Customer service is our top priority!
Sometimes the terms we use can be confusing, and we can glance over the fact that these terms we use everyday aren't everyday terms. This reference guide is here to help with some of the questions you may have about our process.
The first step of the site survey is to take a straight on picture of the sign that can be scaled for a detailed rendering.
The site survey allows you to see what your sign will look like on location, before you make your final decision, and allows us to give you an accurate estimate.
The small difference of taking a few steps back to get a good picture can save you money by decreasing the amount of design time required for a project.
Other things to note:
Is the sign illuminated?
If so, can you tell if it is lit with fluorescent lamps or LED's?
What material is the sign face?
You will need to take a straight on picture of where the sign is going as well as a measurement of something on the same plane.
Now you may ask, "What if there isn't a sign there yet?"
Good question, and we will go into that right now!
The next step is to take measurements. The more measurements you can get the better (i.e. width, height, depth, sizes of separate faces, base sizes, retainer size, under-clearance, etc.)
Having measurements on the same plane as where the sign is going is useful for the rendering process, so we can effectively show you how the finished product is going to look to scale.
Not every sign is going to be completely accessible for you to be able to grab all of this information. No worries! Our expert team of service technicians will gladly come by to take a look and offer their opinions on what will and will not work for your location.
Any information that can be provided to us beforehand is always greatly appreciated and helps us get our estimates out to you quicker.
If you have any questions, always feel free to call us on our toll-free line, and we will help you in any way that we can!
Our service technicians rarely do work at night, which in turn makes it difficult to see wich letters are out, without taking the whole sign apart and looking at the bulbs.
A night-time picture before the scheduled service can cut down on the amount of time the technician needs to be on site.
Sometimes lit signs go out; it happens, and we will try and get it fixed as soon as possible. There are some steps that you can take to make our process faster and get your sign back to it's original glory quicker.
The best time to take a picture of a sign outage is going to be right after sunset (when there is still some natural light). If it is too dark out while taking the picture, most cameras require more time to keep the shutter open to gather enough light.
Of course our technicians can figure out what is wrong with the sign without a picture, but this is just a helpful way to get things moving forward.
It also provides us with photo documentation so we can tell if there is a pattern in the outages, which could mean that there is a bigger problem such as a bad ballast.
As you can see, a burnt-out sign at night can have a slightly different meaning than in the daytime.
Otherwise the camera only takes light from where it can find it.
So say you want to have your logo put on a great big sign. Good, you came to the right place! Here are some helpful tips that can help you get that accomplished at the highest possible quality and save you money in design time.
The first thing is to explain the difference between vector and raster graphics.
When a raster image is scaled up, it loses quality. The amount of pixels per inch stay the same as the image gets bigger, so those little square pixels get bigger too, creating a fuzz.
A program like Photoshop can cut down on that by inventing new pixels to fill the void, but it will never be 100% quality.
(If you're lucky, you might get around 65%)
Raster images are not the preferred method and usually require one of our designers to recreate or optimize them to work in a large format, which will cost you money.
Raster images have these file extensions: (.jpg .bmp .png .gif .tif .psd)
Now, most raster graphics have the resolution optimized for whatever application they were originally intended.
For example, that nice clean looking logo on your website will not work on a sign, as it was designed to be only a couple inches big.
Raster graphics are basically pictures. They are made up of thousands of small squares called pixels. The resolution of an image is determined by pixels per inch (ppi or dpi). The more pixels per inch, the higher the resolution of the image.
What about vector graphics?
Vector graphics are just plain awesome! Vector graphics use a mathematical equation that doesn't rely on pixel resolution. At any size, they are 100% quality! They work by using a series of points and lines, much like a game of connect the dots (but with a lot more dots and more complex lines than you would probably remember). Graphic designers use vector-based programs like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw close to 100% of the time to make graphics with the highest possible quality.
Here is the difference between a vector & raster logo.
*Here are some of the most common vector file formats*
(.ai .eps .cdr .pdf)
*Note .pdf files don't always have the vector lines as it is a universal file format.
Because almost all graphics are initially drawn up in a vector-based program, there is a good possibility that whoever designed your logo has either given you the vector file and/or has one saved on their computer. The problem that most people have with finding those particular files is that you can't open or view them without a program like Adobe Illustrator, which you probably don't have.
Now that you know all of this about vector and raster images.... How should the files be prepared?
And with the magic that our graphic designers can usually pull, a roughly 5in x 5in 300ppi raster file can be converted to vector format via image tracing reasonably quick as well.
Obviously having vector files is the absolute preferred method (.ai .eps .cdr .pdf)
If you do have raster images though, there are still ways to make it work.
A raster file (preferably .jpg .tif .psd) that is 150-300 ppi at 50-100% actual size will usually get the job done.
General rule of thumb:
Right clicking an image off of a website and doing a "save as" WILL NOT WORK.
The last thing that will need to be taken care of is color. Pantone colors (PMS) are the preferred colors. We have ways to match up the standard Pantone library to the output on our printer so that what you order and what you receive are one in the same. If you don't have a Pantone color picked out, our printer prints in CMYK inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, black).
If this is all too confusing and you aren't sure how to check what colors have been used, if a file is going to work or if you just need someone to walk you through what to do, please feel free to ask, and we will be happy to help you out!
Choosing Letter Heights
Have you ever had to squint really hard to read what was on a sign?
We have too, which is why we follow the rules of the distance legibility chart to choose our letter heights.
Obviously not everyone has the same eyesight. This chart is more for the perfect world, everyone has 20/20 vision bare minimum viewing distance, so we will try to keep that in mind. When the chart says the legible viewing distance is 7ft., we will call it 5ft., just to be safe.
Choosing Sign Materials
When choosing the right sign material for your location, you need to factor in these questions:
Is the sign inside or outside?
How long is the sign going to be up?
Does it need to be illuminated?
Do you want it to be dimensional?
This section has some of our non-illuminated options to help answer those questions.
Coroplast signs are the cheapest material that we have, so it is a good solution for yard signs, road construction signs or any other temporary application. We generally will use an intermediate cut vinyl or a non-laminated print for the graphics.
Coroplast signs are generally used as a temporary solution. They are made out of a plastic material with channels running through the inside, allowing you to mount on step stakes or just mount with screws or tape. It comes in 3MM and 10MM thickness and several standard colors.
PVC signs are a durable cheap option that you can expect to last around 3-5 years indoor with intermediate-quality graphics and 5-7 years indoor with high performance graphics.
*Lasts 1-3 years outdoor, so is not recommended for long-term outdoor use.
Aluminum Composite panels are rated to last outdoor for 10 years without fading. We use high performance vinyl graphics, which are rated to last 7-10 years as well, but also have the capability of being removed and redecorated.
Plastic PVC substrates are usually used for indoor applications. They are a durable, coated plastic that comes in a variety of thicknesses (We stock 1MM styrene, 3MM PVC and 6MM PVC) and colors.
*For outdoor usage use 6MM
Aluminum Composite Signs (ACM)
ACM signs are your high quality, long-lasting, outdoor option. They consist of two aluminum sheets bonded to a non-aluminum core. The 3MM ACM panels are great for building signs and the 6MM Alumalite panels handle better where the wind may be an issue.
Both come in a variety of colors.
Dimensional Letters (Formed Plastic)
Formed plastic letters are the industry standard for making non-illuminated dimensional letters. They are completely customizable to whatever your logo may be and is one of the most long-lasting, durable sign solutions on the market. They come in 31 standard colors, but can be custom matched for an additional price.
We also offer standard flat aluminum signs that come in .040 and .080 thickness with or without rounded corners. These are the standard blanks that you would want to use for permanent parking or directional signs.
There are also a multitude of other options that we can certainly do including, but not limited to: sandblasted wood signs, carved foam letters & structures, standoff clear acrylic signs and ADA compliant plastic interior signs.
Whatever your need,
TLC Sign can find you the perfect solution!
Laser-cut acrylic letters are customizable for any application. They can be carved with exact precision, which is handy for small detailed graphics. You can also stack them on top of each other for an added dimension. Thicknesses range from 1/8" to 1" and have a lifetime guarantee.
Cast metal letters are available in a variety of finishes including painted, brushed aluminum or bronze, anodized, oxidized and can be etched plaques as well. They also have a variety of mounting options that are good for indoor and outdoor usage with a lifetime guarantee.
Choosing Sign Materials
If you really want your sign to stand out, you are probably considering an illuminated option.
Having an illuminated sign allows for you to advertise your brand
24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When a potential customer is driving at night, even when you are closed, you are reinforcing your brand in their mind.
Here are some of the different options that you can choose from.
Illuminated Monument Signs
The best way to give customers that lasting first impression is an illuminated monument sign. A monument sign directly outside of your business is a great way to let customers know that they have arrived, and it reinforces your brand
24 hours a day.
The signs have a polycarbonate face with internal LED lighting for a bright, long-lasting finish.
You can also add an
electronic message center to your monument or pylon sign to draw more attention to your business.
Illuminated Pylon Signs
Pylon signs are a great option for long-distance viewing. It is a crucial advertising tool where there are many options to choose from. Customers will make split-second decisions based on their first impression of a business so it is crucial that you get your brand in their mind before they are even close to your location.
Illuminated Monument Signs
(Routed Aluminum Faces)
Another option for your monument sign is to use routed aluminum faces. This allows light to shine only through the letters of the sign, which creates a unique and classy look.
Illuminated Building Signs
If a monument sign doesn't fit in your budget, another good solution is a lit cabinet on the building front. This is also a good solution for businesses that don't have the space to accommodate a larger stand alone sign.
(For example strip malls & downtown shops)
Illuminated Channel Letters
Another eye-catching solution that you can use are channel letters. Channel letters are made of aluminum cans bent to whatever shape you need, with internal LED lighting and colored translucent polycarbonate faces. They can be mounted flush to the building or on an aluminum raceway that has been painted to match the building.
Illuminated Channel Letters
Another way to do channel letters is to make them with solid aluminum faces, clear polycarbonate backs, then mount them to the building with standoffs to create a halo effect.
There are many ways to illuminate a sign. Our creative team can come up with any combination of the above styles to create something that will work for your business. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us, and we will be happy to help!
Illuminated Plastic Letters
A good option for indoor usage is to use plastic GemLite letters. The formed plastic allows for finer details and a shallower letter
(roughly 2 1/2"). You can also order these letters white and have translucent vinyl applied to the tops to give the appearance of a halo letter (shown below).
Electronic Message Centers
Choosing Pixel Pitch
Parts of A Sign
Signs can be expensive investments, and this section is here to help explain how they are put together. This allows you to better understand the parts of the sign and be able to accurately tell us if any part of it is malfunctioning or damaged.
Parts Of A Sign Cabinet
A: Retainer System - L-Shaped metal brackets that hold a sign face into place on outside of cabinet.
B: Divider Bar - Metal bar for separating multiple faces in cabinet.
C: Electronic Message Center (EMC)
D: Poles - Steel, load-bearing poles.
E: Match Plate - Welded to poles for attaching to foundation.
F: Double-Sided LED Sticks - Our standard product for cabinets in place of fluorescent bulbs.
G: Polycarbonate Faces - Translucent white faces with UV shield and translucent vinyl graphics.
H: Pole Covers - Aluminum
I: Day/Night Faces - Perforated black vinyl graphics on polycarbonate faces for black during the day and white at night.
J: Aluminum Flashing - Painted aluminum to match cabinet to fill gaps where sizes may not match.
K: Temperature Control Unit for EMC
A: Letter Face - Translucent white face with or without translucent vinyl graphics.
B: Trim Cap - Plastic bendable retainer system that fastens the letter face to the can.
C: Returns (Sign Can) - Aluminum can that houses the LED's.
D: String LED lighting - LED lights wired in series (multiple colors available).
E: Raceway - Aluminum box for housing wires that channel letters are mounted to. (Can be painted to match building)
This section shows the various ways that we can mount a sign cabinet securely and effectively to protect your investment.
A: Saddle Mount - Where the pole goes through the middle of the cabinet and is fastened on the top.
B: Center Pole Mount - Where the pole is saddle mounted and then lowered into a larger telescoping pole.
C: Wrap Around Mount - When the pole goes all the way through the sign and fastened on both top and bottom of cabinet.
D: Plate Mount - When there is a match plate at the top of the pole bolted to a plate at the bottom of the cabinet.
E: U-Angle Mount - For mounting on a building the U-angle brackets are attached to the top, bottom and back of the cabinets then bolted to the wall.
F: Between Poles Mount - When the cabinet is straddled between two poles and bolted to them from the inside.