Thinking about a new sign for the front of your business? Channel letters are a nice option amongst the many for certain businesses and locations. Not sure what the options are, or even what the various terminology means? No problem. Channel Letters are custom-made three-dimensional letters that are traditionally internally lit. Channel letter signs are highly flexible in regards to design and can be made using a wide variety of shapes, fonts, colors, and sizes.

The Standard Channel Letter

Traditionally, Channel letters are front-lit meaning the light shines through the sign from a light source within the sign.

For a front-lit channel letter, the face of the letter is made of an acrylic material that is typically cut to shape using a CNC router. Acrylic is a popular lightweight, shatterproof alternative to glass and is available in a variety of color options allowing it to be a versatile material. Additional colors can be achieved through the use of high-quality translucent vinyl or perforated vinyl applied to the cut acrylic.

The acrylic face of a channel letter is attached to the channel letter through the use of a trim cap which allows for the face to be removed for service or repair. Today, nearly all internally-illuminated channel letters are made using LED illumination, resulting in significant energy cost savings over neon that was commonly used in the past.

What Types of Channel Letter Signs Are Available?

  • Front-Lit Channel Letters: The first and most common type of channel letter is the front-lit or standard channel letter. A front-lit channel letter will have an acrylic face, trim cap, aluminum sides, and aluminum back.
  • Reverse Channel Letters/Back-lit Channel Letters/Halo Channel Letters: For a unique and classy look, consider reverse channel letters! Instead of an acrylic face, reverse channel letters utilize aluminum faces and sides, and have clear acrylic or poly-carbonate backs. These letters are mounted with a standoff which mounts the letter about 1″ to 1-1/2″ from the face of the building so that when it is illuminated, creating a “halo effect” surrounding the shape of each individual character.
  • Combination-Lit or Front/Back Lit Channel Letters: This option allows you to have a combination lighting effect. For instance, you can have a red illuminated face, and a blue reverse halo effect These signs have the standard front translucent face but also have a clear acrylic back that has been customized using translucent vinyl graphics to create the desired halo color.

What are the mounting options?

There are several standard mounting options to consider. Some options may be required by the property owners to retain a certain design style throughout the property or are concerned about the number of penetrations into the building.

  • Raceway Mount: Many property management companies and landlords will require that any channel letter signs be installed on a raceway, which is a metal “channel box” that houses the electrical wiring and power supply for the full letter set. The advantage of a raceway mount is that it reduces the number of wall penetrations that are required to complete the installation. Raceways are typically painted to match the color of the building façade or sign band.
  • Direct Mount: With a direct mount, the letters are attached directly to the building façade using a pattern, with non-corrosive fasteners. For reverse channel letters, direct mount with standoff spacers is the common option. With direct mount or flush mount channel letters, the power source and electrical wiring connecting one letter to another are housed behind the bulkhead wall or façade. This method of mounting requires considerably more penetrations through the building fascia for the mounting fasteners themselves
  • Backer Mount: Similar to raceway mount, except that instead of a metal box, the channel letters are attached to a metal cabinet or backer panel that is typically larger in height and width than the channel letter configuration. The power supply and wiring can either be housed inside the backer “cabinet”, or behind the bulkhead wall or façade.
  • Open Face: The open face channel letter sign is similar to the halo-lit sign, but they are made of clear acrylics. This creates a look of having an open face so that passersby can see the lights within the letters. These signs were traditionally made with neon inside the letters for illumination and can still be made with neon or LED can be used.

So there you go, the basics of channel letters. If you are interested in new signage for your business, give us a call for a free consultation.

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