Shop Signs (Part 2) - 3D and Flat Cut Sign Letters
Shop Sign Lettering
It’s worth starting this section off with a definition of terms to clarify exactly what is meant by Flat Cut, Fret Cut or Built Up or 3D Letters for a shop sign.
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 – Flat Cut Lettering.
Shop Front Lettering Flat cut lettering is normally cut by router / laser from a sheet of acrylic or metal. It’s then attached to the wall 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.
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.
Flat Cut lettering colours & finishes.
Plain Acrylic / Aluminium Composite (ACM).
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 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. Acrylic or ACM with Vinyl Film to Face. If the standard acrylic colours aren’t acceptable 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 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. When done right, it looks incredible and is very eye catching. 3D sign letters looks like their a solid , thick, letter. The truth is that it’s not.
It’s actually hollow inside and has no back panel on it. 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 Sign letters colours & finishes.
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 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. Polished / Chrome finishes will tend to show up dried rain drops and will need cleaning on a more frequent basis.
Illumination for Flat cut and 3d Sign letters.
Flat Cut 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.
3D 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.
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.
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.
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