ovals, rectangles, tree “leaves,” etc. Extruded frames. Panels mauf’d by material. Attachment strips extruded/cast. Other shapes manufactured by material, printed, routed, etched, etc. Same as B. Same as A. Medium to high dep. on material. Same as B. Donor recognition.
D. Non-electric #4 Pedestal frames: “A” frame w/ wheels. [Dry-erase] Chalkboard {Snap frame} Channel frames Frames of chrome, bronze, acrylic, wood, baked enamel steel, dep. on style. Any printable poster/information material, depending on use. [Melamine, polyester coated steel, enam’l’d steel (magnetic). Some with felt boards. Frames take a poster or board for temporary use. Poster slides in a channel or {frame “snaps” apart/together.} Boards in frame take [markers], chalk, press-in letters in felt. Some covered. “A” frame is 2-sided easel. Frame/ pedestal colors by material. 1 or 2 pedestals. Some clamp/slat-wall/magnetized. Frames take various sizes rectangles, {pre-cut arrows} Frame atop ped. Straight or angled 48”-60”h. Clamp, slat-wall, mag. Table styles are 8”-11” h. Extruded frames/pedestal posts. Some frames molded. Wood/pedestal bases/other styles manufactured according to material/use. Posters in slots can be of any material that fits, contain any message. Interior mostly. Plastic styles exterior. {Low} to high dep. on mat’ls/ styles/ sizes. Any installation needing temporary to semi-permanent information free-standing and/or movable.


Flexibility Look Sizes Formation Process Compatible Materials Installation Locations Relative Cost Uses
A. Electric #1         Neon 8-15mm glass tubes filled with inert gases, sometimes mercury and phosphor coatings. Unchangeable once they are manufactured, but by switching parts on/off patterns, sequences, & animations can be formed. Text, images, logos can be formed in many colors & sizes. Neon: red/orange Argon: Lavender Argon/mercury/ phosphors: varied colors. Tubes are bent with heat, often on a template, emptied/ cleaned with heat/vacuum, filled with gas/mercury/ phosphors & hooked to elect. Source with a transformer. Can be free-standing or attached to sign, usually steel. Interior. Exterior. Medium to high dep. on size & design. Mostly advertising/ marketing/point of purchase. Some fine art.
B. Electric #2 Back lit Cabinets of aluminum or steel, usually. LED, fluorescent, or incandescent light inside. Graphic printed on vinyl/translucent polycarbonate, etc. Protective cover. Graphic insert can contain any message & is easily replaced. Variety of cast/molded letters. 1 or 2 sided. Standard/custom cabinet colors, widths, heights, lengths. Lights can flash/blink/”travel.” Extruded metal frame sandwiched with a back and front frame into a “suitcase.” Lights, graphic sheet, or panel & sometimes a protective cover are added. No additives, but graphic image can be anything. Sound. Interior. Some exterior. Medium to high dep. on size/materials. Signs, displays, advertising. Molded/channel letters.
C. Electric #3 Light-emitting diode (LED) Tiny light-emitting semiconductor in a plastic case. Diodes mounted in boards/signs/carriers of various materials, depending on use. Long life & fast switching time. Ultraviolet-visible-infrared colors. Can be used in any configuration from 1-stringed pairs-thousands. Programmable to look animated. Indiv. Diode cases rectangle/domed. 2-10mm high. Light source 1mm. Signs can be in almost any size/shape/ materials. Semiconductor color depends on materials used. Optics added to shape radiation & assist reflection. Diode attached to sign by electric leads. Clusters for distance viewing. Used in a wide variety of sign materials. For long life heat must be dissipated. Low power req. Sound. Same as B. Can be mobile. Higher than conv’n’t’l lights. Signs low to very high dep. on size/tech. Alphanumeric displays, indicators, digital billboards/displays, traffic/auto lights, dot matrix, destination/ schedule signs, news tickers, decorations, exhibit/interpretive visuals, channel letters, back lighting.
D. Electric #4 Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) [IntelliMat] Thin flat display device of several layers. Each pixel is a layer of molecules aligned between 2 transparent electrodes & 2 polarizing filters. A small amount of electricity is used. Carriers/devices are of various materials. Devices are from simple digital displays to TV monitors. Monochrome digital displays to full color TV monitors. Small watches-wide-screen TVs. A thin sandwich is created using layers of polymers, glass with ITO10 electrodes, polarizing films, reflective material (or light source). Shapes of the electrodes determine Shapes of images when LCD is on. [no glass] Low heat, low electricity needs. Devices use a variety of materials. Sound. Interior. Exterior, but some too dim. Low to very high for lg. TVs. Digital watches/clocks, alphanumeric displays, TVs, computer monitors. TV screens becoming competitive with Plasma Displays. [Installs flat on the floor.]
E. Electric #5 Plasma Display Panel (PDP) Thin flat display device of several layers. Tiny cells hold a mixture of neon/xenon gasses. Elect. Turns gases to plasma, exciting phosphors to glow. Large, very thin screen with bright image & wide viewing angle. Flat thickness -4.” Wide screen to 150” diag. 2 glass panels contain sandwich of 2 insulator layers, 2 electrode layers, magnesium oxide coatings, plasma cell pixel layer with phosphor coating. Monitors are of various materials. Sound. Interior mostly. Medium to high, dep. on size. Small to large flat, curved, or shaped digital TV displays/billboards. Exhibits/ interpretive information.
F. Electric #6 Fiber Optics (FO) Optical quality glass/plastic fibers-end lit by light source (halogen), motor, acrylic or poly-carbonate color wheel, polyester color gel or UV ink color filter, transformer, substrate, & electric source used. Infinite array/design of fibers/colors. Movement of wheel creates sequencing/ implied movement. Lights can be controlled by buttons /program. Fibers can be densely packed as an image, or single as indicator lights. Shapes/sizes/ colors are by use/materials/ ideas/cost. Any colors. Fibers in cladding bundled in front of light source & fed to holes in display front. Glued in place. Lights/colors can be varied/programmed. Cabinets/ displays of most materials can accommodate FO. Other light/optic sources. Photos. Sound Interior mostly. Exterior with proper materials/ protection. High. Signs, displays, maps, exhibits/ interpretive displays, information. Low electricity use.
G. Electric #7 Billboards (mechanical) [Digital] {Animated} Architecturally built superstructure for wind/weather. Graphic on polyethylene/PVC sheets applied to front. (Trilon prisms rotate 3 images). [LED/LCD/Plasma/holographic displays]. {Smoke/reflective mylar/moving parts/interactive}. Images must be simple: effective for highway speeds/weather/distance viewing. More sophisticated uses for pedestrians or slower traffic. Massive con-struction. Surfaces 12’x24’-14’x48,’ typically. Few words, arresting images. Most have lights. Graphic sheets printed in whole or sections, stretched over frame or glued, if paper. Replacements can often be put on top of original. 3D add-ons /extensions can be of weather/wind proof materials. Photos. Sound. Exterior. Interior “billboards” on the internet/GPS screens. Medium to high dep. on size, content, and install time. Advertising on roads, highways, sidewalks, bus stops, etc. Mobile types on trucks, trailers, buses, cargo containers, pedicabs, bicycles, boats, airplane banners. Non-commercial information/ communication.
H. Electric #8 Flip dot signs [Roller curtain signs] Metal black case substrate with a grid of small metal disks, black on one side, white or day-glow yellow on the other. Small elect. Charge activates a magnet flipping the disks. [Roll of printed matr’l with many lines of text. Roll is advanced with a motor. Same color scheme or full color.] Programmable to display text. [Advanced on a preset schedule or manually.] Small/long/thin to large/rectangular. [Display area usually long/thin, some app’s larger, full color.] Housing case by use, usually steel with acrylic front cover. 10-15mm dots mounted on pivot posts with magnets. Electric source. [Housing similar, roll material on 2 take-up reels, top/bottom, motor.] Self contained. Sometimes lit with internal LED or separately. [Same.] Sound on some buses/trains. Exterior mostly. Medium to high dep. on size. [Same.] Bus destination signs, highway information/warnings, airport/train/bus terminals. [Bus signs, full colors advert. In stadiums, etc,] Being  replaced by LED. [Same, except advert.]
I. Electric #9 Electro-
luminescent Signs
Thin polyester sandwich of 2 protective layers, ITO film10luminescent/ insulation/conductive layers, phosphor coating, electric source & controller. Programmable to be like animation. Printed image is backlit. Can be cut, die cut, bent. No heat. Any color combo in printing. 3’x6’ max. Sandwich is made by laminating layers, applying electric leads & controller. Other elect. & non-elect. Materials. Interior. Exterior. Low. Signs, displays, POP11 advert., hats, badges, floor mats, vending fronts, posters.  Needs no frame/support.
J. Electric #10 Electric ink [Electric paper] 100 micron capsules filled with ink & white particles with a neg. charge, or tiny balls dark on 1 side, light on the other with opposite charges. [Charged titanium oxide particles in oil/ink between two thin conductive plates.] Electric charge changes the display. No add-ons possible. Limited colors. [Targeted charge rises or sinks particles to create image. Filters allow colors.] Difficult to make and use due to size of electronics. [When particles rise they are white. When they sink the solution shows dark over the particles.] Ink spread on thin plastic sheet with tiny electro-magnetics in cells. [Oil/particle suspension between 2 plates 10-100 micrometers apart connected to electric Circuitry.] Thin sheets of special plastics. [None.] Interior. [Same] Medium to high. [Same] Electronic books/magazines/ newspapers. [Same]
K. Electric #11 Kiosks Cabinets/stands made like furniture of with moldable/extrudable materials. Interface is computer-based with touch screen, keyboard, speakers, printer, payment slot, GPS,12 card swiper, bar code reader, and/or internet connectivity possible. Content and uses are custom dep. on need. Must be ADA13 compliant. Cabinets can be free-standing, wall-mounted, or table-top. Computer is LCD display. Some recycled materials. Cabinets can be ordered by catalogue or custom built. Interface devices are off-the-shelf. Contents & electronics can be standard and/or custom. Static or lit sign panels, external lights. Interior mostly. Exterior dep. on materials & weather protection. High. Can dispense digital advertising, information, $, directions, paper tickets, print outs, receipts, interactive Q & A, web access, functions requiring scanned/read data. Wide variety of commercial & not- for-profit installations.
L. Electric #12 Mobile technology [Audio] Hand-held computer devices. [Wide variety of mobile and stationary wand-style/ earphone/speaker devices. Can be programmed with wayfinding/ interpretive/ advertising info. Text/colors/ design/layout are custom. GPS/audio possible. Touch screen/stylus/key pad. Internet/ intranet possible. [Programmable.] Screens are most of front surface. Casings in var. colors. Sizes vary from around 3”x5”x.6” thick to 9”x12”x.9” thick. Larger devices are unwieldy. [Wide variety, incl. hidden & aimed speakers.] Off-the-shelf devices with standard and/or custom operating systems and software. [Same, also custom devices/ installations.] Could interface with kiosks/computer stations/local triggering sensors/ scanners. [Same] Interior. Exterior dep. on weather/ materials/ location. [Same] High. [Medium to high.] Wayfinding/information/
advert. Not widely used. [Same but widely used. Assisted listening devices.]

1. Specifications are for most commonly available materials.  Compiled February, 2009. New materials are constantly being tested and made available to the sign industry. Please consult your manufacturer for new materials.
2. Compared with other comperable sign types. 
3. Many paper-based products can be made from recycled materials to some extent.
4. Must be able to fit substrate through printer. 
5. All aluminum signs can be made with a percentage of recycled material, depending on the manufacturer. 
6. Forest Stewardship Council.
7. Computer Numerical Control.  
8. All printing inks and paints must be matched with appropriate substrates for compatibility.  
9. Volital Organic Compounds. 
10. Indium Tin Oxide, a transparent conductor.
11. Point-Of- Purchase. 
12. Global Positioning System. 
13. Americans with Disabilities Act. 
Green text denotes materials that can be recycled or recyclable in whole or in part; manufacturing processes that can be environmentally sound and non-toxic, in whole or in part; and/or electronic devises that require very little power to operate.