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Glossary of Terms


Acrylic: A transparent thermoplastic often used in sheet form as a lightweight or shatter-resistant alternative to glass. Excellent for outdoor translucent signs, normally 3/16″ in thickness for regular applications.

Adhesive: A non eco-friendly material able to hold two surfaces or materials together. Often activated by heat or pressure.

Aluminum: Lightweight, durable, non-tarnishing all-purpose metal material capable of being cut, formed, shaped and painted. Great for both interior and exterior applications. It is strong and durable in relation to its weight, and resistant to rust and corrosion.

Anchor: In general, any device that connects and secures one object to another.


Backlit: Internally illuminated signage with translucent acrylic or laser-cut aluminum faces.

Backlit Awning: An awning sign that is lit from underneath by fluorescent or other high output lighting.

Ballast: A fluorescent light fixture component, the primary function of which is to provide sufficient starting voltage for the lamp.

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

Bleed: 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.

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.


Cabinet Sign: The frame or external structure of a box-like sign that encloses the various functional elements of the design, whether electrical or dimensional components.

CAD (Computer Aided Design): Advanced software used in engineering and manufacturing to create and modify complex 3D technical drawings of a device and its components.

Channel Letters: Aluminum-walled formed letters mounted on a self-contained raceway with acrylic faces internally lit by neon tubes. Uses include interior and exterior applications and may be painted to match existing surroundings.

CMYK: Also known as Four Color Process, it is a standard printers abbreviation for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black). In offset printing, virtually all colors can be created by combining these four colors.

Coroplast: Trademarked brand name of Corex which is corrugated plastic, lightweight, readily available in a variety of colors for inexpensive signs and displays.


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

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 a large number of items must be cut to the same shape or size.

Dimensional Letters: Cast, formed, milled or machined plastic, wood, composite material or metal three-dimensional letters mounted mechanically to wall or sign surfaces.

Directory Sign: A sign that provides an organized list of names of people, offices or facilities located within a given building or area.


Electronic Message Center (EMC): A variable message sign that utilizes a computer or other electronic controlled means to change and control the message displayed.


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.

Freestanding Sign: A sign that is not attached to a building, has its own support structure and is typically secured to a foundation.


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

Gatorboard: A rigid foam-centered material covered on both sides with a eggshell white paperboard. Excellent for printing and interior displays.

Gradient: The smooth transition from one color to another color.

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.


Halo Sign: A type of sign which has a glowing ring of light surrounding it such as a channel letter which has been lit from behind.

Hanging Sign: A projecting double-faced sign mounted to a wall or pole and hung from a bracket or support arm.


Laminate: A thin layer of transparent material applied directly over printed materials to protect the images from wear and UV exposure (fading).

Layout: A finished digital file or hand-drawn artwork detailing the specific design, dimensions, colors, materials, etc. of the project.

LED Neon: Commonly Known as Neon Flex or LED Neon Flex. This is a replacement for traditional glass neon.

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.

Low Voltage: Voltage not exceeding 1000V AC or 1500V DC between conductors, or 600V AC or 900V DC between conductor and ground.


Matte: Having a dull or non-shiny surface or finish.

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 the restaurant and drive-thru industries.

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.


Neon Sign: A sign that incorporates one or more neon lamps. The sign message is created by bending and forming the neon tubes into lettering and/or iconic graphical shapes.


Plexiglass: The trade name for a brand of acrylic sheeting, which is often mistakenly used as a generic term.

Plywood: A common type of wood product sold in 4′ x 8′ sheets.

PMS Color: Refers to the Pantone Matching System, an industry-standard method for creating hundreds of spot colors.

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

Projecting Sign: A sign that is attached to a building but extends beyond the building structure.

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.

PVC: Poly Vinyl Carbonate material most commonly used for interior plumbing applications. Very lightweight and durable, available in a variety of colors and thicknesses, as well as in shapes and flat sheets.

Pylon Sign: A freestanding sign that is not a pole or ground sign.


Raceway: An electrical enclosure attached to the side of a building for the purposes of mounting a sign and providing power to the sign.

Rendering: An artistic sketch or representation of a design concept.

Resolution: The sharpness, clarity, or detail of a particular image, often measured in dots-per-inch (DPI) or points-per-inch (PPI).

Retractable Awning: A cantilevered structure, entirely supported from a building, and constructed so that the awning cover and supporting frame retracts completely against the building. This relieves the awning from wind, rain and snow pressure and loads normally associated with extended fixed frame awning or canopies.

Returns: The sides of a channel letter.

RGB: Abbreviation for Red, Green, and Blue, an additive color process often used with computer and video screens.

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.

Sandwich Board: A moveable sign which is not attached or secured to the ground and is supported by its own frame, most often a cross-sectional A shape.

Screen Print: Permanent multi-color or single-color printing process which requires a separate screen pattern for each color used in the application.

Sheet Metal: Metal formed by an industrial process into thin, flat pieces which can be then cut and bent into a variety of shapes.

Shop Drawings: Drawings prepared by trades to describe the quantity, shape, size, materials and other details of a product’s construction.

Sign Face: Typically refers to the most prominent message area of a sign but may refer generically to any message area.

Sign Permit: A legal document (license) granted by the appropriate government agency that gives official permission to take a specific action, e.g. erect a sign.

Swatch: Small color samples of various materials, substrates, and inks to aid in the selection of materials.


Transformer: A piece of electrical equipment that continuously increases or decreases the voltage of a power supply.


Ultraboard: A is a lightweight structural panel consisting of a rigid polystyrene foam core faced on both sides by a smooth, moisture resistant sheet of solid polystyrene.


Vehicle Wrap: Printed adhesive-backed material applied directly to trucks, vans, trailers, cars, etc. Print may contain photographs and other graphics desired, and may be used for small sections of the vehicle, as well as covering the entire vehicle with stunning results.

Vinyl: A paper-thin adhesive-backed material used to cut out letters, numbers and company logos for a variety of applications from Corex to vehicles. Available in a rainbow of colors and textures for a wide spectrum of uses.

Vinyl Plotter: A computer peripheral device which uses vector artwork files to precisely cut desired shapes and designs for application to signs, vehicles, etc. Similar to a tradition ink plotter, but the ink pen is replaced with a very sharp knife.


Way-finding: A type of directional signage, that which assists viewers or travelers in finding their way to a destination.

Window Sign: A sign displayed in window, or graphics applied directly to the window, often adhesive backed vinyl permanently affixed to the interior of the glass.