Question? Call us! (973) 252-1222

Question? Call us! (973) 252-1222

Glossary of Terms

We take pride in making our clients feel confident about their jobs during the production process.  Below, we have compiled a glossary of terms that we commonly use in our industry to help our clients have a better understanding for their projects.

  • 3D (three-dimensional) engraving

    A routing procedure where the tool bit can be moved independently along the up-and-down z-axis while still traveling an x/y-axis tool path. 3D engraving can create relieves and hand-chiseled looks while removing material from a substrate.

  • Abrasion Resistance

    The ability of a given surface to resist scratching or scuffing due to contact or friction with another material. It is one measure of durability.

  • Acetate

    A thin, clear plastic material that is both flexible and strong. Available in both glossy and matte finishes, it is receptive to ink, and is popular as a substrate for point-of-purchase advertising signs.

  • Achromatic

    Literally means without color. Black, white and grays are achromatic.

  • Acid etching

    A method of marking or decorating a surface. In acid etching an acid resistant stencil of the artwork or text is applied to the chosen surface. A corrosive compound such as hydrofluoric acid is then applied to the remaining exposed areas. After a specified length of time during which the acid mixture can eat away at the exposed material, the entire surface is washed and the stencil removed, leaving behind an etched impression of the artwork.

  • Acrylic

    Generic term for a type of durable plastic commonly used in sign making. Noted for its excellent clarity, acrylic can also be manufactured in a wide range of transparent and opaque colors. Its ability to be easily machined, shaped, and painted explains acrylic’s popularity.

  • Additive Colors

    Red, green and blue are the three additive colors of light. All other colors of light are created by combinations of these three. If the three additive colors come together in equal proportions, the resulting light is white. (Also called additive primaries.)

  • Adhesion

    The force that holds the surface of one material to another. The strength of adhesion is affected by the type and condition of the surfaces in question and the adhesive used. Generally, the surfaces need to be clean and porous enough to allow for a certain amount of penetration by the adhesive.

  • Adhesive

    A material or substance able to bind and hold two surfaces together. Examples include glue, epoxy, and tape.

  • Adobe Acrobat®

    Popular software package used for viewing and printing Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The advantage of a PDF file is that it allows anyone to view and print a document as it was originally intended without having to install the program or fonts used to create the file. Adobe Acrobat is a product of Adobe Systems®, Inc.

  • Advance Notice Sign

    A sign indicating the approach of a specific destination such as a highway, street intersection or building entrance. Different to a directional sign in that it announces a single destination. (Also called an approach sign.)

  • Aesthetics

    The general perception of a sign’s artistic merit or beauty, both on its own and in relation to its surroundings. The design, construction, materials, and colors of a sign all factor into its aesthetic appeal.

  • Aluminum

    A lightweight metal material used in sign panels, poles, and frames. It is strong and durable in relation to its weight, and resistant to rust and corrosion.

  • Aluminum Composite (ACM)

    a rigid sheet made of two sheets of pre-finished aluminum, bonded to a polyethylene core.

  • American National Standards Institute (ANSI)

    A private, nonprofit organization in the U.S. that works to develop manufacturing and quality standards across multiple industries. The organization also works with the committees of other nations to develop standards that facilitate international trade and telecommunications.

  • Americans with Disabilities Accessibility Guidelines (ADAA)

    A set of U.S. standards enacted in 1990 with the goal of ensuring equal access to public places and facilities for all persons. For signage and wayfinding, the ADAA defines proper letter forms and letter heights for best legibility, proper Braille and tactile lettering forms, and appropriate signage materials and finishes.

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

    Legislation enacted by the U.S. federal government in 1991 with the goal of removing barriers that limit a disabled individual’s ability to engage in normal daily activity in the physical, public environment. Title III of the ADA deals with related signage and wayfinding issues.

  • Anchor

    In general, any device that connects and secures one object to another. An example would be the devices used to secure awnings and fascia signs to facades

  • Anodized Finish

    A thin aluminum oxide coating applied electrochemically to the surface of a metal object. The coating hardens, protects, and enhances the appearance of the object. An anodized finish can be created in a variety of colors.

  • Applique

    A graphic element made separately then affixed to a cloth or fabric covering such as an awning.

  • Approach

    The distance at which a sign becomes readable to a viewer to the point where the sign is no longer readable as the viewer passes by.

  • Architectural Signage

    A term used to describe signage in a built environment having the purpose of providing wayfinding or other site specific information.

  • Artwork

    Any and all logos, graphics and images used in creating a sign.

  • Aspect Ratio

    The width-to-height ratio of an image. For example, a high definition television image has an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (commonly referenced as 16:9), meaning that for every 1.78 inches of image width the image extends 1 inch in height.

  • Back-to-Back Sign

    A sign having two faces mounted in opposite directions. Pole signs typically have back-to-back faces. (Also called a double-faced sign.)

  • Background Panel

    A sign panel to which text or graphical elements are affixed.

  • Backlighted Letter

    An illuminated reverse channel letter where the light from the letter is directed against and reflected off the surface behind the letter thereby producing a glowing effect around the letter. (Also referred to as halo lighting.)

  • Backlit Sign

    A sign where the sign face is illuminated from behind. (Also called illuminated sign.)

  • Ballpoint Braille

    Small plastic or metal beads that can be placed in the face of a sign to create informational Braille text as required by the ADA. (Also known as Braille bullets or Braille beads.)

  • Banding

    The appearance of solid bands or patterns of visibly distinct colors within what should otherwise be a continuous and seamless color gradation. Banding can be caused by several factors, including low resolution artwork, a poor quality scan of the original artwork or improper calibration of the printer used.

  • Banner

    A sign made of non-rigid material such as canvas or vinyl, and typically having no enclosing or supporting framework. Often intended for temporary use, a banner sign can be screen printed or painted, and is commonly hung from a pole or mounted to the facade of a building.

  • Bench Sign

    A sign mounted onto or incorporated into a seat in a public area such as a bus stop bench.

  • Bevel

    1. A slant or angle on a surface. 2. A cut made at the edge of a material to form an angle that is not 90

  • Bid Package

    Documents from a prospective customer that state for the contractor the requirements and conditions of the project under bid. These documents communicate such details as design intent, desired materials, installation criteria and other project specifics. They also include standardized bidding forms and bidding instructions. (Also called front end documents.).

  • Billboard

    A large (15 square feet in area or larger) outdoor sign used for advertising and typically seen along highways, main streets, and other high traffic areas. An advertiser will rent a billboard and display their advertisement on it for a set length of time.

  • Blade Sign

    A type of projecting sign mounted such that the face of the sign is perpendicular to the normal flow of traffic.

  • Blank

    An uninstalled sign panel with no lettering or graphics applied. (Also called an insert.)

  • Bleed

    1. In screen printing, the term refers to the portion of a printed image or graphic which extends beyond the intended borders of a sign. This excess portion is trimmed away. 2. Sometimes used to describe the halation where sharply contrasting colors meet on an illuminated sign.

  • Blind Fasteners

    Fasteners used to mount signs to walls and others surfaces while remaining hidden from view. (Also called concealed fasteners.)

  • Blistering

    The appearance of bumps and bubbles on a surface covered in a coating such as paint, or a material such as vinyl. It is the result of the coating or material losing adhesion and separating from the surface underneath.

  • Block Out

    A specially formulated paint or coating for use on electric signs to block light emission where needed, for example between letters in a neon sign. It adheres well to glass, and resists weather, heat, and electrical discharge. (Also called blackout.)

  • Border

    A line or band of color or material that defines that outer edges of a sign and/or elements within the sign.

  • Box Sign

    A sign that is self-enclosed in a typically square or rectangular structure with or without internal lighting. Can be single or double-faced.

  • Braille

    A system of small raised dots that represent the alphabet, punctuation and numbers for the visually impaired. The ADA stipulates the use of Braille on signage in certain instances.

  • Braille beads

    Small plastic or metal beads that can be placed in the face of a sign to create informational Braille text as required by the ADA. (Also known as Braille bullets or ballpoint Braille.)

  • Branding

    The process of creating a unique, positive, and recognizable identity for a product or service. Along with marketing and advertising, creating a visual identity through signage is an important part of the branding process.

  • Breaking Strength

    The maximum load a material can withstand before it breaks. (Also called tensile strength.)

  • Brightness

    1. The perceived amount of light that a visual target emits or reflects. Its relative luminance. 2. The amount of white in a given color. The greater the amount of white, the brighter the color is said to be. Brightness is one of the three attributes of color along with hue and saturation.

  • Bronze

    A very strong and durable metal alloy made of copper and tin with traces of other metals such as zinc and nickel. It can be cast for the making of plaques or fabricated from thin sheets into dimensional letters. Bronze can be finished in a variety of ways including being brushed, polished, or lacquered.

  • Brushed Finish

    A textured, non-reflective polished finish applied to metal by lightly brushing the surface with an abrasive material or briefly applying a mildly corrosive chemical.

  • Buff

    To polish a metal surface by rubbing it with a slightly abrasive compound.

  • Building Code

    Regulations issued by state and local governments that establish standards for the construction, modification and repair of buildings and other structures in the interest of public health, safety, and general welfare.

  • Building Mounted Sign

    Any sign that is applied or attached to a building in some manner.

  • Butt Joint

    The type of joint formed when two pieces of material (wood, metal, etc.) come together flush and edge-to-edge.

  • Canvas

    a tightly woven heavy and durable fabric made of cotton, linen, or synthetic material.

  • Carved Letters

    Lettering that is chiseled, routed, engraved or sandblasted into the substrate of a sign face either by hand or by computer controlled machinery.

  • Carved Signs

    Any sign made by the routing, engraving, sandblasting or chiseling of lettering, shapes and/or patterns into the substrate of a sign face either by hand or by computer controlled machinery.

  • Cast Metal Sign

    Any metal sign that is made through a casting process. Aluminum and bronze are commonly used for cast metal signs such as plaques.

  • Casting

    The process by which a material such as metal or plastic is poured into a mold while in a liquid state and then allowed to solidify, thereby taking the shape of the mold, and creating a copy of the original object from which the mold was made.

  • Changeable Copy Panel

    A panel of a sign that allows for changeable copy.

  • Changeable Copy Sign

    A sign where the copy on the face can be changed at will either manually using attachable letters, mechanically using a rotating panel or electronically via computer-controlled bulbs, LEDs, or LCD screen, etc.

  • Channel

    Term for a length of plastic or metal that has been extruded into the shape of a U.

  • Channel Letter

    A three-dimensional letter formed out of channel into which a light source may be placed.

  • Chisel

    1. A tool made of hardened steel and used to shape wood or stone. It has a handle at one end and a cutting edge at the other and is worked by hitting the top of the handle with a mallet. 2. The process of using a chisel tool to shape or carve into a piece of wood or stone.

  • Chrome Plating

    A thin protective and decorative finish made of chromium that is applied to a surface using an electrochemical process. It provides a bright, mirror-like finish.

  • Clearance

    The measured distance between the lowest portion of a sign and the highest point of the grade underneath. (Also called height above grade.)

  • Color Contrast

    The subjective degree of difference in hue, intensity, and saturation of two colors when seen next to each other.

  • Color Separation

    The process of decomposing and separating a color graphic or image into its four constituent CMYK ink colors such that each color ends up with its own printing plate. The plates are then used in a printing press to reproduce the image on paper.

  • Concrete Sign

    A sign for which the substrate is concrete. A concrete sign can be cast or poured in place.

  • Conforming Sign

    A sign that has been legally installed in accordance with all applicable federal, state, and local regulations.

  • Conspicuity

    The effectiveness of sign in standing out from its surrounding environment and capturing the attention of the passerby.

  • Construction Site Sign

    A temporary sign, typically large and freestanding, displayed at construction site to promote and provide information about the company or companies involved in the project. These can include the contractor, architect, developer, etc. (Also called a job site sign.)

  • Contrast

    1. The amount of difference between the lightest and darkest areas in an image or scene. 2. The visual characteristics of an object such as size, shape and color that make it distinguishable from other objects near it and the background it is set against.

  • Corrugated Board

    A sign board created by gluing a corrugated piece of material to a flat a piece of material, or between two flat pieces. The most common type of corrugated material used in sign making is plastic.

  • Coverage

    The square surface area that a given amount of paint, glue or other applied substance will cover.

  • Crazing

    The appearance of fine cracks in the surface of paint, lacquer, plastic, or vinyl. Typically, the result of prolonged exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet light) and weather.

  • Crocking

    The rubbing off of color from a fabric as a result of using improper or defective dye.

  • Curing

    The process of drying or hardening ink, glue, or other substances through the application of heat or ultraviolet light.

  • Cyan Magenta Yellow Black (CMYK)

    Abbreviation for the ink colors cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black. Combinations of these four colors of inks are used in printing to create all other colors.

  • Debossed Lettering

    Sign lettering where the lettering has been engraved, carved, or otherwise recessed into the sign substrate.

  • Decal

    Screen printed lettering and graphics that can be transferred and affixed to another surface through the application of water or heat.

  • Deck Cabinet

    A structure that houses the electric components of a sign, but also serves as the background and support structure of the sign. Similar to a raceway except larger.

  • Delamination

    The separation of the individual plies (layers) in a laminated substrate. Typically caused by the failure of the adhesive between layers.

  • Density

    The ratio between the mass (weight) of a substance to the volume of space it occupies. In sign making, the term is commonly applied to foam boards and is expressed in pounds per cubic foot.

  • Department of Transportation (DOT) Symbols

    The set of standardized symbols developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for use in traffic signs.

  • Deposit

    In sign making, this refers to the amount of ink applied to the substrate.

  • Design

    The clear and complete specifications for the appearance, structure, and implementation of a sign. A design may include technical drawings, illustrations, and written descriptions of the sign.

  • Die-casting

    The process by which molten metal is poured into a hardened metal mold and then allowed to cool and solidify, thereby taking the shape of the mold and creating a precise copy of the original object from which the mold was made or designed.

  • Die-cutting

    The process of cutting material such as paper or vinyl using a steel blade (called a die) manufactured to cut a specific shape. The die-cutting process is typically used when many items must be cut to the same shape or size.

  • Dimensional Letter

    Any letter, logo or symbol that has a raised profile in relation to the sign substrate.

  • Directional Sign

    A sign providing information, either written or visual, that helps direct a person to a destination.

  • Directory Sign

    A sign that provides an organized list of names of people, offices or facilities located within a given building or area. Usually located at a public access point such as a building lobby, a directory sign may provide simple text listings or also include maps and other wayfinding information.

  • Double-faced Sign

    A sign having two faces mounted in opposite directions. Pole signs are typically doubled-faced. (Also called a back-to-back sign.)

  • Drop Shadow

    The visual effect of creating a false shadow behind a letter or object by placing a darker colored but identically shaped copy of it behind it but slightly offset up or down and to one side.

  • Dye

    Any of a range of soluble compounds used for coloring fabrics.

  • Edge-lit Sign

    An illuminated sign where the light source is positioned on the outside of the sign face along one or more of its edges such that the light shines back onto it.

  • Electric Sign

    Any sign that contains and utilizes electrical components.

  • Embellishment

    In signage, it refers to any element of a sign face that provides a decorative effect.

  • Emboss

    To create raised lettering or graphics in relief on the substrate of a sign through stamping, hammering, or molding.

  • Embossed Plastic Sign Face

    A plastic sign face that has had three-dimensional lettering or graphical elements vacuum molded (embossed) into its surface. (Also called pan face.)

  • Enamel

    A colored, powdered glass-based compound that is fused to the surface of metal or glass for decoration and protection. An enamel finish is typically opaque.

  • Engine-turned

    A process of using a tool such as a drill press to create uniform circle or swirl patterns on metal or gold leaf finish.

  • Engrave

    To incise (cut) a design into the surface of hard material such as metal using a handheld or machine controlled tool called a burin.

  • Epoxy

    A very strong, two-part adhesive–resin plus hardening agent–capable of bonding together a wide range of materials, including woods, composites and metals.

  • Etching

    The removal of selected portions of a layer of material from a substrate using a chemical or electrolytic process. Typically, a stencil is used to mark the areas to be etched and protect the other areas.

  • Expansion Anchor

    A type of anchor that is designed to expand inside the drilled hole it is placed, thereby securing itself by the resulting pressure and friction against the sides of the hole. Typically used to anchor awnings to concrete or masonry.

  • Exterior Illuminated Sign

    A sign that is illuminated by an external light source directed at the sign face.

  • Exterior Sign

    Any sign located outside a building or structure.

  • Extrusion

    The process of forcing metal or plastic through a form to create a desired shape.

  • Eyelet

    A small metal or plastic ring that is inserted into a hole made in another piece of material. It prevents fraying of the material around the hole and provides a durable, easily threaded opening for rope or twine. (Also called a grommet.)

  • Fabricate

    To manufacture a sign or major sign components.

  • Fabricated Letter

    A dimensional letter typically fabricated from sheet metal, acrylic, or foam.

  • Facade

    The exterior walls of a building, especially the front or the most prominent side of the building.

  • Face

    Typically refers to the most prominent message area of a sign but may refer generically to any message area. (Also called sign face.)

  • Fascia Sign

    A sign mounted to a wall or other vertical surface. A flat sign that is mounted on a wall and the face of which runs parallel to the wall. A fascia sign does not typically project from the wall.

  • Fasteners

    General term for nuts, bolts, clips, and any other mechanical device that helps hold a sign together.

  • Fiberglass

    A strong, lightweight material created from tiny glass threads woven into a fabric and then hardened using a special polyester resin. Fiberglass can be used to create sign faces and cabinets of varying sizes and shapes.

  • Fingerpost Sign

    A post-mounted directional sign having one or more panels each of which point in the direction of a particular destination.

  • Fire Retardant

    A chemical compound applied to a material that reduces the material’s flammability and retards the ability of fire to spread across its surface. Fire retardant does not make the material fireproof.

  • Fireproof

    A term used to describe a fabric or substance that is impervious to damage by fire, and that will not ever support a flame.

  • First Surface

    That element or layer that comprises the outermost surface of a sign.

  • Flag

    A sign made of non-rigid material such as canvas or vinyl and having no enclosing or supporting framework. A flag is usually rectangular or triangular in shape and is attached at one end to a pole. Often intended for temporary use, a flag can be screen printed or painted.

  • Flammability

    The relative ability of a material or substance to support combustion.

  • Flange

    A rib or rim for strength, for guiding, or for attachment to another object.

  • Flat Cutout Letter

    A non-illuminated letter cut from a metal sheet or plate stock.

  • Flex Face

    A sign face made of a flexible material stretched over a supporting frame.

  • Font

    A set of letters and numerals sharing the same design characteristics. Examples of font sets include Times New Roman and Arial. (Also called typeface.)

  • Four-color Process

    A halftone printing process that uses the four essential ink colors of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) to create a full range of colors on a printed surface. (Also called process color.)

  • Freestanding Sign

    A sign that is not attached to a building, has its own support structure, and is typically secured to a foundation or with guy wires.

  • French Cleat

    A way of securing a cabinet, mirror, artwork, or other object to a wall. It is a molding with a 30–45 degree slope used to hang cabinets or other objects.

  • Front End Documents

    Documents from a prospective customer that state for the contractor the requirements and conditions of the project under bid. These documents typically communicate such details as design intent, desired materials, installation criteria and other project specifics. They also include standardized bidding forms and bidding instructions.

  • Front Lighted Letter

    An illuminated channel letter having a translucent face.

  • Galvanized Steel

    Refers to steel that has been coated with a thin layer of zinc for corrosion protection.

  • Gateway Sign

    A sign marking the entrance to a town, neighborhood, development, park, or other public area. (Also called precinct sign.)

  • Gauge

    A unit of measurement for the thickness of sheet metal or wires. The lower the gauge number the greater the thickness.

  • Giclée

    A technology for fine art or photograph reproduction using a high-quality inkjet printer to make individual copies.

  • Gilding

    The artful process of applying a thin layer of gold or gold-like material to a surface by mechanical or chemical means for the purpose of ornamentation.

  • Glare

    Any direct or reflected light within your field of vision that is sufficiently bright enough to cause visual annoyance, discomfort, or obscuration.

  • Glazing

    The process of installing glass panes.

  • Gloss

    An indicator of the amount of light reflected by the finish of a surface. A high gloss finish reflects 80-90% of the light directed at it. Semi-gloss 50-75%. Satin 30-45%. Matte finish 5-15%.

  • Gold Leaf

    A very thin type of foil made of gold and used in gilding.

  • Gradation

    The smooth transition from one color to another color, from black to white, or from color to the absence of color. (Also called gradient.)

  • Grommet

    A small metal or plastic ring that is inserted into a hole made in another piece of material. It prevents fraying of the material around the hole and provides a durable, easily threaded opening for rope or twine. (Also called an eyelet.)

  • Ground Sign

    A freestanding sign that is not secured to a foundation or other secondary support structure.

  • Guy Rope

    A rope or cable used to secure and stabilize mounted signs, or awning and canopy signs. It is attached to the sign on one end and the ground or a building at the other end. (Also called guy wire.)

  • Hairline Joint

    The thinnest possible joint between two edges.

  • Halftone

    The process by which a continuous tone image such as a photograph is reproduced and simulated using a pattern of printed or silkscreened dots of varying size and equal spacing. At a normal viewing distance, the reproduced image appears as continuous tone.

  • Halo Lighting

    A type of sign lighting where a light source located within or behind a sign can reflect off the mounting surface. The result is that the sign appears to be surrounded by a halo of light.

  • Hanging Sign

    A projecting double-faced sign mounted to a wall or pole and hung from a bracket or support arm. (Also known as a projecting sign.)

  • Heat Color-transfer

    A process of applying color to fabric whereby a pigmented resin is activated by heat and then pulled into the fabric with a vacuum applicator.

  • Heat-bending

    The process of heating a piece of material such as PVC, acrylic, or glass tubing in order to make it malleable enough to bend and shape.

  • Height

    The measured distance between the highest point of a sign to the highest point of the grade underneath the sign.

  • Height Above Grade

    The measured distance between the lowest portion of a sign and the highest point of the grade underneath. (Also called clearance.)

  • High-rise Sign

    A freestanding sign tall enough to be seen from a distance, especially by motorists.

  • Hue

    A given color’s tendency towards any of the four base wavelengths of visible light: red, yellow, blue, and green. For example, if yellow appears more dominate in an orange colored ink, then that color orange would be said to have a yellowish hue. Hue is one of the three attributes of color along with brightness and saturation.

  • Identification Sign

    A sign that provides the name of the business displaying the sign.

  • Illuminance

    The amount of light falling on a surface expressed in lumens.

  • Illuminated Sign

    A sign where the sign face is illuminated in some manner.

  • Incidental Sign

    A sign intended for informational purposes as opposed to commercial or advertising purposes. Typically, smaller in size, examples of incidental signs include parking signs, restroom signs and entrance and exit signs.

  • Ink

    Pigmented liquid used for screen printing, press printing, writing, and drawing. Inks are either UV, water-based or solvent-based depending on the application.

  • Ink Receptive

    Refers to any material that will absorb ink and bond with it.

  • Inscribe

    To write, print, incise or stamp letters and words onto or into a given surface.

  • Insert

    An uninstalled sign panel with no lettering or graphics applied. (Also called a blank.)

  • Interior Sign

    Any sign located within a building or structure.

  • Italic

    A font style characterized by a distinct slant in the letters and numbers.

  • Job Site Sign

    A temporary sign, typically large and freestanding, displayed at construction site to promote and provide information about the company or companies involved in the project. These can include the contractor, architect, developer, etc. (Also called a construction site sign.)

  • Joint Photographic Exports Group (JPEG)

    A common file format for color digital images. The JPEG standard utilizes a ‘lossy’ data compression method, meaning that in order to reduce the overall size of the file a small amount of sharpness from the original image is sacrificed.

  • Kerf

    The width of the cut or channel made by a saw or other tool.

  • Kerning

    The act of moving printed or mounted letters further apart or closer together in order to achieve a desired effect.

  • Kiosk

    A small, freestanding structure traditionally used for the posting of temporary signs and notices. May also be equipped with an interactive computer screen and provide services such as event ticket sales.

  • Lacquer

    A clear glossy coating applied to material for appearance and protection. Known for its ability to dry quickly. Similar to varnish but provides a harder finish.

  • Lamination

    The process of binding together two or more layers of material by means of one or more of the following: heat, pressure, and adhesive bonding.

  • Landscape Format

    An image or sign panel where the length is appreciably greater than the height is said to be in landscape format.

  • Laser

    A highly focused beam of light that when generated with sufficient power can be used for the purpose of engraving or cutting material.

  • Layout

    A highly focused beam of light that when generated with sufficient power can be used for the purpose of engraving or cutting material.

  • Layout

    The overall arrangement of the graphics and lettering on the face of a sign.

  • Letter Spacing

    A typographic term for the space between letters and words.

  • Life Safety Signs

    Signage that conveys life-saving information such as important fire, security and evacuation information. The specific types of life safety signage required are determined by local, state, and federal regulations.

  • Light Box

    A sign that is self-enclosed in a typically square or rectangular structure and houses an internal light system for illumination of the sign face.

  • Line Spacing

    A typographic term for the space between lines or blocks of text.

  • Load

    Any measurable force exerted on a structure or object. Things that can add load to a sign and its supporting structure include water, snow, and wind.

  • Logo

    A visually distinctive name and/or symbol that identifies a business, product, or service.

  • Low Profile Sign

    A freestanding sign built close to the ground or on top of a base sitting directly on the ground. Often incorporates the support structure into the overall design.

  • Magnetic Sheeting

    A layer of magnetic material laminated to a flexible surface material such as vinyl that can be printed with lettering and graphics. Magnetic sheeting is commonly used for temporary signage that can be placed on the side of vehicles or other metal surfaces.

  • Margin

    The space between the any lettering or graphics and the border of the sign face.

  • Marquee Sign

    A permanent structure attached to the front of a building and which incorporates a large message center. Typically illuminated and often ornate in design, a marquee sign projects over the entrance of the building and provides a canopy over at least a portion of the sidewalk or street. Marquee signs are often used by movie theaters and concert halls.

  • Matte

    Having a dull or non-shiny surface or finish.

  • Medium Density Overlay (MDO)

    An exterior grade plywood sheet that has been given a resin-impregnated overlay on one or both sides to improve its paintability.

  • Memorial Sign

    A sign, typically a plaque, which commemorates a person, place, or event.

  • Menu Board

    A changeable point-of-purchase sign that provides a list of products and prices. It is a type of sign commonly seen in sandwich shops and other fast service restaurants where it is used to display the menu.

  • Mesh

    1. Any fabric or woven material having a loose or open weave. 2. In screen printing, the material through which ink or paint is applied to a surface.

  • Mild Steel

    A type of sheet metal commonly used to form channels and other sign components and structures.

  • Mildew Resistant

    Refers to fabric that has been chemically treated to inhibit the growth of mold and fungus.

  • Mobile Sign

    A large sign mounted on a trailer or back of a truck. The sign may or may not be illuminated. (Also called a mobile billboard.)

  • Mock-up

    A full scale model of a structure. A sign mock-up is created to test and review in detail the appearance, legibility, and other aspects of a final design. It is typically made of cheaper, less durable material than the final sign but given the same colors and finishes.

  • Model

    A scaled version of a structure. Typically, sign models are substantially smaller than the actual sign it represents and are used during the design process to test and review different design concepts.

  • Molded Letter

    A letter created by heating a sheet of acrylic or plastic until it is pliable and then shaping it into the desired form using a mold of the letter. After the plastic cools, it retains the molded shape, and any excess material is trimmed away.

  • Molding

    A decorative strip of metal or wood that frames the outer edge of a sign. Molding can be simple or ornate in style.

  • Monument Sign

    A freestanding sign that stands directly on the ground or ground level foundation. A monument sign is often used to mark a place of significance or the entrance to a location.

  • Mural

    A wall surface that has been decorated with a direct application of paint, tile, or printed graphics.

  • Nameplate

    A small wall-mounted or freestanding sign made of plastic or metal that states the name, occupation and/or title of the occupant of an office, desk, or building.

  • Negative Space

    Empty or unused space (having no lettering or graphics) within the sign face. (Also called white space.)

  • Nickel Plating

    A thin, protective finish made of nickel that is applied to a surface using an electrochemical process. It is commonly used as an undercoating for subsequent plating.

  • Notched

    Describes channel letters that have been cut out in the back in order to fit over a raceway, conduit or other object protruding from the mounting wall or substrate.

  • Nylon

    A strong and durable synthetic material used in a wide range of fibers/fabrics, objects and coatings.

  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

    A U.S. federal government agency that monitors and enforces workplace safety laws.

  • Off-premise Sign

    A sign that is not located on or directly adjacent to the business or property to which it relates. A billboard is an example of an off-premise sign.

  • On-premise Sign

    Any sign that is located on or directly adjacent to the business or property to which it relates.

  • Opaque

    Describes any material or substance through which light does not pass, i.e. it is neither transparent nor translucent.

  • Outgas

    1. The removal of gases trapped within a solid substance by heating it until the gases escape. 2. The escape of gases from a solid or liquid which occurs naturally over time.

  • Paint

    1. The general term for pigmented coatings that are applied to an object or surface while in a liquid state and then allowed to dry into a colored, protective finish. 2. The process of applying a liquid coating to an object or surface.

  • Pan Channel Letter

    A dimensional letter that is constructed with integrated face, back and sidewalls to make the letter appear as a single solid unit.

  • Pan Face

    A plastic sign face that has had three-dimensional lettering or graphical elements vacuum molded (embossed) into its surface. (Also called embossed plastic face sign.)

  • Panel

    Any visible surface of a sign on which copy and/or art is present. One or more panels make up the sign face.

  • Pantone Matching System (PMS)

    A standardized color scheme used in the printing industry to ensure the consistency of color from design to final print.

  • Pattern

    A full-scale design layout of a sign or its components such.

  • Pavement Graphics

    Graphics and markings applied to roadways and parking areas to guide and manage traffic and to supplement other traffic signs.

  • Pennant

    A triangular flag.

  • Permanent Sign

    Any sign that is affixed to a building or structure in such a manner as to give it the support necessary to resist environmental loads over time and to preclude easy removal.

  • Permit

    A legal document (license) granted by the appropriate government agency that gives official permission to take a specific action.

  • Photopolymer

    A type of plastic having a photosensitive coating which can be masked and photo-etched to create a tactile sign message. It is commonly used for ADA signage that requires Braille lettering.

  • Pictogram

    A symbol or simple illustration used to represent an object or concept. Commonly found in ADA and DOT signage. An example of a pictogram would be the wheelchair symbol seen on some ADA signs, the presence of which indicates a handicap accessible location.

  • Pigment

    A natural or synthetic insoluble compound used to infuse color into other materials such as paints and inks.

  • Pinned Out

    A term describing letters mounted using pins or pegs such that they stand off from the substrate to which they are attached. (Also called pegged out.)

  • Pixels Per Inch (PPI)

    The number of pixels in a raster image that will occur in one line in the span of one inch. The higher the PPI, the greater the resolution and the less distinguishable each pixel becomes.

  • Plaque

    An inscribed, commemorative plate or tablet, usually of metal, placed on a building, monument, or the like.

  • Plastic

    A generic term for a wide range of synthetic materials which consist of long chains of polymers that are moldable and soften when heated. Many plastics used in the sign industry are of the thermoplastic variety, which means they can melt and solidify repeatedly.

  • Plastic Faced Letters

    Channel letters in which the front of the channel is covered by a translucent plastic face, diffusing lighting within.

  • Plywood

    A common type of wood product sold in 4′ x 8′ sheets. Plywood is made of several thin sheets of wood laminated together with the grain of the adjacent layers perpendicular, except for the two outside plies, which are parallel to provide stability.

  • Point-of-purchase (POP) Sign

    In-store advertising designed to stimulate impulse purchases by shoppers inside a store. The term applies to a store’s internal sign system, as well as special displays and dispensers created by and for specific product manufacturers. Also known as “point-of-sale advertising.”

  • Pole Sign

    A freestanding sign, usually double-faced, mounted on a round pole, square tube, or other fabricated member without any type of secondary support.

  • Polycarbonate

    A synthetic resin in which the polymer units are linked through carbonate groups, including many molding materials and films.

  • Polyester

    A synthetic fiber used for its strength and resistance to ultraviolet deterioration. It does not have the stretch and elasticity of nylon and, as a result, will often last longer.

  • Porcelain Sign

    A traditional process to coat metal with a ceramic slip which is fired at extremely high heat to create a durable, glasslike surface that is impervious to the environment.

  • Portable Sign

    A freestanding, on-premise sign, not designed to be permanently affixed in place. These could include free-standing signs or notices as well as point-of-purchase signs.

  • Portrait Format

    Proportion of a sign in which height is appreciably longer than width.

  • Positive Space

    The copy and art on a sign face. The opposite of negative space.

  • Post and Panel Sign

    A sign panel with one or more posts.

  • Poster

    1. A series of paper sheets printed for use on a billboard. Other substrates used for posters include plastic and cloth. 2. Also, a sign typically printed on paper and intended for indoor use. Other substrates used for posters include plastic and cloth.

  • Powder Coating

    A specific process for applying paint to a surface that creates a very durable protective surface.

  • Precinct Sign

    A sign marking the entrance to a town, neighborhood, development, park, or other public area.

  • Primary Colors

    The three colors from which all other colors can be created. In paint pigments, the primary colors are yellow, red, and blue. In four-color process printing, all colors are mixed from yellow, magenta(red) and cyan(blue). In light, the primary colors are red, green, and blue. See also RGB display, additive colors.

  • Projecting Sign

    A sign that is attached to a building but extends beyond the building structure. Regulators often set a predetermined distance that a sign must extend beyond a building for it to be considered a projecting sign. A decorated awning is an example of a projecting sign. (Also called blade sign.)

  • Proof

    A trial impression of a page, taken from type or film and used for making corrections before final printing.

  • Prototype

    Usually a full-sized sample that uses final materials, methods of construction, fasteners and finishes to test assembly, design, construction, and appearance issues. Also used approve the “first sample” in a long production run.

  • Push-through

    A letter or graphic which is cut out, then pushed through a corresponding space that has been removed from a sign substrate. The push-through is typically different color and/or material than the rest of the sign. Typically used with an opaque sign cabinet and internal lighting. “Push-thru letters” are most often translucent acrylic letters that are pushed through a sign face panel to be flush or over-flush with the front surface of the sign face.

  • Pylon Sign

    A freestanding sign that is not a pole or ground sign.

  • Quality Assurance

    All those planned and systematic actions necessary to provide adequate confidence that a product or service will satisfy given requirements for quality.

  • Quarter Round

    Wood or metal molding and trim which in profile is the equivalent of a quarter circle.

  • Raceway

    1. A metal structure enclosing the electric components of a sign, exclusive of the transformer. 2. An electrical enclosure that may also serve as a mounting structure for the sign.

  • Readability

    The quality of a sign’s overall design that allows the viewer to correctly interpret the information presented on it. Also, the optimum time and distance in which this can be done. Letter size and style, legibility of typeface, color contrast between letters and background, and a sign’s layout all contribute to readability.

  • Readerboard

    A readerboard is a sign on which copy can be changed manually. It usually consists of a panel on which individual letters or pictorials are mounted. Like a window sign, it can advertise special prices or items. It can also be placed so that it can be easily seen from a passing motor vehicle.

  • Reflective Sheeting

    Film with very small glass or glasslike bead materials encapsulated below its surface, creating the ability to bounce light beams back to their source, such as from a car headlight back to the driver.

  • Registered Trademark

    A trademark that has been officially registered with the government by its owner. Indicated by the symbol ®.

  • Registration

    1. In screen printing, the correct placement of the image to be printed on the substrate. 2. In multicolor printing, registration also refers to the correct alignment of the colors with one another.

  • Regulatory Sign

    Signs installed by various government bodies to inform the public of traffic laws and other regulations.

  • Rendering

    An artistic sketch or representation of a design concept.

  • Resolution

    1. In digital images, the number of pixels shown on a screen; the higher the number of pixels in a given space (i.e., the greater the density of pixels), the more precise the pictured image. 2. In plotting, the degree of accuracy with which a plotter will place a knife-head in relation to a theoretical, perfect location of a coordinate.

  • Retainer

    The projecting rim around the sign face that holds it in place.

  • Retardant

    An additive that slows the drying time of ink.

  • Return

    The sides of a channel letter.

  • Reveal

    An indented detail on a sign.

  • Roof Sign

    A sign structure that is erected on or above a roof or that is installed directly on a roof’s surface.

  • Router-cut Sign

    Describing a sign cut with a hand router or by a computerized router, using various shaped cutting blades (in a variety of sign materials).

  • Routing

    Elimination of material in a substrate, using a tool bit that has been machined for this purpose. In computerized sign making, using a CAD/CAM machine, a tool is programmed to eliminate material along a tool path created along x-, y-, and z-axes.

  • Sandblasting

    A method for decorating glass or wood. A rubberized stencil of the artwork is either hand- or computer-cut and applied to the substrate, which is then sprayed with a pressurized stream of sand or synthetic particles to texture the unprotected area. Once the desired depth has been achieved on the item being blasted, the stencil is removed, and if on wood, the surfaces may be painted.

  • Sandwich Sign

    A moveable sign not secured or attached to the ground or surface upon which it is located, but supported by its own frame and most often forming the cross-sectional shape of an A. (Also known as sidewalk sign.)

  • Sans Serif

    Any typeface that lacks serifs. In most sans serif fonts, there is little differentiation between the width of strokes within the letter. Helvetica and Futura are familiar sans serif fonts.

  • Scan

    To convert (a document or picture) into digital form for storage or processing on a computer.

  • Scoring

    Cutting or notching a material prior to bending it. Sufficient scoring of some substrates will also allow them to be broken cleanly without cutting them all the way through.

  • Screen

    A frame over which fabric is stretched for use in screen printing. The screen supports the stencil or emulsion through which the ink is forced by the squeegee, created the print.

  • Screen Printing

    Graphic application method capable of printing great detail and color on a variety of substrates such as paper, plastics, aluminum, vinyl and banner materials.

  • Seam

    A line formed by the joining together of two separate pieces of the same or different materials at their edges, as with flexible-face fabric material or wood, metal, or plastic sheet.

  • Second-surface

    Refers to a sign made of a clear substrate, such as acrylic, where the art is applied in reverse on what can be an interior face of the sign, providing extra protection from the environment. Some large exterior signs are painted that way, as are many smaller identification, wayfinding, restroom, and evacuation signs that are subject to handling on a regular basis.

  • Serif

    A small line or embellishment finishing off the strokes of letters in some fonts (like this one). Well-known serif fonts include Souvenir, Times Roman and Garamond.

  • Service

    The general maintenance of a sign. It may include cleaning, repainting, replacement of bulbs or lamps and repairs, which may be provided on a regular basis under contract.

  • Setback

    In a sign or development code, the distance between the primary face of the sign and the property line or right of way. The distance is measured in a straight line from the base/bottom of the sign. Most municipalities require that signs comply with specified setbacks or that a variance from the regulations be applied for and secured.

  • Shade

    A color made darker than the original by adding black to it.

  • Shadow

    Duplication of an image that is slightly offset. Drop shadow is a simple copy and offset; block shadow joins the outlines of the original and duplicate to create a 3D-relief effect; and cast shadow alters the shape and size of the duplicate to imitate shadows cast from varied placement of light, as the sun does on a sundial.

  • Sheet Metal

    Traditionally, drawings prepared by specific trades to describe the quantity, shape, size and materials and other details to be manufactured, built, or constructed. In signage, it now refers to drawings prepared by fabricators describing their intended methods of construction and sequence of assembly to be reviewed by designer and owner for approval prior to construction and fabrication. The essential reason for shop drawings is to be sure the original design concept is accurately carried out in the construction process

  • Shop Drawings

    Drawings prepared by trades to describe the quantity, shape, size, materials, and other details of a product’s construction. In signage, it refers to drawings prepared by fabricators describing their intended methods of construction and sequence of assembly to be reviewed by designer and owner for approval prior to construction and fabrication. Shop drawings help assure that the original design concept is accurately carried out in the construction process.

  • Sidewalk Sign

    A moveable sign not secured or attached to the ground or surface upon which it is located, but supported by its own frame and most often forming the cross-sectional shape of an A. (Also known as sandwich sign.)

  • Sign

    Any device, structure, display or placard which is affixed to, placed on or in proximity to, or displayed from within a building to attract the attention of the public for the purposes of advertising, identifying, or communicating information about goods and services.

  • Sign Cabinet

    The enclosure of an electric sign, not including the components and mounting structure.

  • Sign Code

    A sign code may be part of a government body’s land use planning regulations, or it may be a separate document designed to interact with other land use codes. As part of the police powers granted to local governments, a sign code normally seeks to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the public. Sign codes may regulate size, placement, illumination, structure and aesthetics of sign content and design.

  • Sign Location Map

    Usually a site plan or floor plan indicating where signs will be placed (called “sign locations”).

  • Signage

    Interchangeable terms used to describe signs. Any group of posted commands, warnings, information, or directions.

  • Silhouette

    The overall shape or profile of a sign, or a block of copy within a sign.

  • Single Face Sign

    A sign consisting of one face, rather than back-to-back faces on a common frame or back-to-back messages on the same piece of material.

  • Solvent

    A petroleum-based liquid used to modify oil-based pains and inks and to remove them from sign components, frames, and brushes.

  • Spacer

    Any device used in mounting letters or signs that separates them from the surface to which they are being installed. A spacer allows letters to be pinned out.

  • Specifications

    May include General Requirements, Products and Execution sections for sign specification package. Similar to architectural construction format per CSI (Construction Specifications Institute) standards.

  • Spinner Sign

    A sign, either freestanding or wall-mounted, where the messages rotate in the wind. A spinner sign is not considered an animated sign.

  • Squeegee

    1. In screen printing, a flexible blade mounted in a wood or metal handle and used to force ink through a stencil mounted on the screen. 2. In sign making, a hard plastic or nylon blade used to apply pressure to increase surface adhesion between cutting vinyl and the transfer tape or between the vinyl and sign face.

  • Stain

    Wood stain is a type of paint that is very “thin,” that is, low in viscosity, and formulated so that the pigment penetrates the surface rather than remaining in a film on top of the surface. Stain is predominantly pigment or dye and solvent with little binder, designed primarily to add color without providing a surface coating.

  • Stainless Steel

    As the name implies, this is a special steel alloy that is made more stainless than regular steel, due to higher concentrations of chromium and nickel.

  • Standoffs

    Objects (Brackets) that are designed to mount signs, architectural panels, glass, photographs, artwork and just about any other material at a fixed distance from a surface.

  • Stencil

    A thin sheet of material into which a design is cut. When a stencil is placed on another substrate and paint or ink is applied, the image represented by the cut-out portion of the stencil is printed on the substrate below it. Stencils range from metal to card stock to photo emulsions.

  • Stone Signs

    Typically sandstone, granite, marble, limestone, and other common decorative stone material. Letters can be stud-mounted to stone or they can be carved or incised into the face of the stone.

  • Streamer

    A long, narrow banner included in interior or window displays only.

  • Street Furniture

    Advertising displays, many which provide a public amenity, positioned at close proximity to pedestrians for eye-level viewing or at a curbside to reach vehicular traffic. (See also bench sign.)

  • Stretching

    1. The process of securing mesh to a frame in screen printing. 2. The stretching of vinyl face material over a flex-face sign cabinet.

  • Stroke

    A single movement of the hand or arm, or of a marking tool. Stroke refers to a pass of the squeegee in screen printing, and a pass of the brush in painting.

  • Structure

    In the sign industry, a fabrication designed for and capable of supporting a sign. Can refer to internal or external skeleton (exoskeleton) of sign as well as support pole or mechanism.

  • Styrene

    Refers to polystyrene, a usually colorless, rigid plastic that can be molded into objects, used in the manufacture of signs.

  • Substrate

    The material out of which the face is made. Wood, metal sheeting, paper and acrylic are some examples of sign substrates.

  • Symmetry

    The balance of design elements in which one side equals or mirrors the other.

  • Tack

    The stickiness of an adhesive under a given condition. Some adhesives require a particular temperature range for maximum tack.

  • Tactile Sign

    A sign, or an area within a larger sign or area, that conveys its message through raised or engraved artwork, making it accessible to the visually impaired. Required by A.D.A. for all permanently identified rooms

  • Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)

    Standard graphics file format used for scanned bit-mapped images.

  • Template

    A full-sized pattern, layout or computerized output showing the exact size and placement of letters. Typically used for installing dimensional letters, signs, or architectural elements.

  • Temporary Sign

    Any sign that is not intended to be permanently installed. Banners and signs at construction sites are good examples of temporary signs. Often, sign codes seek to limit the length of time a temporary sign can remain in place.

  • Tiling

    The digital process of dividing a large image into individual sections to print with overlap.

  • Tint

    A color made lighter than the original by adding white to it.

  • Tone

    The effect on a color brought about by blending it with another color.

  • Top Coating

    The coating intended for the front, side or top of a fabric or membrane.

  • Tracking

    The ability of a computer, at the operator’s instruction, to add or subtract minute increments of space between letters.

  • Trademark

    Used by a business to distinguish itself and its products from competition. A trademark may include a name, symbol, word, or combination of those. Protected by the federal government and considered to have financial value, a sign maker should only reproduce a trademark with the company’s permission and should discourage customers who seek to imitate well-known trademarks too closely.

  • Transfer Tape

    A medium-tack adhesive coated on translucent paper. Transfer tape is placed on weeded vinyl images still on the original carrier liner; the tack of the tape is stronger than the adhesion of the vinyl to the coated liner, so the image is pulled off the liner in a transfer to another surface.

  • Translucent

    The property of a material such as vinyl, paint or ink that allows the passage of some light through it without being transparent. Internally illuminated signs rely on translucent paints and vinyls.

  • Transparent

    The property of a material that allows light and images through and may also show a color tint.

  • Tunneling

    The separation of a laminate from a substrate, appearing in a straight line/channel, due to insufficient adhesion, inadequate tension/stability during application, inadequate quality of substrate or improper curing after application.

  • Typeface

    A set of letters and numerals sharing the same design characteristics. Examples of font sets include Times New Roman and Arial. (Also called font.)

  • UV Resistance

    Ability to withstand decay due to the damaging effect of the ultraviolet rays of the sun.

  • Ultraviolet Light (UV)

    Part of the spectrum ranging from 185 to 450 nanometers. UV has both a negative and positive influence on the sign industry. When UV strikes certain surfaces, such as the phosphors in neon and fluorescent tubes, it is transformed into visible light. UV is also used for curing some screen printing inks and paints. On the other hand, UV light is the prime cause of pigment failure in some paints and vinyls, especially red ones.

  • Vacuum Forming

    Method of forming sign faces in which a plastic sheet is clamped in a stationary frame, heated, and forced down by a vacuum onto a mold.

  • Variable Message Sign

    A sign on which the copy can be changed, either manually using attachable letters (usually plastic) or electronically using incandescent bulbs or light emitting diodes.

  • Vinyl

    Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film that, in sign making, is backed with an adhesive that creates a strong bond to a surface when pressure is applied. Many different integral colors are available with adhesives having different levels of aggressiveness (adhesion) for various applications from permanent to semi-permanent to temporary.

  • Vinyl Letters

    Letters cut from adhesive-backed material, in dozens of opaque, translucent, metallized, and transparent colors and patterns.

  • Visibility

    The quality of a letter, number, graphic, or symbol, which enables the observer to distinguish it from its surrounds or background.

  • Wall Mounted Sign

    A single-face sign mounted on a wall.

  • Water Resistant

    Describing a face that has been treated to make it resistant to damage or deterioration caused by water.

  • Waterproof

    The use of the term in relation to treated cotton ducks is prohibited by the “Fair Trade Practices Act” unless the product shall be impervious to the passage of any water so long as the fabric may endure. “Water Resistant” is the proper designation for cloths treated to resist water penetration and leakage.

  • Weave

    The configuration of threads running perpendicular to one another. A plain weave places weft thread over the warp thread in sequence, then reverses for the next row of threads.

  • Webbing

    A sturdy fabric woven in narrow widths for use where strength is required, such as seat belts or headbands. Often used in banners, where heavy duty usage is required, like over-the-street banners.

  • Weed

    The process of peeling extraneous vinyl or matrix way from a plotter cut, leaving only the sections representing the final image. Pulling the extra material away in one quick stroke is known as “rip weeding.”

  • Weep Hole

    A small opening or hole in the bottom of a letter or a sign cabinet, placed at the lowest point to prevent water from accumulating in a unit.

  • Weld

    The process that connects pieces of material by heating until molten and fusing together.

  • Welt Cord

    A tape or covered cord sewn into a seam as a reinforcement or trimming.

  • White Space

    Empty or unused space (having no lettering or graphics) within the sign face. (Also called negative space.)

  • Window Sign

    A sign that is mounted for display on a window and intended to be viewed from the outside.

  • Word Space

    Horizontal space between words.