Learn About Signs & Industry Terms


A generic term to describe plastics. Acrylic is characterized by it’s clarity and colorability. Optically clear, rigid material, resistant to some chemicals, not solvents. More brittle than Lexan, holes should be oversized and counter sunk fasteners should not be used. Any adhesive can be applied to this material. Mechanical fasteners are also commonly used for sheet stock. Acrylic is available in a variety of translucent and opaque colors, as well as clear.


A substance used to join or bond two materials together, by chemical or mechanical action. Generally applied as a liquid, or as a solid activated by heat or pressure. A desirable characteristic of adhesives used in conservation is reversibility.

Various descriptive adjectives are used with the term adhesive to indicate certain characteristics:

  • physical (liquid adhesive, tape adhesive)
  • chemical type (silicate adhesive, resin adhesive)
  • materials bonded (paper adhesive)
  • conditions of use (hot-set adhesive)


Alupanel is a strong, aluminum composite panel with a high density, polyallomer (CPA) core that will not swell, wick water, corrode, rot, or delaminate due to prolonged water exposure. The surface is .016-inch high-gloss powder coated aluminum. An aluminum surface is required on both sides for rigidity and to minimize warping. Alupanel features an aluminum face for high gloss brilliance and is warranted not to crack, chip, flake or peel.

Alupanel is ideal for paints, screen print inks, and pressure sensitive vinyl which bonds securely to it. It has the same reflective surface as vinyl graphics, so the final sign is visually coordinated. Alupanel is strong and durable under all weather conditions. It’s the same weight as aluminum sheet metal. However, Alupanel is stronger for a 4′ x 8′ sheet. Alupanel has an average outdoor life expectancy of 20 years (when properly installed).

What are the recommended applications?

  • All outdoor applications including: post and panel, hanging, wall mount, multiple panel signs, point of purchase displays, cut-outs, kiosk, laser printing, silk-screening and more.


A graphic display or sign. Banners are usually made with applied vinyl or can be screen printed.

Banners can be rolled up and are used for indoor and outdoor purposes.

Custom vinyl banners and sign banners can be used to announce a new product, promote special events, advertise sales, rent real estate, thank your employees, generate excitement or attract and motivate customers.

The lettering for our text sign banners is rated for up to 5 years. Our vinyl sign banners include grommets to hang them as well!

Vinyl banners and banners signs are available in a variety of sizes. Common banner heights are: 2′ banner, 3′ banner, 4′ banner. We also stock 18″ banners, 6′ banners and 8′ banner in white only. The vinyl banner starts out on a roll and can be up to 120 long. We also make double-sided vinyl banners in 9 colors.

Bitmap Files

Bitmap files are created using pixels. Photographs and scanned images are bitmap images. Software programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Photopaint are bitmap based programs.

Bitmap images, also called raster or paint images, are made of individual dots, called pixels (picture elements), that are arranged and colored differently to form a pattern. Images are therefore resolution dependent and can only be scaled minimally without degrading the image. Because a bitmap image is created as a collection of arranged pixels, it can be difficult and time consuming to edit or modify.

A bitmap is an array of dots. If you imagine a sheet of graph paper with some squares colored in, a bitmap is a compact way of representing to the computer which squares are colored and which are not. In a bitmapped font, every character is represented as a pattern of dots in a bitmap. The dots are so small (300 or more dots-per-inch, usually) that they are indistinguishable on the printed page.

Signs BC supports the following bitmap file formats: BMP, JPEG, GIF, TIF, PSD, PDF We only accept bitmap images with a minimum resolution of 150 dpi.


A writing system using a series of raised dots to be read with the fingers by people who are blind or whose eyesight is not sufficient for reading printed material.

Assistive technology for blind and visually impaired people that uses 6 raised dots grouped in different patterns to represent letters and numbers. People read Braille by running their fingertips across the dots. Some screen readers also output content in Braille format using a Braille display.

Grade I involves a character-by-character translation of printed material; Grade II uses special contractions (much like the phonetic parts of speech) for messages. Grade II Braille is required by the Americans with Disabilities Act on some signs.

Brush Finish

A satin finish, or a finish in between glossy and matte. Similar in appearance to fine scratches made by dragging a bristle brush across a surface. Commonly seen on stainless steel sinks.

Camera Ready Artwork

Artwork supplied in it’s final form for printing preparation.

High in resolution, clean black and white.

Camera-ready artwork is artwork that’s ready for the camera that captures the dots and density of your artwork and then translates it into a screen, mold or laser template, or whatever based on the imprinting method being used. No matter what color you’d like your imprint to be, the type, artwork and graphic materials should be a very high black-and-white (B&W) contrast ready to be photographed on a process camera.


(Cyan Magenta Yellow blacK) The color space used for commercial printing and most color computer printers. In theory, cyan, magenta and yellow (CMY) can print all colors, but inks are not pure and black comes out muddy. The black ink (K) is required for quality printing


Coroplast comes in a variety of styles, all based upon the Coroplast high quality corrugated plastic sheet. Our standard sheet has been treated to allow for excellent adhesion quality to aid in printing for the graphics arts fields. It is also extremely durable because of its waterproof and resistance to stains and most chemicals.

The name Coroplast applies to a wide range of extruded twinwall plastic sheet products produced from a high impact polypropylene copolymer. Coroplast uses a copolymer resin in order to increase impact and low temperature performance. Chemically, the sheet is inert, with a NIL pH factor. At regular temperatures most oils, solvents and water have no effect, allowing it to perform under adverse weather conditions or as a product component exposed to harsh chemicals.

All Coroplast twinwall profile sheets can be modified with additives, which are melt-blended into the sheet to meet the specific needs of the customer. Special products that require additives include: ultra violet protection, anti-stat, flame retardant, custom colors, corrosive inhibitors, static-dissipative, etc.

Coroplast products are offered in a wide range of standard and opaque colors. The sheet is extruded in widths across the corrugation up to 96″ with gauges of 3mm and 10mm in thickness.

The Coroplast™ name is known throughout the Sign Industry for a Consistent High Quality Printable Surface. COROPLAST™ is the material of choice for today’s screen printing industry. COROPLAST™ is ideal for indoor and outdoor applications. It is tougher than corrugated fiberboard and lighter than extruded plastic sheet. It is waterproof, stain-resistant.

Graphic houses have been using COROPLAST™ successfully for years with some of the uses being: Retail Signs, Real Estate Signs, Political Signs, P.O.P.Displays, Bus and Truck Signage, Election Signs, Yard Signs, Agricultural Signage, Special Event Advertising and Trade Displays.


Dots Per Inch (or dpi) is the unit of measure used to describe the resolution of image files, scanners, or output devices, by measuring the number of separate pixels (or dots) represented either horizontally or vertically in one inch.

Generally, printers with higher DPI produce clearer and more detailed output. The DPI measurement of a printer is dependent upon several factors, including the method by which ink is applied, the quality of the printer components, and the quality of the ink and paper used. A dot matrix printer, for example, applies ink via tiny rods striking an ink ribbon, and has a relatively low resolution, typically in the range of 60 to 90 DPI. An ink jet printer sprays ink through tiny nozzles, and is typically capable of 300 DPI. A laser printer applies toner through a controlled electrostatic charge, and may be in the range of 600 to 1200 DPI.


The core is a high density, corrugated polyallomer (CPA), that will not swell, wick water, corrode, rot, or delaminate due to prolonged water exposure, making it perfect for all outdoor applications. The finished surface is .016-inch high-gloss white aluminum, with a light gauge aluminum backer. Econolite features a highly reflective, factory baked, acrylic paint surface that is warranted not to crack, chip, flake or peel. Colorfast 10 year limited warranty.

Econolite is an economical alternative to Alumalite, but with only one painted aluminum side. The other side is a light gauge, aluminum backer. When properly supported on 24″ center, Econolite can be used for post and panel and/or billboard applications. Cannot be used in all the same applications as Alumalite because Econolite’s aluminum backer is not as strong as Alumalite’s thicker, .016 aluminum backer. Econolite is best used in applications when all four edges of the panel are supported, such as wall mount signs, canopy, or supported post and panel.


Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, flat surface, by cutting grooves into it. The result may be a decorative object in itself, as when silver or gold are engraved, or may provide an intaglio plate, when copper is engraved, or a relief print block when wood is engraved. Engravers use a hardened steel tool called a burin to cut the design into the surface.

Before the advent of photography, engraving used to reproduce other forms of art, for example paintings. Engravings continued to be common in newspapers and many books into the early 20th century, as they were long cheaper to mass reproduce than photo images. Engraving has also always been used as a method of original artistic expression.

Because of the high level of microscopic detail that can be achieved by a master engraver, counterfeiting of engraved designs is well-nigh impossible, and modern banknotes are almost always engraved. Many classic postage stamps were engraved, although the practice is now mostly confined to particular countries, and/or used when a more “elegant” design is desired and a limited color gamut is acceptable.

An engraver is a person who engages in engraving. The engraver can execute an original engraving as an independent work of art invented by him/herself, or, as a reproductive engraver, divulgate an idea expressed in a painting, drawing, statue, etc. invented by an artist other than the engraver.

EPS Files

Encapsulated PostScript (EPS) is a standard file format for importing and exporting PostScript files. It is usually a single page PostScript program that describes an illustration or entire page. The purpose of an EPS file is to be included in other pages. Sometimes EPS files are called EPSF files. EPSF simply stands for Encapsulated PostScript Format.

EPS files can be generated by all drawing applications as well as most layout applications. Image manipulation programs like Adobe PhotoShop can also save bitmap images as EPS-files. Some printer drivers are also capable of generating EPS-files as well as PostScript files.

The EPS format (Encapsulated PostScript) was developed by Adobe as one of the file formats in its page description language, PostScript. It is a vector format (not bitmap), thus inherently scalable and moderately device independent, which moves easily across platforms (the language itself is ASCII code).

Think of an EPS file as its own little mini-document. When you place an EPS file into a page layout document it is like placing a page layout within a page layout. It is described using PostScript® – the same as the page layout document itself when it is sent to a PostScript device. It is a set of instructions within a set of instructions. Naturally, then, the fonts would be required to properly interpret the instructions within the EPS file.

Examples of EPS drawing programs are Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator, and Macromedia (once Aldus) Freehand.


HDU is a closed cell urethane that is made by pouring proprietary chemicals into a mold, after which a chemical reaction causes the material to foam. It is then cooled into sheets, usually 4’ x 8’, but larger panels are available, and in various thickness’. Different densities of HDU are available for various applications including 4, 6, 10, 15, 18, 22 and 30 pounds per cubic foot. The lower the density number the softer the HDU.

HDU is light weight and easily worked with standard woodworking tools: surfaces can be carved, scraped, routed, sandblasted or sanded. It’s durable. It’s water, rot, and termite resistant, and doesn’t need to be edge laminated.

Hot Stamping

Hot Stamping can be defined as custom printing napkins, pens, key chains, etc. usually with a logo and promotional message. Hot Stamped impressions are especially nice looking. They can be bold colours or very expensive looking “metallic ink” because they are actually printed with melted plastic.

Hot Foil Stamping is a very versatile method of printing. Using foils (available on a roll) it offers instant dry printing without using any messy inks. Hundreds of colors and shades from metallic matte, gloss, pearl and even 22k gold are available.

Hot Stamping machines have electrically heated type holders. A type is a block of metal with a reversed raised letter or sign at the printing end. The operator loads the type holder with the appropriate reverse type, logo, illustration or die, and positions it in the machine with set screws.  When the type reaches the desired temperature, pulling a lever causes the hot type to be pressed against a strip from a roll of plastic (mounted on the machine), and a reverse image is “melted” onto the paper or other receiving item held position by the machine’s jaws.

The basic principle is similar to iron-on transfers. You can tell hot stamped materials by the especially vivid colours and slight indentation where the design is applied as opposed to top printing (smooth) or embossing (raised).


An ink is a liquid containing various pigments and/or dyes used for colouring a surface to render an image or text. Common perceptions consider ink for use in drawing or writing with a pen or brush. However, inks are used most extensively in printing.

Pigmented inks have the advantage when printing on paper that the pigment stays on the surface of the paper. This is desirable, because when more ink stays on the surface of the paper, less ink needs to be used to create the same intensity of colour.

Dyes, however, are generally much stronger and can produce more colour of a given density per unit of mass. However, because dyes are dissolved in the liquid phase, they have a tendency to soak into paper, thus making the ink less efficient and also potentially allowing for the ink to bleed at the edges, producing unsightly and poor-quality printing.


A brand name of engravable phenolic sheet stock

Lamicoid (Lamacoid) has become a generic term commonly used for specifying 2- or 3-ply, laminated engraving stocks and the nameplates, tags, or legend plates produced from the stock.

SignsBC Illuminated produces lamacoid with a precision cut laser engraver


A laminate is a material constructed by uniting two or more layers of material together. The process of creating a laminate is lamination, which usually refers to sandwiching something between layers of plastic and sealing them with heat and/or pressure.

The materials used in laminates can be the same or different. For example, by applying a layer of plastic film either side of a sheet of glass, the glass is said to be the laminated subject. The plastic is said to be the laminate.

Laminating paper, such as photographs, can prevent them from becoming creased, sun damaged, wrinkled, stained, smudged, abraded and/or marked by grease, fingerprints and environmental concerns. Photo identification cards and credit cards are almost always laminated with plastic film.

Pressure Sensitive Vinyl

This is the most widely used material of the vinyl sign business. Once applied, pressure sensitive vinyl looks just like a custom painted surface with only a fraction of the labor. It consists of a layer of colored, opaque or translucent vinyl material and silicone coated kraft paper with a transparent adhesive between the two. The kraft paper acts as a carrier and is eventually peeled away. It can also be obtained in various thicknesses (2 mil or 4 mil), with 2 mil being used more frequently as it is easier to work with and lasts longer. The range of metallic, fluorescent, matte, shiny, reflective, opaque or translucent choices is overwhelming. New vinyl products are constantly being introduced to achieve different effects and facilitate production.

This vinyl material is cut by a computer cutting plotter that contains a small knife which does not penetrate the backing kraft paper. The part of the image that is not desired is then lifted or weeded off from the paper. What remains will be the vinyl lettering or logo that will be applied to the finished surface. But, wait, not so fast! The image is then covered with a transfer masking tape that is designed for this purpose. This application tape is available in various sizes for your particular needs. The paper backing is then peeled away to reveal your graphic stuck to the masking tape backwards. Now the cut vinyl is ready to be applied.

The cut vinyl image can then be positioned in the appropriate area and on the surface desired. When in place, the transfer masking tape is removed and “Presto!” you have your finished product.

Pressure sensitive vinyl can be applied to almost any smooth, clean surface. As you scan your surroundings, the possibilities are astounding. There are just a few unacceptable surfaces, though. These would be rough concrete or brick, and latex painted wood board or plywood.

How is Vinyl Made?

Calendered Intermediate

This vinyl film is generally made in a 3 mil thickness. “Mil” means “one-thousandth” an inch. Thus 3 mils are three thousandths of an inch. Usually, the thickness refers to the film itself and not the adhesive that is applied. The adhesive can add another 1 to 2 mils to the thickness. First the raw materials (including resins, plasticizers, stabilizers, color pigments, etc) are combined and heated, producing “melt”. Then the melt is fed into a two-story high calendering machine that consists of a series of rollers. One group of rollers produces the rough gauge. The next group of rollers determines gloss levels and final thickness. It is important to note that calendered vinyl is manufactured in a continual web process. It’s made by putting continuous stress, pressure, and heat on the vinyl; it is literally pulled through the machine. The process resembles the way Salt Water Taffy is made; remember the huge arms that around and stretch and pull the taffy until it cools down?Because the film is stretched and pressured into its final form, it has little dimensional stability. This means that if extremes of heat and cold affect it, it will tend to shrink back to its original size. This caused adhesive ooze around the letters, as well as cracking and peeling. Calendered vinyl must be produced in large quantities due to the sheer size of the machinery involved. These large batches limit the number of colors that are available. It is this fast and economical process that establishes the lower cost of calendered vinyl for the signmaker.

Cast High Performance

This film is made in 2 mil thickness, then the adhesive is added. This thinner film is easier to mold over irregular surfaces and is easier to weed, especially those tiny letters and delicate graphics. There are two main reasons why 2 mil high performance vinyl is much superior to calendered vinyl. The raw materials are of better quality in cast films and the manufacturing process is totally different. There is virtually no stress, no stretching, and no pressure applied to cast films. The high quality cast vinyl raw materials are mixed and then poured out, or cast on the casting roller. The mixture is then transferred through rollers to the casting paper. Since the cast liquid vinyl is supported by the casting paper once the liquid leaves the rollers, very little stress is applied. Heat and pressure are not applied like in the calendering process. This means that the higher quality cast films are suitable for outdoor use and long exposure to extremes of heat and cold. Since the film is not forced into a size that it wasn’t originally made for, shrinkage, splitting, and cracking is significantly less than in the calendered vinyl films. Because casting machines are small in comparison to the mammoth calendering equipment, runs are short and a wider variety of colors are available in cast vinyl.

How to Choose the Right Vinyl for the Job

The first step in choosing the right vinyl is to determine whether or not the signage you are designing will be for indoor or outdoor use. If the sign will be indoors, the less expensive calendered vinyl may do the job. If the sign is to be outdoors or on the inside of an exterior door or window, a premium grade cast vinyl is the better choice. Why?

That’s because the cast vinyl will resist bubbling, fading, and peeling due to long term exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. These rays cause eventual deterioration of both the vinyl and the adhesive. For most applications, 2 mil cast vinyl is the best choice. It conforms well to uneven surfaces, is more flexible, and has a longer life expectancy when exposed to harsh weather conditions. The quality of 2 mil vinyl’s adhesive usually matches the quality of the vinyl. Put simply, this means that premium 2 mil high performance cast film will stick better, longer, and faster than the adhesive on calendered vinyl. Lower quality adhesives as in calendered vinyl are more easily affected by moisture, solvents, and sunlight. This may cause the vinyl sign or graphic to turn yellow or curl.


Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a widely-used plastic. In terms of revenue generated, it is one of the most valuable products of the chemical industry. Globally, over 50% of PVC manufactured is used in construction. As a building material PVC is cheap, and easy to assemble. In recent years, PVC has been replacing traditional building materials such as wood, concrete and clay in many areas. Despite appearing to be an ideal building material, PVC has high environmental and human health costs.

The symbol for polyvinyl chloride developed by the Society of the Plastics Industry so that items can be labelled for easy recycling is:


The RGB color model utilizes the additive model in which red, green, and blue light are combined in various ways to create other colors. The very idea for the model itself and the abbreviation “RGB” come from the three primary colors in additive light models.

When written, RGB values in 24 bpp are commonly specified using three integers between 0 and 255, each representing red, green, and blue intensities, in that order. For example:

  • (0, 0, 0) is black
  • (255, 255, 255) is white
  • (255, 0, 0) is red
  • (0, 255, 0) is green
  • (0, 0, 255) is blue
  • (255, 255, 0) is yellow
  • (0, 255, 255) is cyan
  • (255, 0, 255) is magenta

Sans Serif

In typography, serifs are the small features at the end of strokes within letters. A typeface (font) without serifs is called sans-serif (from French sans: “without”), also referred to as grotesque (or, in German, grotesk).

In the Roman alphabet, serifs originated with the carving of words into stone in ancient Italy. Artisans would carve out a bit of extra space at the end of the long strokes of letters in order to prevent gravel and dust from collecting in the corners of the letters.


Sans Serif: This is an example

Serif Font: This is an example

Self-Inking Rubber Stamps

The self-inking rubber stamp has a special mount that has a built-in ink pad and spring mechanism that automatically re-inks the die between impressions.

The rubber stamp flips up and down against an ink pad with each impression made.

Self inking rubber stamps use a water based ink, and require re-inking more often that pre-inks. Re-inking is a very simple process


Sintra material is closed-cell, expanded plastic, high-density polyvinylchloride sheet. Sintra is a homogeneous material that allows the ease of cutting without regard for grain. At half the weight of solid PVC, Sintra may be stapled, nailed, riveted, glued, and thermoformed. Forming may be done on conventional forming machines. Because this material is not hydroscopic, it needs no drying pre-forming.

Sintra is available in 9 thickness’ 1mm-13mm all thickness’ are available in white, some thickness’ are also available in black & colors. A Sintra sheet size is 48″ x 96″. Cut to size sheet is available on request.

SINTRA® as described in our introduction is also fire resistant, water resistant, and resistant to certain chemicals. It will stay flat, yet it is flexible enough for exacting shapes and intricate designs. It provides a non-warping mounting surface that maintains uniform color throughout. Sintra material can be silk-screened and painted without priming.


Substrate is used to describe the base material that images will be printed onto. Depending on the printing process and end use of the product, these materials include (though are not limited to) films, foils, textiles, fabrics, plastics, and any variety of paper (lightweight, heavyweight, coated, uncoated, paperboard, cardboard, etc.).


A trademark (Commonwealth English: trade mark) is conventionally a distinctive sign of some kind, whether that sign comprises a name, word, phrase, logo, symbol, design, picture, styling or a combination of one or more of these elements. A trademark is used by a business to identify itself and its products or services to consumers, and to set itself and its products or services apart from other businesses. A trademark is a type of intellectual property, and in particular, a type of industrial property.

The essential function of a trademark is to uniquely identify the commercial source or origin of products or services, such that a trademark, properly called, is used to ‘indicate source’ or act as a ‘badge of origin’. The use of a trademark in this way is known as ‘trademark use’ and a trademark owner seeks to enforce its rights or interests in a trademark by preventing unauthorised trademark use.

As any sign which is capable of performing the essential trademark function may qualify as a trademark, the trademark concept extends to include a range of non-conventional signs such as shapes (ie. three-dimensional trademarks), sounds, smells, moving images (eg. signs denoting movement, motion or animation), taste, and perhaps even texture. However, the extent to which such non-conventional trademarks can be protected or even recognized varies considerably from country to country)

Trademark rights, such as the right to exclusive use of a trademark, generally derive only through use (i.e.. actual use in the marketplace) or registration (ie. filing an application and obtaining registration with the trade mark office) in a particular jurisdiction. Such rights will only apply in that jurisdiction, a quality which is sometimes known as ‘territoriality’. However, there are a range of international trademark laws and systems which facilitate the protection of trademarks around the world (see ‘International trade mark laws’ below).

Vector Files

Vector Files are files that are created mathematically and not with pixels. Software programs such as Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw are Vector based programs. Signs BC supports the following vector file formats: EPS, PS, CDR, AI, PDF.