Shop Signs

Shop Signs (Part 2) - Shop Sign Letters

Shop Sign Letters – A Guide

This guide takes a look at shop sign letters, what they are, how much sign letters cost and a whole lot of information designed to help you make informed decisions when it comes to your own shop sign.

What are Shop Sign Letters?

When people refer to shop sign letters they are normally referring to the letters which are either big chunky 3D letters or the type of letters which are thinner but mounted onto the shop sign via a number of locators on the rear of each letter.
The chunky letters, which look very thick, are commonly know as 3D sign letters or Built up letters.
The thinner letters, which look like they’ve been made from a flat sheet of material are known as flat cut or fret cut sign letters.  These

Flat Cut or Fret Cut lettering are exactly the same, it’s simply that people use the term interchangeably to describe letters which are cut from a sheet of material, typically 3, 5 or 10mm in thickness.
Built Up or 3D Sign Letters are chunky looking and very 3D in their shape. Both terms (3D and Built Up) again refer to exactly the same product. For the purposes of this article we will use the more common terms of Flat Cut and 3D letters.
So without further ado…. what are they, where can you use them, what do you need to know and how much do this all cost?

Shop Sign Letters – Flat Cut Lettering.

Shop Signs with flat cut letters are normally cut by router / laser from a sheet of acrylic or metal. It’s then attached to the wall / front of the shop sign via pegs (locators) to the reverse of the letters.
This makes the letters sit slightly off the wall (10 – 20mm) and gives a sense of depth to the overall look. The locators will usually either be plastic cups (for acrylic letters) or brass studs (for metal letters). Which ever locator is used, they’ll be screw fixed into the wall for security.

Sign Letters on Locators

Flat cut sign letters on locator pegs

One thing which frequently slips peoples minds, is that in order to use the locators, the letters need to be a certain width else the locator will be poking out each side of the lettter. ie: Imagine if the letters in the above photo were about 3cm tall.  Those locators on the backs of the letters would be easily visible.  Ideally, the sign letters need to have a width of 15mm or more.
Now having said all that… we always draw a proof prior to manufacture to ensure little hurdles like these are picked up, so you shop front sign will look amazing.

Folded Tray Sign with Letters

Flat Cut Letters on a Tray Sign

Shop Sign Letters – Flat Cut lettering colours & finishes.

Acrylic Sign Letter Colours

Acrylic comes in a range of colours but , as with any sheet material, it is a limited range. If you’re looking for a blue, red, green or yellow there will be a high chance of having a colour you like. However, if you have a requirement for a very specific pastel shade of mauve…. that’s not going to be very easy to find.

Aluminium Composite Sign Letter Colours

Aluminium composite comes in a very limited range , think.. red, light blue, dark blue etc, which tends to limit it’s use if you’re looking for lettering of a specific colour. The main benefit is that it comes in a number of metal finishes, Brushed , Mirrored etc. Brushed aluminium being the most popular by far.

Shop Sign Letters – Custom Colours

If the standard acrylic colours aren’t giving us a close enough colour match, we can apply a vinyl film to the face of the letters.

There are literally hundreds of different colours available as standard and also allows us to print a colour and apply it to the face of the letters. This can look very nice if the letters have a high contrast with the background.
Imagine this, a dark grey wall with red vinyl faced white acrylic letters. The white edges of the letters help lift them from the dark grey background and draw the eye towards the letters themselves which could be your company name / informational content. Powder Coated Aluminium / Stainless Steel.

Whether it’s a RAL or a BS 4800 colour reference, we work closely with a large local powder coating specialist to achieve the very best finish. Minute powder particles are electro-statically charged and then applied to the letters.
Each letter is carefully prepared, blast cleaned and masked to provide perfect adhesion for your chosen colour / finish. Once the coating is temperature cured, the powder coating will be extremely durable & chip resistant. ie. Perfect for the life of a shop front sign which is exposed to the elements.

3D Shop Sign Letters

3d sign letters 

3D Sign Letters are more often than not made from stainless steel. The front is cut as per flat cut lettering, and the sides (called ‘returns’) are then welded into place.
The letter is then cleaned and polished before being sent off to be powder coated. This type of sign letters can look incredible and are very eye catching.

If you were to turn a 3D sign letter around, you’d see that they’re hollow inside and normally have no back panel. This keeps the weight down, uses less materials and allows us to do some quite special things like putting LEDs inside the letter.
3d sign letters are fixed to the wall either through screw fixed brass locators or threaded rods. Both methods allow for a high strength secure fixing.
As with flat cut letters , some thought should be given to the size of the returns versus the size of the lettering so they do not look oddly sized. We’re happy to advise.

The main point however, is that returns should not interfere with the overall message. Whilst they are there to add to the signage, too much will have the opposite effect. We will be able to advise on a case by case basis but as a general rule, if your letter was 400mm tall, we would suggest a 25 – 30mm return for a shop front sign.

3D Built Up Lettering Enquiry Form


3D Shop Sign Letters colours & finishes.

We work closely with a large local powder coating specialist to achieve the very best finish and colour matching.

  • RAL Colour finishes
  • Brushed silver
  • Chrome
  • Bronze / Brass / Metallic finishes
  • Wood effects

RAL colours are the most common way of achieving a certain colour on your shop sign letters.
Minute powder particles are electro-statically charged and then applied to the letters. Each letter is carefully prepared, blast cleaned and masked to provide perfect adhesion for your chosen colour / finish. Once the coating is temperature cured, the powder coating will be extremely durable & chip resistant. ie. Perfect for the life of a shop sign which is exposed to the elements. Brushed / Polished Finishes.
A brushed finish is very popular as it looks very clean and has a low maintenance requirement.
Likewise, polished / chrome finishes will tend to show up dried rain drops and will need cleaning on a more frequent basis.

Illumination for Shop Sign Letters.

Flat Cut Shop Sign Letters. The only way to cleanly illuminate flat cut letters is with a separate lighting system. It’s just not possible to put illumination neatly onto Flat Cut letters without it looking messy.
Pencil lights (think of a tube with the light shining out of a section) are mounted onto brackets which are screw fixed to the wall or shop front. The pencil light is then angled down or up at the letters. Technology has moved on from fluorescent tubes and LED’s are now extensively used. What does this mean for you? Low running costs, no need to replace tubes, cleaner light distribution and greater flexibility in sizing of the whole lighting unit.

Flat Cut Letters Enquiry Form

Shop Sign Light

3D Shop Sign Letters. Illumination is where 3D Letters are leaps & bounds ahead of Flat Cut. We’ll go into more detail in a moment, but it is worth noting that the more complex the final design, the more manufacturing processes involved, the … you get where we’re going with this… the price is therefore higher.

Halo Illumination.
LED’s mounted inside the letters, with the light shining out the back. When viewed from the front, the light appears as a halo on the wall around the letter. This is the most common form of illumination we produce.

Illuminated 3D letters

Front Lit Letters.
The face of the letters are acrylic, but the sides metal. When the illumination is on, the front of the letters light up.
Pencil Lights. (as per the above for Flat Cut Letters). A tube which sits above or below the letters and shines the light onto them.

We hope this guide was useful and look forward to hearing from you.

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