- In law, the removal or control of an
annoyance, such as a sign not meeting a
community's sign code. Most commonly used as term
associated with removal of asbestos.
- abrasive method
- Acid-etching or sandblasting to alter the
surface of a material. The material is masked and
an abrasive method applied, incising a graphic
- The dispersal of visible light as it
interacts with matter, decreasing its
transmission. The end result is a modification of
the material's color.
- The force of a knife-plotter head moving from
a stopped position to its fastest linear
(straight-line) speed. Measured in grams, it
gives the zero-to-60 indication of plotter speed,
but a better overall indication is
- access door
- A door or panel that provides access to
concealed equipment, most often electrical
components, for inspection, maintenance, and
- access panel
- Removable or swinging panel, usually flush
with adjoining surface, that provides access to
concealed equipment or system components for
inspection, maintenance, and repair.
- A thin flexible plastic sheet usually
available in roll form. Durable and
stretch-resistant, this clear material is
normally used as a substrate in point-of-purchase
signs. Available in glossy and matte
- achromatic colors
- Neutral colors, such as white, gray, and
black, with no apparent hue properties.
- A method similar to sandblasting, used
primarily for marking glass. A stencil of the
artwork is either hand- or computer-cut and
applied to the glass, which is then brushed with
an acid mixture such as ammonium and sodium
biflouride. After a specified length of time, the
surface is washed and the stencil removed. Also
- Often used as a generic term for plastics
used in signmaking. Acrylic is a type of plastic
(Plexiglas, Acrylite, are well known proprietary
trade names) characterized by clarity,
transparent and opaque color ranges, and
paintability. It also has excellent
machinability. Cast and extruded acrylics have
different qualities and tolerances.
- acrylic paint
- A type of paint or ink with an acrylic resin
base, normally used in silkscreening and
screen-printing and when hand-painting
- See americans with disabilities act. See SEGD
ADA WHITE PAPER for more information.
- Americans with Disabilities Accessibility
Guidelines. National standards that were put into
place in 1990 to ensure equal access for all
persons in America. A.D.A.A.G. specifies legible
letter forms, letter heights, Braille and tactile
lettering as well as materials and finishes,
among other issues. See SEGD ADA WHITE PAPER for
- additive colors
- When red, green, and blue lights (the three
additive colors) come together in equal
proportions, the resulting light is white. Also
called "additive primaries." See also primary
- The ability of two materials to be held
together at the molecular level. Normally created
by use of an adhesive such as double-sided tape
or glue. Can also refer to magnetic adhesion, or
mechanical adhesion by suction, Velcro, etc.
- A material able to hold two surfaces or
materials together. Often activated by heat or
pressure. Examples include tape, glue, paste,
synthetic resin, epoxy or silicone
- Adobe Acrobat
- Software for Portable Document Format (PDF)
files that allows the reader to view and print a
document as originally designed without having to
install the particular program or fonts used to
create the file. Software for viewing PDF files
is Acrobat Reader, and software for altering
published PDF files is Acrobat Distiller, both
created by Adobe Systems.
- advance notice
- A sign used to provide an advance notice
prior to a roadway, street, or building entrance.
Similar to a directional sign, but usually
announces a single destination. Also called
- See burning-in.
- American Institute of Architects.
- American Institute of Graphic Arts.
- A device used in hand-painting that utilizes
compressed air to generate a fine spray of paint.
As air passes through the head of the airbrush, a
vacuum is created, siphoning the paint up from
its container. Airbrushes come in a variety of
sizes with different heads and tips depending on
the detail required.
- A light common material used in sign panels,
poles and frames.
- ambient light
- The general level of light, or background
light, in a given environment. The ambient light
level is the sum of all light (direct and
indirect) in a given area emitted by natural and
manmade sources at a given time. It can affect
the legibility of signs, and may require
alterations in illumination methods.
Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.)
- This legislation was enacted by the federal
government in 1991 in order to remove barriers in
the environment that limit any individual's
ability to function in the physical environment.
Within the five titles of the ADA is Title III,
which pertains to signs.
- Any device that secures one object to another
and does not give way, as well as the process of
installing those devices. In signmaking, this
term refers particularly to the fasteners that
are used to secure awnings and fascia signs to
facades. See also J-bolt.
- An extruded length of material, usually
plastic, aluminum, or steel, in the shape of an L
(right angle). A structural angle has rounded, or
radiused, interior corners and more inherent
strength than architectural angle, which has
crisp, 90-degree interior corners.
- angle iron
- A length of structural iron or steel having a
90-degree (right angle) bend running parallel to
the length. Used in a variety of applications
including structural framework inside sign
cabinets to support skin.
- animated sign
- A sign that shows motion or changes in copy
or color, most often through the use of electric
or electronic means.
- anodized finish
- An electrochemical coating applied to the
surface of metal, to harden, protect, and enhance
the beauty and durability of metal surface. The
type of finish typically applied to aluminum may
include tints, colors, or clear coatings. The
anodizing process builds an oxide film on the
surface by making the aluminum the anode, or
electrically positive element, in a suitable
electrolyte (chromic or sulfuric acid
- American National Standards Institute
- The installation of vinyl on a surface. Two
main methods are used: wet and dry. Wet
application involves the use of a soapy solution
or special fluid on a surface, allowing the vinyl
and its transfer-tape carrier to be positioned
before final placement. Dry application places
the vinyl and transfer tape immediately in its
final position, and usually involves hinging for
setting the material.
- The area along a street or sidewalk from
where a sign first becomes visible until the
display is no long readable as the viewer passes
- approach sign
- See advance notice sign.
- A curved line segment that is a segment of
the circumference of a circle.
- A term that was coined in the 1960s to
identify visual communications and wayfinding
information in the built environment. Hence,
physical enhancements to a building or space with
the purpose of identifying or communicating
information. See also environmental graphics,
- area of rescue
- A safe location, usually in a high-rise
building, where physically challenged or
incapacitated individuals are to wait for
assistance in case of emergency.
- art / artwork
- All copy, graphics, and logos used in
preparing a job. See also copy, electronic
- In a given typeface, the portions of the
lower case b, d, f,
h, k, and l that
extend above the height of the lower case
x. See also descender.
- American Society of Landscape
- aspect ratio
- The relationship between an image's
horizontal length and vertical height.
- A shelter usually constructed of nonrigid
materials on a supporting framework that projects
from and is supported by the exterior wall of a
building. An awning may or may not be illuminated
and/or decorated with graphics to serve as a
sign. There are also glass and metal awnings.
Also called canopy.
- The geometric guidelines used to place a
coordinate that determines knife and/or tool
paths for plotters and routers.
- axis swapping
- The process where sign-production software
temporarily transposes a plotter's x- and y-axes.
The function allows long, thin jobs along the
x-axis to be cut across a vinyl sheet's width,
- back-lighted sign
- A sign consisting of a cabinet containing a
light source surrounded by one or more
translucent faces, which may be illuminated for
- Two or more sign faces mounted on a common
structure but facing in opposite directions; many
pole signs are back-to-back or double-sided.
- baked enamel
- A type of metal finish. Special enamel paint
is sprayed or screen-printed on the metal
surface, dried, and then cured. The result is an
extremely durable surface similar to that found
on many appliances.
- In design, the relationship between the
design elements such that opposing forces have
equal distribution of weight in the layout. The
overall quality of a design that makes it feels
- A device that operates as part of a
fluorescent lamp and is designed primarily to
provide sufficient starting voltage. The ballast
may also heat the lamp electrodes and, once the
tube is in operation, limit the amount of
electrical energy going through the lamp.
- ballpoint Braille
- Small beads that are inserted into sign faces
to accommodate Braille information, as required
by the A.D.A. These beads can be clear, plastic
or metal depending on the material into which
they are inserted. See also Braille bullets /
- In a color gradation, visibly distinct
differences, or sequential patterns between color
levels, instead of a smooth transition of colors
or other effects. Banding can take place in
continuous-tone images on a display using less
than 24-bit information, or when printing
gradients without sufficient color information.
Can also apply to an imperfect airbrushed or
- A sign made of fabric, plastic, or other
nonrigid material which has no enclosing
framework. It may be painted, screen-printed,
digitally printed, or decorated with vinyl. See
- 1. The trim beneath the bottom molding
of a sign or bulletin. 2. The foundation
or support of freestanding sign. See also
footing. 3. The first or background
color(s) in screen-printing.
- A large outdoor board used for posting
advertising. The name comes from the traditional
practice of posting bills, or prepainted
messages. In the 19th century, it became common
for businesses to lease separate board space for
their bills, hence the name billboard.
- A substance that binds two other substances
together. For instance, lacquer is used as a
binder when painting with some metallic dusts.
Many paints require binders.
- Describing when arranged pixels comprising a
graphic or an image become visible/detectible by
the human eye. When incompatible image file
formats are imported, often the graphic will
appear bitmapped with squared-off pixels
resulting in jagged edge effect on perimeter of
line art or loss of resolution on images.
- blade sign
- A type of projecting sign mounted on a
building facade or storefront pole or attached to
a surface perpendicular to the sign's surface and
to the normal flow of traffic.
- An undecorated face with no cabinet. Also
- In screen-printing, bleed refers to the
portion of an image that extends beyond the area
of the finished print. When the print is cut or
die-cut, the bleed is cut away. Bleed is also
used to describe the area where one color
overprints or traps another for purposes of
registration. See also trapping.
- blind fasteners
- Mechanical attachment devices hidden from
view that facilitate the attachment of signs,
lettering or sculptured pieces to other surfaces.
Can be vandal-resistant, tamperproof, removable,
or permanent. Also called concealed
- The end result of poor adhesion by either
paint or vinyl to a substrate, leaving the
surface covered with bumps of various sizes and
indeterminate shapes similar to blisters on the
- block colors
- Colors that are printed without gradations,
tints, or shades, that is, in "poster
- 1. An opaque paint used in the
production of neon signs to block out the
crossover connections between letters. Special
paints have been formulated for this purpose that
offer a high degree of adherence to glass, as
well as resistance to weather, heat, light, high
voltages, and corona discharge. Paints with
metallic bases should be avoided because of their
ability to conduct electricity. 2. A type
of liquid mask used to seal accidental holes in a
stencil in areas not intended to be
- A thick low post, or series of posts that
help define or border a pedestrian or other
- Building Owners and Managers
- A process where sheet metal is zinc-coated
and then treated to allow paint to adhere. Used
in created baked enamel signs.
- Most commonly a line or repetitive design
used to emphasize or set apart all or portions of
a sign's art. In electric signs, illuminated
tubes and arrows or decorative molding may also
serve as borders.
- bounding box
- The area of an on-screen image at its maximum
x- and y-axis measurements. Altering the bounding
box by moving its control points can change the
shape or size of an image. Bounding boxes allow
scaling of all graphics images in PostScript file
- Raised bumps or dots set in established
patterns to communicate letters and words to the
visually impaired. Grade 2 Braille is required by
A.D.A., due to its more widespread use in the
visually impaired community. System created by
Louis Braille (1809-52) by modifying the Barbier
"point writing" system used for coded army
- Braille bullets /
- See ballpoint braille.
- A pole and foundation system where the pole
detaches cleanly from the foundation upon impact.
Required by many state highway authorities.
- A large advertising poster.
- An alloy of copper and tin with traces of
other metals (zinc, nickel, and lead), used for
sculpture, sign plaques, and dimensional
lettering. Letters or forms can be cut out of
solid material (using a band saw or a waterjet).
It can be cast (sand-cast, ceramic mold-cast). It
can be fabricated from thin sheets to create
dimensional letters (fabricated and soldered).
Bronze signs may be lacquered to prevent
oxidation, pre-oxidized, or left to oxidize
naturally. Many finishes are available; patinaed,
oil-rubbed, clear-lacquered, polished, brushed,
- brushed finish
- A nonreflective, textured finish mechanically
or chemically applied to metal for decorative
purposes. Grained effect is usually created using
sandpaper. Long grain finish applied by hand or
via belt sander. Short grain finish applied by
using a drum sander.
- Outdoor advertising method in which the
client's message is either painted directly on a
large steel or plywood board or preprinted and
then posted. Common bulletin sizes are
10'6" x 36' and 14' x 48'.
Also known as a billboard.
- bulletin colors
- Specially prepared enamel paints preferred by
many sign painters for handlettering. Bulletin
colors are formulated to cover well, dry quickly,
and resist fading.
- This process is recommended to bring a neon
tube to its proper brilliance. It is done by
connecting the completed tube to a transformer
similar to that which will be used in the
installation, and allowing it to remain lighted
until proper brightness, color, and electrical
properties are achieved. Also called aging.
- To polish by rubbing. For instance, after
gold leaf is applied to a substrate, it is
burnished with a cotton cloth to bring up the
shine and reveal any holes where the leaf will
have to be applied a second time.
- butt joint
- See seam.
- Computer-aided design.
- A method of forming plastic sheeting by
pressure under a roller.
- Computer-aided machine.
- camera-ready art
- Artwork that has been prepared for production
via photographic process. Has been replaced with
scanned and digital imagery.
- An informal term for the edge and components
of an electric sign. Some sign companies buy
ready-made cans and only manufacture the faces of
electric signs. Also called sign cabinet.
- A unit of measure indicating the intensity
produced by a ray of artificial light in a given
direction (used for point by point calculations).
- See awning.
- carved letters
- Usually v-carved, u-carved or squared-carved
into wood or stone. Created by hand-carving with
chisel and mallet, sandblasting technique, or by
a computer-controlled router or engraver. Two
types of carving, bas-relief and incised, are
generally done by hand.
- carved signs
- Letters or shapes incised or relieved into
sign substrate surface. Can refer to routing
process but normally used as term with regard to
hand-carving or sandblasting into stone, wood or
- Computer-aided signmaking.
- cast acrylic
- A type of plastic sheeting formed by
spreading a molten vinyl mixture on a carrier
sheet or web, and then baking at high
temperatures to remove solvents and to fuse the
remaining material into a film.
- cast dimensional
- Typically cast aluminum, bronze, acrylic, or
- A method for mass-producing metal or plastic
letters or individual metal signs. Depending on
the material, a rubber, metal, or sand form mold
of the item to be cast is prepared. The molten
material is then poured into the mold. Once the
cast material is cool, it is removed from the
mold and finished.
- cast metal sign
- Usually aluminum or bronze plaque or
- changeable copy
- A sign on which the copy can be changed,
either manually through the use of attachable
letters (usually plastic), mechanically using
rotating panel elements, or 7 electronically
using computer-controlled incandescent bulbs,
light-emitting diodes (LED), liquid crystal
displays (LCD), plasma screen, etc. See also LED
sign, LCD sign.
- An extruded length of material (plastic,
aluminum, steel) in the shape of a squaredoff U
(a rectangular box with one side removed).
Structural channel has rounded, or radiused,
interior corners and more inherent strength than
architectural channel, which has crisp, 90-degree
- channel letter
- The outline of a letter, with metal returns,
into which a neon tube is placed. The depth of
the channel may vary, depending on the viewing
angle. The channel letter may be openfaced,
plastic-faced, or a reverse channel letter with
- An intense period of time during which a
great amount of energy is dedicated to solving a
specific design problem or problems by a given
deadline. It is the French word for "cart," and
was originally used by students at the Ecole de
Beaux Arts in Paris when, after working all
night, they would load their boards onto a cart
and push it from the student quarter to the
school, shouting "Charrette! Charrette!" to avoid
collisions with pedestrians.
- 1. The illusion of movement in
illuminated signs created by turning the lighting
elements on and off in sequence., achieved by
using a chaser, an electric component that can be
programmed to provide the on and off sequence, or
a computer control. 2. To decorate metal,
typically by engraving or cutting.
- chrome plate
- An electrochemical process to plate steel,
brass, or aluminum most commonly with mirror
chrome, but it can also be brushed or dulled
down. Black chrome and nickel plate are created
by the same electrochemical process but using
different metal compounds. See also metal
- A facade or decorative cover added to an
existing sign pole or base, installed well after
the rest of the sign is built.
- classic glass
- Tubing used for neon signs or artwork in
which the glass itself is colored, achieving a
deep, saturated color not possible with clear
glass and phosphorous coatings; typically a
sodalime& ndash;based glass.
- The shortest distance between the lowest
portion of a sign or awning and the finished
grade level. Also called height above grade.
- The process of applying a protective film to
a sign. Coating includes such diverse activities
as applying a layer of varnish over gold leaf to
laminating clear vinyl over a digitally produced
- To paint the surface of a sign face before
the art is applied. In addition to priming new
substrates, it is possible to coat-out an old
sign and apply new lettering.
- Typically refers to a municipality's sign
regulations or sign code.
- cold cathode
- The technical name for all forms of pumped
gas, e.g., neon lighting. In the United States
this term is typically used to refer to 18mm to
25mm tubing operating at currents between
60 mA and 240 mA. These neon lights
also have electrodes that depend on a large
emission surface area rather than high
temperature for their operation.
- The aspect of any object described by the
hue, lightness, and saturation of electromagnetic
waves within the wavelength spectrum visible to
the human eye.
- color contrast
- The differential between foregound lettering
a sign and the backgorund panel
- color separation
- In screen-printing, the pre-press process
during which each individual color in the art is
isolated for creation of its own stencil. In
process-color printing and digital printing, the
image is divided into separate stencils for
yellow, magenta, cyan, and black. Although the
process of making color separations used to be
done manually or using colored negatives or
filters, today the job is relegated to the
computer, which also generates color separations
for large-format imaging.
- color wheel
- Diagrammatic arrangement of the visible
spectrum of electromagnetic radiation (color) in
a circular fashion so that the primary colors
(red, yellow, blue) are located 180 degrees from
the secondary colors that complement them (green,
violet, orange, respectively).
- Vertical groups of lamps in a lamp bank, or a
vertical row of light-emitting diodes in an LED
- One of the parts or pieces that together make
a complete system or design. Reference is often
made to design components or the electrical
components of a sign.
- composite pole
- A pole made of PVC pipe with an internal core
or concrete or agregate.
- See blind fasteners.
- concrete sign
- Includes poured-in-place, precast, or other
sign products having the qualities of cement.
Concrete is the substrate to which plaques,
letters, or panels are attached, painted on, cast
into, incised into, sandblasted into, etc., to
create an identifying device.
- A font, the proportion of which has been
altered by reducing the width of the letters,
numbers, and symbols to bring them closer
together, therefore shortening the line.
- A channel or pipe for protecting electric
- A fence around construction site,
occasionally decorated with descriptive,
advertising, or identification graphics. Normally
fabricated using wooden structural members and
plywood sheets in exterior application or sheet
metal studs and sheetrock or plywood for interior
- construction site
- Announces project credits and information
regarding a construction project such as
architect, developer, consultants, financing,
etc. Typically painted, vinyl, or digital print
mounted onto plywood or exterior-grade particle
board substrate. Also called job site sign.
- Written specifications and design control
drawings. Usually used to define the deliverable
sign products between two parties (typically
between the designer / owner and the fabricator /
contractor). See also design intent drawings,
- In design, the use of dissimilar or opposing
elements, such as light and dark areas, warm and
cool colors, or script and block typefaces.
- control console
- In electronic signage, the device that
receives information entered on a keyboard by the
operator and transfers that information to the
sign's message controller.
- control point
- In computer graphics, a connection between
two line/arc segments or a selectable handle on a
bounding box. Moving a control point changes the
shape of an object, altering a line path, shape,
or size. Also called node.
- A point that can be referenced by its
position on the x-, y-, or z-axes of a plotter or
router. The use of line or arc segments to
connect coordinates creates paths for knives
orbits to follow when cutting or routing an
- Most commonly, the words or message to be
displayed on a sign. May be expanded to include
all graphics on a sign face. See also art /
- A material produced from marble dust.
- corona treatment
- A process that alters static charge of sheet
material, especially corrugated plastic, for
greater adhesion of media used for
- corrugated board
- A board created by gluing a corrugated piece
to a flat face, or between two flat faces to
increase the strength. Corrugated board is made
from a variety of materials (most commonly
plastic in sign work) and comes in a range of
strengths and thicknesses.
- cor-ten steel
- A steel alloy that forms a tenacious,
self-protecting rust layer when exposed to the
atmosphere. A material with a unique appearance
well used in applications where maintenance is an
issue. Also called weathering steel.
- In a given typeface, the enclosed areas
within letterforms or symbols, such as those
found in the letters a, b, d, e, g and o.
- cove lighting
- A type of indirect illumination created by
placing a lighting source inside a continuous
trough or cove to hide the light source and
produce an upward glow. Usually produced using
neon, cold cathode, or fiber-optic tube
- The area (usually given in square inches or
feet) that a given material will coat-out, e.g.,
a quart of paint will provide coverage for
- Thin cracks or breaks in paint, plastic, or
vinyl. Although the main cause of crazing is
weathering, it may also be caused by the
incompatibility of paint layers or solvents.
- A horizontal arm that is attached to a sign.
The crossbar typically runs perpendicular to the
sign's face and parallel to the building's
facade. It is used with guy wires to help
stabilize building-mounted signs.
- The connection between two portions of a neon
tube. It is not supposed to be seen in the
finished sign. Typically, crossovers are coated
with blockout, although they can also be wound
- CRT (cathode ray tube) screen
- Used for television screens and computer
monitors. They can be used individually (as seen
in airport arrival / departure signs) or adapted
for electronic displays by stacking a grid of
monitors together and generating computer images.
See also electronic message signs.
- Construction Specifications Institute.
- The process of effecting a chemical change in
some inks by the application of heat or
- The flux, or rate of flow, of electrical
charge in a conductor. A unit of current is
typically given in amperes or milliamps
- The process of producing depressed letters in
a surface, particularly those produced by
engraving dies or plates.
- An applique of words, graphics, or a
combination of the two, screen-printed on the
nonadhesive side of vinyl film, then cut to a
specified shape using a plotter or die. Decals
are often created when a large number of
identical pieces are required.
- The process of removing residual oil or
grease from a material.
- The separation of layers in a laminated
substrate. The main cause of delamination is
- The quality of being close or compact; dense.
In physics, density is a ratio of the mass of an
object to its volume. In signmaking, it is a
measurement used to express the hardness of foam
boards, expressed in pounds-per-cubic-foot.
- The amount of ink applied to a
- In a given typeface, the portions of the
lowercase g, j, p,
q, y, and in some fonts
f as well as uppercase J that
extend below the baseline of the letter. See also
- At its simplest, a synonym for layout. Also,
the process involved in creating a sign including
conceptualizing the idea, choosing the colors,
typefaces, and graphics, and arranging to be most
effective for the given situation.
- design intent
- Drawings that show only the size, profile,
and basic relationship of parts, but no specific
details of material or construction. Usually,
these drawings are provided as bid documents from
which the selected fabricator develops shop
drawings and/or prototypes to define and confirm
- Refers to the outline made with a steel-rule
die manufactured for the purpose of cutting out a
particular shape or job. Die-cutting is commonly
done when a large number of items, such as
decals, are to be cut, or the shape consists of
something other than straight lines. Die-cut can
also refer to the object that has been cut.
- digital color
- Computerized output (usually sheet materials)
that can be applied to fabric, vinyl, paper,
high-pressure laminates, fiberglass embedment,
and other material.
- directional sign
- A sign intended to provide directional
information. While a directional sign may be
considered any on-premise sign that provides such
information, the Highway Beautification Act sets
guidelines for the size, placement, and content
of purely directional signs.
- Usually a list of names of people, offices,
or destinations at a specific building, facility
or public venue. May provide text listings or
include maps, site plans, or diagrams.
- Commonly used misnomer for identifying
facilities for persons with disabilities. These
misnomers include "disabled access", "disabled
parking", etc. "Accessible parking" is the term
used in many areas. Legal requirements vary from
state to state.
- Process of recording and conveying design
intent information. Used as a tool for recording
and reviewing shapes and data throughout design
process, from schematics through design
development to design intent drawings and finally
to contract documents. See also schematic design,
design intent drawings, contract documents.
- donor recognition
- A sign, plaque, or graphic display to
recognize and honor the contributions of a
person(s) or organization to an entity, project,
or a facility.
- D.O.T. / DOT symbols
- The US Department of Transportation has
issued international symbols for transportation
graphics that have become a standard in vehicular
and pedestrian signing in the United States.
- double back
- A 180-degree bend used in neon tubes to
produce such letters as R, E,
F, and G, as well as other
designs. Often used to describe the technique and
placement of the electrode on a neon unit.
- A sign with two parallel but opposing faces;
a back-to-back sign.
- double tube
- Two neon tubes running parallel to each
other, often used to create outlines or
- In the manufacture of plastic letters and
sign faces by embossing, debossing, or
vacuumforming, draw is the depth of the shaped
letter or face from the original plane of the
- A colorant that is dissolved in a liquid and
applied to a surface or texture to change
- The part of the sign that encloses the back
and face or faces; the frame.
- edge lighting
- A technique used to illuminate (by internal
refraction) carved, incised, or sandblasted
lettering and images, usually glass or acrylic,
by lighting the edge of the transparent
- The act of chamfering a sharp corner.
- egg crate
- A patterned piece of plastic installed below
a light source in illuminated awnings or light
fixtures to protect the light source from damage
or direct visibility, as well as to soften and
evenly distribute the transmitted light.
electric changeable message sign
- A misnomer for an electronic message
- electric sign
- A sign that contains electrical fixtures or
- A terminal that conducts an electrical
current between two conducting substances.
Electrodes are found at both of the ends of a
- electronic art
- Digital data and artwork files (formerly
called "camera-ready art") used in production of
signs and graphic elements. Shapes and text are
converted to paths (outlines) and used in
defining path of knife, laser, router, waterjet,
- A sign that utilizes computer-generated
messages or other electric means of changing
text. Changeable message displays/signs may use
incandescent lamps, LEDs, LCDs, and other
- Dynamic, changeable signs which may be any of
the following: an EMD sign, an led sign, an lcd
sign, or a crt sign. See also video wall, plasma
screens, flat screens.
- PVC medium treated with a small charge of
electricity, enabling the sheeting to
temporarily, but firmly, adhere to glass and
similar smooth substrates.
- A mark or series of marks (. . .) used in
writing or printing to indicate an omission,
especially of letters or words. It can also
indicate continuing thought.
- A common misnomer for fiberglass
- Any addition to a sign face that provides a
three-dimensional effect. Cut-outs, push-through
shapes/letters, neon strips, and clocks are all
examples of embellishments.
- The process of producing raised letters,
particularly those produced by engraving dies or
- See electronic message center. Also called
electronic message signs.
- EMD (electromagnetic device)
- Magnetically controlled disks that flip on
and off to create changeable messages and are
controlled with digital technology. See also
electronic message signs.
- A semiliquid material that dries hard and is
used in preparing stencils for
- Descriptive term as applied to metal and gold
leaf finishes. Appearance of material altered by
spinning (turning) a series of uniform circles
into the surface in rows. The rows then overlap
in a symmetrical orderly manner to produce a
unique finish. Most commonly seen applied to
burnished, gold leaf , or stainless steel
- A method of marking metal, plastic, or glass
in shallow, negative relief utilizing a bit or
graver. Engraving may be done freehand, using a
pantograph, or by computer-driven equipment. The
engraved area may be filled to create greater
- entrance canopy
- A canopy or awning attached to the facade of
a building to provide shelter and to define the
building entrance. Often used as a vehicle for
- The planning, design, and execution of
graphic elements in the built and natural
environment. Environmental graphics includes
communication systems that identify, direct,
inform, interpret, and visually enhance the
- A common form of adhesive (glue) that
produces a very strong adhesive bond between
substrates. Epoxy comes in liquid or putty form
and in two parts. The epoxy base is intermixed
with a catalyst immediately before application.
Once the two parts are mixed, working time is
- To place a sign and sign support structure in
its final location; install.
- etched and paint-filled
- Etched (chemically) or incised (mechanically
or by the abrasive method) and then filled with
color to create a desired contrast and
- See acid-etching.
- A font in which the proportion of the
letters, numbers, and symbols, has been altered
by increasing their width.
- A substance added to an ink to improve is
working quality or to extend the volume.
- Illumination that is provided from a source
separate from the sign itself, such as a
- extruded acrylic
- See extrusion.
- A part that's created by forcing a raw
material (usually metal or plastic) through a die
to create the desired shape. Often used to refer
to the extruded aluminum members that make up the
frames of awnings. PVC boards are also created
through the extrusion process.
- To manufacture a sign or major sign
components from raw materials or parts. Common
steps in fabrication process include but are not
limited to cutting, welding, grinding, machining,
riveting, bending, rolling, sanding, polishing,
routing, waterjet cutting, laser cutting, taping,
- A dimensional letter that is usually
fabricated from thin metal, joined, and soldered
to appear solid.
- The front or principal entrance of a
- See sign face.fascia-mounted sign
- A flat sign that is mounted on a wall and
whose face runs parallel to the wall . A
fascia-mounted sign might project from the wall
on which it is mounted. See also wall sign.
- Mechanical items, including nuts and bolts,
that help hold a sign together.
- A type of sign that transmits the message
utilizing light directed through threadlike
fibers of glass or plastic. The big advantage to
fiber-optic displays is their ability to be
shaped into fantastic images without defusing the
light the fibers carry.
- fiber optics
- Strands or bundles of light-transmitting
fibers, usually plastic or glass, used in
specialty lighting conditions for signage. The
light source can be several feet away from the
display, and the light can be emitted from the
sides of the bundles or from the ends. It is
easier to maintain (and uses less energy) than
other methods used for similar application, as
single light source can service long runs of
- Shorthand term referring to glass-fiber
reinforced polyester. It can be used in sheet
form to compose sign faces and cabinets or can be
cast into custom forms, both projecting and in
relief. May also be called spun glass when used
in dimensional forms.
- Subsurface signage usually used outdoor
signage and maps composed of paper or other
media, embedded in glass-fiber reinforced
polyester resin. Also called embedded
fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP)
- Glass fibers are added to the heat-resistant
polyester resin to form an FRP. It has
durability, a clean surface after the forming and
heat treatment, flexibility in size, light, heat
resistance, and good insulation qualities.
- fillet weld
- A weld at the inside intersection of two
metal surfaces that meet at right angles to one
- A piece of plastic or cloth, usually square
or rectangular in shape and suspended by its top
or one side. It may or may not be decorated; most
often used as a temporary attention-getting
device. See also banner.
- The ability of a material to burn under
certain conditions. Flammability becomes a
concern with electric signs and some indoor
displays and is usually subject to fire code
- A mechanical device designed to interrupt the
electrical current in a sign at regular
intervals, turning the light source on and off to
create a flashing image.
- flat screen
- Usually a LCD screen used in electronic sign
- Translucent woven vinyl cloth that is
decorated and then stretched across a frame to
form awnings, billboards, and other types of
- A device used in some electronic changeable
copy signs, installed in a disk, door, cube, or
sphere. It opens and closes electromagnetically,
displaying a colored or black surface. Flipper
signs are often used as an alternative to
incandescent bulb displays.
- flood stroke
- In screen-printing, inking the image areas of
the screen between printing strokes.
- Taking in radiation and sending it back out
as visible light. Refers to some specialty colors
of paint and vinyl, and ink used in
- A type of lamp in which the light is produced
by the fluorescence of a phosphor coating in the
tube. The coated tube is filled with a mix of
argon gas and mercury. When electrical current
passes between the electrodes, the gas mixture
emits ultraviolet (UV) light. The UV light is
absorbed by the phosphors, which then radiate the
energy as visible light. A starter and ballast
help regulate the current and voltage necessary
to ionize the gases in the tube. Fluorescent
lamps are more efficient than incandescent bulbs
and are popular source of illumination for many
- To set lines of copy so that they are aligned
perpendicular at a right margin (flush right) or
left margin (flush left). When the copy is
flushed both right and left (full flush), we more
commonly say it is justified.
- foam board
- A type of lightweight, rigid board used for
interior signs. Foam board consists of a plastic
foam sheet laminated on one or both sides by a
variety of paper or plastic substrates.
- foam tape
- Typically double-sided adhesive tape used for
mounting sign plaques, letters, or other sign
materials to vertical surfaces. Comes in black or
white and in various thicknesses (1/32" to 1/8"
thick) and widths (1/2" to 1" wide).
- focal point
- The area in a design or layout that first
catches the eyes. In effective design, the main
message the sign seeks to convey will often be
located at the focal point.
- A specific style and group of letterforms
consisting of one complete set of letters,
numerals, symbols, and punctuation used for
composing written communications in a given
typeface. Typically provided in digital form
(formerly available in hot metal and photographic
composed typography). Fonts come in various
weights (i.e., light, regular, bold and black
weights). Many fonts also are provided in italic
formats. Fonts can be condensed (made to look
narrower) or extended (wider).
- The projecting base of a sign pole or pylon,
including the portion that is buried in the
ground. The footing bears all of the weight of
the sign, keeping it straight and true while
anchoring it against overturning moment. Normally
engineered to withstand wind gusts of 90 miles
per hour or more depending on geographic region.
Also called foundation.
- The workable space within which the art and
copy must fit; the shape and area of a sign face.
Also, format may describe the general make-up of
a sign, such as: the format is a sandblasted wood
sign with a push-through logo.
- Refers to the plastic face or letter that has
been heated and shaped to give it dimension.
- See footing.
- See process color.
- In screen-printing, the wood or metal
construction to which the mesh is attached.
- frangible sign
- A break-away sign mount, typically used on
posts along roadways to break away on impact and
cause less damage in accidents.
- To draw by hand without the use of
measurements or instruments.
- friction feed
- Process where material is fed through a
plotter by placing it between a motordriven grit
wheel and two tensioned pinch rollers.
- An adhesive masking of paper or plastic used
for (stencil-like methods of) painting,
sandblasting, silkscreening, and other processes.
Friskets may be hand-cut or digitally cut.
- See fiberglass-reinforced plastic.
- The process by which steel or iron is
protected by a zinc coating or plating, achieved
by hot-dipping the metal into molten zinc or by
electrolysis. The galvanized coating protects the
underlying metal for between 15 and 30 years, but
requires a special primer before coating.
- gateway sign
- Typically a sign at the entry to a
neighborhood or large facility, graciously
announcing the entrance to a grand destination.
Also called precinct sign.
- A measure of the thickness of sheet metal. In
the sign industry, most sheet metal ranges from
10 to 26 gauge.
- See glass-fiber reinforced concrete.
- Considered by many to be the highest form of
sign art, gilding is the application of thin
metal sheets to glass, signs, and vehicles. After
the work surface is clean and the design is
marked out, a gelatin sizing is brushed on the
area to be gilded. The gold leaf is lightly
applied to the work site using a gilder's tip and
static electricity. After the entire area is dry,
the gold leaf is burnished and holes and
imperfections in the gild are filled. The final
step, if the gild is reversed on a window, is
painting the backs of the letters (and an
outline) or outlining them if it is a direct
gild. On outdoor application, a protective clear
coat is sometimes applied when the gilding is on
glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC)
- Concrete with an integral strengthening
admixture of short alkali-resistant glass
- glass signs
- Painting, carving, sandblasting and/or
etching are the most popular ways to decorate
glass for signage.
- A ceramic coating matured to a glassy state
on a formed ceramic article such as tile. This is
achieved through application of intense heat in a
kiln. The term also refers to the material or
mixture from which the coating is derived.
- 1. The act or process of furnishing or
fitting with glass. 2. A transparent or
translucent color applied to modify the effect of
a painted surface.
- The shine on a smooth surface, such as paint
or vinyl. Varying degrees of gloss are high gloss
(also called "mirror finish"), semigloss,
eggshell, satin, matte, etc.
- A device used to measure the reflective
degree of a surface, from specular (mirror
finish) to matte (dull, nonreflecting).
- gold leaf
- Gold manufactured into thin leaves; the gold
used in gilding. Gold leaf comes between sheets
of tissue, with each leaf 3 3/8" square. The
leaves are packaged in books of 25, and a
cardboard box of 20 books is sold as a pack. Gold
leaf comes in a range of colors and karats, with
14 to 18 karat for use on interior
applications such as glass. The best gold leaf,
23 karat, is reserved for exterior work on
vehicles, signs, and architectural
- goose neck
- The curved support for a light fixture
normally constructed out of steel conduit. It is
used on billboard and storefront signs as a
- gradation / gradient
- Steps of transition between two colors or
between black and white, created by mixing
percentages of a dominant and secondary .
- The contour of the ground surface, whether in
its natural state or after development. The
placement of the signs is often measured as
height above grade.
- Grade 2 Braille
- Grade 2 Braille is similar to Grade 1
Braille, but it includes additional characters
and character combinations representing
contractions of certain words and word components
such as "the" and "ation." Considerable care must
be taken to translate grade 2 Braille correctly,
using a computer-based or other translation
program, and it must be proofread by a Braille
proofreader to approve all final artwork.
- grid tubes
- Neon tubes laid out in regularly spaced
parallel or concentric lines for lighting
translucent signs or channel letters.
- grit wheel
- The motor-driven roller that moves material
through a friction-feed plotter. The grit feed
wheel is usually machined to roughen its surface
and provide a better grip on the material; some
are still coated with a coarse, fine-grit
material to provide traction, hence the
- A reinforced metal eyelet found in banners
used to receive cords or other fasteners.
- ground sign
- A freestanding sign that is mounted on poles
or braces, with no secondary support.
- A spreading or reflection of light, a
halo-like effect that occurs in reverse reading
letters, where the background is significantly
darker than the illuminated letters.
- The process of converting images into a
regular array of dots of various sizes with equal
spacing between centers. Also the process of
reproducing an image as a series of dots of
various sizes within a fixed grid.
- A ring of light, the effect achieved by
reverse channel letters, which appear to be
ringed by light because the light source is
reflecting on the background from which the
letters are pinned out.
- halo lighting
- Typically used for back-lit letters
(reverse-pan channel letters) to create a glow of
light around the letter by illuminating the wall
surface from within the letterform.
- A method for making a screen-printing stencil
where a knife is used to manually cut a design
into a film temporarily affixed to a support
- This word is no longer used and is considered
offensive. See disabled access.
- hanging sign
- A double-face sign that hangs from a bracket
or support and projects from a wall, building, or
pole. See also projecting sign.
- A separate board above the rest of a sign
that gives it a headline or contains a different
advertising message for the same product. Most
often seen in point-of-purchase advertising.
- A type of adhesive that isn't sticky at room
temperature but undergoes a chemical
transformation when heated.
- The process of heating any thermoform
plastic, such as PVC boards, acrylics, laminates,
etc., and then bending them to desired
- The vertical distance from the grade to the
highest point of the sign face. Sign codes often
limit allowable height of signs.
- height above
- See clearance.
- Papers impregnated with thermosetting
melamine and phenolic resins bonded at high
temperatures (some well-known brands are Formica,
WilsonArt, and Nevamar, for example) which are
available in sheet sizes up to
48" x 144" x 1/16" and come
in dozens of standard colors and patterns. Now
available with custom digital artwork embedment
suitable for outdoor use as well.
- hinged side
- The face on a double-face sign that swings
open for service.
- A vinyl installation process where a cut
vinyl image, the carrier liner, and the transfer
tape are placed on the target surface; a piece of
masking tape is then attached to the top edge of
the transfer tape. The liner is then slowly
rolled off from the top edge and then the
transfer tape (and vinyl image) are slowly
smoothed onto the surface. A variation of this is
to leave an exposed strip of transfer tape above
the top edge of the liner, instead of separate
piece of masking tape, to act as a hinge.
- A graphic display that represents the
distribution of tones within an image.
- Made from porcelain or Pyrex glass, a housing
is mounted in the sign and provides the contact
between the electrode and the lead-in wire.
- A particular variety of a color, such as a
tint or shade. One of the components of color
that can be specified by particular
- See waterjet cutting.
- A sign giving the name of the business for
purposes of identification.
- illuminated sign
- A sign which is lighted by either an internal
electrical source or external flood lights.
- incidental sign
- Signs, usually smaller in size and of a
noncommercial nature, that appear in almost every
location the public might be found. Examples of
incidental signs include hours of operation,
location of rest rooms, and entrance and exit
- Decorated by cutting into or indenting the
surface of a material. Incised letters are carved
or engraved into surface of stone, wood, plastic,
or sandblasted into glass or stone.
- Plastic or fabric signage that assumes a
three-dimensional shape when filled with air
under pressure or with helium gas. A temporary
sign that is often seen as part of a special
- The mixture of colored pigments in a suitable
liquid used for screen-printing or digital
printing. Inks are typically either water-based
or solvent-based, and their selection is based
primarily on the substrate to be printed. They
form a solid surface after either curing or
- Describes a substrate that can be made wet by
ink when printed and that will bond with the ink
after drying or curing.
- To write, print, carve, or engrave (words or
letters) on or in a surface. To mark or engrave
(a surface) with words or letters.
- See blank.
symbol of accessibility (ISA)
- The international symbol of accessibility is
used primarily to communicate
wheelchair-accessible routes and entrances.
- Of or relating to a two-way electronic or
communications system in which response is direct
and continual. Interactive displays incorporate a
touch screen, buttons or switches, or a keyboard
to generate a signal that activates an
information display. Also used to describe
nontechnical activity, as when an exhibit user's
action is rewarded with a reaction from the
- A sign that is lighted through the use of
internal electric fixtures or lamp banks. See
also back-lighted sign.
- interpretive sign or
- A sign that provides permanent cultural or
historic information in addition to building or
- See international symbol of
- Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency
Act. An act of the Federal Highway Administration
granting funds to state transporation authorities
for new highway and road development. Part of
ISTEA money is set aside for multi-modal
transportation and signage. Also see TEA-21.
- An informal term for the viisual
stair-stepping edges that occur in an image when
the image resolution is too low. See also
- An angled rod, usually steel, embedded in a
concrete footing, or anchor, and threaded at the
exposed top end for attachment to a freestanding
- job site sign
- See construction site sign.
- JPEG (joint photographic exports
- A graphics file format designed for use with
photographs and other color bitmap files. The
JPEG format uses a mathematical technique to
create files that are smaller than those created
using other file formats, while maintaining a
- Describes copy that is set with even margins
on the left and right (achieved by irregular word
and letter spacing). See also flush.
- The cut made by a saw or blade.
- The process of moving pairs of letters
farther apart or closer together to make them
appear more evenly spaced. Most layout software
offers an automatic kerning feature which greatly
reduces the need for manual kerning. See also
- kick plate
- A metal or plastic plate or strip that runs
along the bottom edge of a sign structure or
kiosk to protect against marring of the finished
surface by kicking or cleaning equipment.
- Traditionally a small structure used for
posting temporary signs and notices. A
freestanding structure onto (and into) which
messages and pertinent information can be housed
and displayed. Many kiosks have interactive
elements such as touch screen monitors. May be
portable or permanent.
- knife bevel
- The angle of the vertical cutting edge of a
blade. The angle is increased to aid knife travel
through thicker material that produces more
friction between the blade and medium.
- A clear finishing material similar to varnish
and preferred by sign makers because of its
abilities to dry quickly and to not be affected
by the presence of dust. It may also be used as a
binder with pigments such as silver dust.
- laminated glass
- A glazing material consisting of outer layers
of glass laminated to (and held together by), and
encasing, an inner layer of transparent
polycarbonate film. In graphics and architecture,
patterns and images can be applied to the plastic
interlayer to create desired design effect.
- A process by which different materials are
lacquered and then bonded together. The end
result may be the creation of a substrate, such
as medium-density overlay (MDO), or protection of
the underlying surface, as when a clear plastic
film is laminated to a decorated surface.
- lamp bank
- The part of a message center that the public
sees; a regular array of small lamps which
display messages by their on and off
- lap joint
- A connection in which two pieces of material
are overlapped before fastening.
- lateral force
- A force acting in a horizontal direction,
such as wind, earthquake, or soil pressure
against a sign face, foundation wall, or
- The total arrangement of a sign's graphics.
Shows the overall plan of how the art copy will
be arranged on the face.
- Typographic term from the long-gone days of
cold lead typesetting, where thin lines of lead
were placed between lines for to provide spacing
within a paragraph. In contemporary nomenclature,
leading refers to line spacing.
- LCD (liquid crystal display)
- A type of changeable copy sign utilizing
liquid crystals that become opaque or clear when
exposed to a controlled voltage. Although LCDs
are most common in calculators and digital
watches, they are also used in some time and
- LED (light emitting diode)
- Consists of a small light source that emits
colored light (usually red, but also green,
yellow, blue and white) from a very small amount
of electricity and is used for electronic
"message" signs. These signs became popular in
the 1970s because they were inexpensive and
allowed scrolling/changing messages to be used in
commercial applications. Advances in LED
technology have made them more useful for
interior and exterior message displays. See also
electronic message signs.
- The quality of a sign's typefaces that allows
it to be easily read and deciphered. See also
- The addition of space between individual
characters or numerals. See also tracking.
- letter styles
- Serif, sans serif, slab serif, italic, light,
roman, medium, demi-bold, bold, extra bold. See
- An established set of numbers representing
approximate visibility of letters over a range of
distances. Ranges from a 3" letter which has a
maximum impact readable distance of 30' and a
maximum readable distance of to a 60" letter
which has a maximum impact readable distance of
600' and a maximum readable distance of 2500'.
Readable distances vary with various color
combinations and type faces as well as with
surrounding visual busyness, and whether the
observer is still or in motion.
- A trade name for polycarbonate plastic
- life safety signs
- Used for police, fire, security, evacuation,
and other life safety information, subject to
local code enforcement and review.
diode (LED) sign
- See led sign.
reflectance value (LRV)
- The amount of light reflected by a given
color. For instance, yellow has a higher light
reflectance value than purple does.
- line screen
- Used to define the density of a screened or
halftone image. That is, a 133-line screen
contains a pattern with 133 halftone dots per
linear inch. The higher the number, the higher
the resolution, and in turn the higher quality of
detail in reproduction of original artwork.
- line spacing
- Typographic term used to describe distance
from letter baseline to letter baseline in blocks
of text. Also called leading.
- In lamp arrays, vertically stacked lamp banks
creating a single line of copy. A line is
typically seven or nine lamps in height.
crystal display (LCD) sign
- See lcd sign.
- An often stylized group of letters, words,
symbols, or shapes used to represent a business
or product. The use of a company's logo can be
regulated by the federal government once it is
registered. See also trademark.
- See light reflectance value.
- A unit of measurement of light.
- The quality of given off light by the
absorption of radiant energy. Used to describe
any cold light. See also fluorescent.
- luminous tubing
- See neon tubing.
- magnesium plate (mag
- Composite metal sign material which can be
acid-etched with fine detail for use in interior
and exterior signs. Good for exterior-grade
A.D.A. signs and more durable than photopolymer.
Lighter weight and less expensive alternative to
cast bronze or aluminum plaques. Because it is
somewhat porous, it should be primed and painted
rather than used as raw metal finish.
- magnetic sheeting
- Magnetized sheet material laminated to a
flexible plastic sheet and available in rolls.
Cut to size and decorated, magnetic sheeting
works well for temporary signs applied to
magnetic metal surfaces.
- malleable metal
- Any metal that can be hammered or bent into
desired shape with minimal chance of breaking or
- A part of the neon pumping system; the
manifold is a system of vacuum-tight tubing
arranged so that one or more tubes can be
attached to it, evacuated with a vacuum system,
and filled with rare gases.
- French word for "MOCK-UP" or "model".
- See logo, trademark.
- 1. The portion of a canopy, sign, or
architectural element protruding from a building
face that projects over the public street or
sidewalk. Can be lighted, used for advertising of
events, and is typically used by theaters.
2. A projecting structure permanently
attached to, but not a part of the roof. Also
known as a canopy. 3. In computer
graphics, the process of using a mouse-driven
cursor to draw a rectangle around an on-screen
object, therefore selecting it for further work.
Also called "highlighting" in some software.
- In painting or screen-printing, the process
of covering areas, usually with tape or paper, to
protect them from receiving subsequent layers of
paint or ink.
- A brand of hard substrate made from wood
chips that have been pressed into boards.
- A regular array of lighting units in the
display area of an electronic changeable message
sign. See also electronic messsage center.
- matte finish
- Having a dull surface; not shiny or
- maximum yield
- In production, the amount of material
utilized versus what is wasted or dropped. To
achieve maximum yield, objects, letters, etc. are
nested manually or via computer to allow the
smallest amount of waste in a sheet of material.
Also used in reference to organizing cuts on
lengths of stock (e.g., bar stock, tube, rod,
etc.) to minimize wasted material. See also
- Minority Business Enterprise.
- See medium-density overlay.
- A chemically treated, exterior-grade particle
board used in sign manufacturing as a
- A type of plywood considered an ideal base
for paint ad recommended for signs. MDO is
exterior-grade plywood with a smooth impregnated
paper veneer on both sides.
- memorial sign
- A building sign or plaque noting such
information as the name of the building or
structure, when it was built, and by whom.
- A changeable point-of-purchase advertising
display that allows the retailer to list products
- A heavy, silver-white metallic element liquid
at room temperature. When heated to a vapor
through which an electronic current is
discharged, it produces a bluish-green light. It
may be mixed with rare gases, typically argon, to
produce the ultraviolet light necessary to excite
the phosphors in neon tubes and in florescent
- In screen-printing, the material stretched
across the frame. Also referred to as the
- message center
- Any sign that displays changeable copy
through electronic or mechanical means.
- In an electronic sign, the device that stores
messages entered by the operator and conveys them
to the display area of the sign in the proper
order using electrical impulses.
- message schedule
- A list of sign types programmed for a given
facility which provides sign type, location
reference, and message.
- metal finishes
- Sign finishes vary greatly between silver
metals and yellow metals. Typically both include
polished, brushed, satin, matte, painted,
anodized, antique, oxidized, galvanized,
chrome-plated, nickel-plated, engine-turned, and
many others. Metals typically come in a mill
finish (as fabricated by the manufacturer). There
are many levels of finishes that relate to gloss
and reflectance including matte, satin,
nondirectional, abraded, brushed, and mirror
- Metals used in signmaking include: aluminum,
brass, bronze, cast iron, copper, gold, iridium,
lead, magnesium, mild steel, muntz metal, nickel,
pewter, platinum, silver, stainless steel, tin,
titanium, weathering steel, and zinc.
- A finely tuned measuring device used to
determine thickness, or gauge, of thin
- mild steel
- Steel containing less than three-tenths of
one percent (0.003) carbon. Not used in
structural applications due to its relatively low
- 1. Function of reversing type or an
image in design. Used mainly for cutting copy or
images to be installed on the inside surface of a
transparent substrate such as a window. 2.
Highly polished, virtually specular finish on
surface or material.
- Typically a full-size model used to test
scale, color, appearance, legibility and/or
aesthetic aspects. Usually made of materials that
simulate final construction materials and
finishes. Also called maquette.
- Typically a smaller-scale, proportionally
reduced version of a larger architectural
- An interference pattern created by the
overlay of two regular patterns. In
screen-printing, the undesirable pattern on
halftones caused by incorrect screen angles.
- A trim, commonly of wood or metal, available
in many shapes and profiles, used as detail on
many different types of signs. The metal or wood
that frames a billboard.
- moment connection
- A connection between two structural members
that is highly resistant to rotation between the
members, as differentiated from a pin connection
which allows rotation.
- A body of stone, plain or reinforced
concrete, cast or erected as a single integral
mass or structure.
- monument sign
- A freestanding sign sitting directly on the
ground or mounted on a low base. Usually
identifies facility, building, or entrance.
- Tile with a series of small inlaid pieces of
porcelain or natural clay materials that form
decorative patterns, images, or words.
- 1. Marked or patterned with irregular
patches of color. 2. Describing a surface
finish that is rough or uneven.
- Material safety data sheet, provided by the
- Any screen-printing job involving the
application of more than one color of ink.
- Muntz metal
- An alloy of copper (55%-61%) and zinc
(39%-45%) with up to 1% lead. This brass is
highly malleable and is used for sign plaques and
- Wall surface that has been treated with a
paint, tile, or vinyl graphic pattern, image, or
shape. Historically murals have been either
hand-painted or mosaics. Now murals can be
achieved using large-format digital prints that
can emulate any material or finish desired.
- Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices,
available from the US Dept of Tranportation. It
defines highway sign standards and traffic
- name plate
- A sign that identifies only the name,
occupation, and/or professional title of the
occupant of a desk, office, or building. A
building name plate might also have the name of
the building and other directional
- national electric
- Electrical safety code adopted by many (but
not all) states, counties, and cities in the
- National Council of Architectural Review
- negative space
- The background of a sign. The area around and
within the art and copy. Also called white space.
See also positive space.
- See national electric code.
- neon tubing
- Glass tubing filled with various gases and
charged with electricity creating an illuminated
tubular sign or decorative elements. Neon itself
is a rare inert gas which, when an electric
current is discharged through it, produces a
reddish-orange glow. Other gases such as argon
and mercury can be used, and will produce other
colors. This term is also often used to describe
a type of luminous tube sign, which may contain
other inert gases. The coating and color of the
glass tubing will also dictate the color of the
illuminated tube. Also called luminous
- A type of synthetic rubber with outstanding
oil resistance. It is used with quicksetting,
high-strength adhesives as a cushioning,
gasketing, and weatherproofing material.
- Placement of images or letters in an
arrangement to minimize waste of material when
cutting. Used mainly in cutting or routing
individual letter image backs in metal for
channel letters and other electric signs; also
seen in vinyl-production software to assemble
elements of same color. See also maximum
- A group of computers that are connected with
cables and software for constant, ondemand
communication. With a network, several computers
can use or control software installed on a
central computer, or server, dedicated to one or
a few functions.
- nickel plate
- A thin layer of nickel that has been
electroplated onto another metal, or the metal so
plated. See also metal finishes.
- See control point.
- Channel letters that are cut out at the back
to fit over a raceway are said to be
- A way of screen-printing in which the screen
is raised at least 1/8" above the substrate. It
is the preferred method for printing nonabsorbent
- off-premise sign
- A sign that is not located on the building or
property of the business it advertisers. The most
common example of an off-premise sign is a
- In computer graphics, a distortion of an
image using an S-shaped curve as one baseline,
giving an image a wavy look.
- Typically used to refer to a metal surface
that shows uneven deflection from unsuitable
inner structure, poor attachment, or insufficient
thickness of face material.
- Not clear or translucent; not allowing light
to show through.
- open channel
- A channel letter with returns that project
forward perpendicularly from face of letter, and
in which the neon tubing is visible.
- The point marking the zero coordinate on the
x-, y-, and z-axis. Used as a starting reference
by plotters and routers for knife and tool
- Zero degrees horizontal; a command included
in several sign-design software to set an image
to a "perfect " horizontal level.
- Occupational Safety and Health
Administration. Government division responsible
for monitoring and enforcement of laws pertaining
to workplace safety.
- The tendency of a solid or liquid elements in
a plastic or composite material (such as particle
board) to vaporize over time. Outgassing can
occur in some plastics and paints if they have
not finished drying, resulting in adhesive
failure to anything applied over them. Outgassing
also describes the release of impurities in
vacuum systems such as neon tubes during
- In computer graphics, a closed-loop path that
copies an original's shape, but is offset by the
positive measurement outside the original
(outline), or a negative measurement inside the
- Amount of material either cut or printed in
the one panel or tile that duplicates what is
done in the previous panel or tile. The
overlapping image allows for alignment when
assembling and installing a large image.
- The production area of a plotter or printer.
Most plotters have a limit of page size along the
y-axis (usually a few inches less that the width
of the material) and the x-axis (although most
allow 1,000" or more). See also panel.
- A liquid coating made up of a pigment
suspended in a vehicle or binder. Common paint
vehicles include resins dissolved in solvents or
water. Paint may be brushed, sprayed, or rolled
onto a substrate. It dries to a hard film that
bonds the pigment to the surface.
- paint finish
- In descending order of reflectance: gloss,
semigloss, 20 percent gloss (preferred by the
A.D.A.), eggshell, and matte ("dead flat
- A section of artwork based on the production
area of a device, such as a plotter or printer.
If the artwork size exceeds the production area,
different panels are set up by the sign software,
and can be produced by selecting individual
panels. See also tiling.
- In a building, the center of the electrical
- Pantone Matching System® (PMS)
- Standardized series of thousands of colors,
each with specific color formulations as
identification number. PMS colors are duplicated
in swatch books and in computer-graphics programs
to allow exact duplication of colors in color
printing and other marking or painting processes,
such as signmaking.
- A method of sending information from a
computer to another device (such as a plotter or
printer) by sending multiple signals at once
through a cable. Faster than serial
communications, but a computer may not be able to
sense errors in the device receiving the
information. Available with all IBM-type
computers and some plotters/printers.
- A finish applied (or achieved by age) to
metal surfaces (especially copper, brasses, and
bronze). May include statuary bronze (classic
brown color), verdigris (green-gray), and various
other colorized finishes.
- A full-sized layout of a design. May refer to
the design into which neon tubes will be bent,
the configuration of vertical sides of channel
letters to be constructed, or for painting. See
also pounce pattern.
- pavement graphics
- Typically white or yellow graphics applied to
asphalt or concrete roadways and parking areas to
supplement traffic markings.
- pegged out
- See pinned out.
- A piece of plastic or cloth, pointed at the
bottom and suspended by its top. Often
undecorated, it is a temporary attention-getting
- perforating wheel
- A toothed wheel on a handle that allows it to
rotate freely. After a full-sized pattern is
created, the perforating wheel is used to trace
its line, creating perforations that can be
brushed with dust or powder, creating an outline
on the surface to be painted. Also called a
pounce wheel. See also pounce pattern.
- A license granted by the appropriate
authorities to allow a sign to be erected.
- Chemical powders used to coat fluorescent
tubes. They become excited when subjected to the
ultraviolet light produced by the discharge in a
luminous tube. A range of phosphors is available
and is capable of producing a large variety of
colors and whites.
- A method of vectoring an image in a
parallel-line pattern to give a rough, but
recognizable, rendering of sharp outlines from a
high-contrast or medium-contrast photograph.
- A specialized plastic with photosensitive
coating which is masked and photoetched to create
tactile graphics. Used primarily for A.D.A.
signage requiring tactile copy and Braille.
- photo simulation
- Typically a digital photo illustration
showing a proposed concept. It is used to show
new graphic elements in context. Two-dimensional
or three-dimensional drawn objects are placed
into a photoshop document of the existing
situation. A type of digital rendering. See also
- photo stencil
- A stencil prepared using photographic
methods, rather than mechanical devices or
cutting by hand.
- A pictorial representation or graphic symbol.
Pictograms are commonly found in environmenal
graphics (restrooms and directionals) and
regulatory (traffic) signs. Pictograms, including
the recognizable ISA, are useful to bridge
language barriers, as in airports. See also
- A compound used to color other materials,
such as paints and inks. Pigments are insoluble
(unlike dyes), finely ground particles and may be
organic or inorganic.
- pinch roller
- A wheeled holder, usually tensioned by
springs, that clamps vinyl or other materials
between it and a grit wheel for transporting the
material through a friction-feed plotter.
Plotters use two pinch rollers, with one or both
movable along the y-axis to accommodate materials
of different widths.
- Tiny, unsealed spots in the nonprinting areas
of a screen, which allow ink to flow onto areas
that aren't supposed to be printed.
- pinned out
- Describing letters mounted so they are
separated from the surface to which they are
attached. Pinning out is an important part of
affixing reverse channel letters, but metal,
plastic, or wood letters may also be pinned out
to prevent stains from washing down the letters
or for visual impact. Also called pegged
- plasma screen
- A type of flat-screen digital image display
screen which is uniformly flat and less than five
- A generic term for a wide range of synthetic
materials which consist of a 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.
- Channel letters in which the front of the
channel is covered by a translucent plastic face,
diffusing the neon lighting within.
- The trade name for a brand of acrylic
sheeting, which (like Kleenex) is often
mistakenly used as a generic term.
- plot plan
- A drawing or sketch showing the layout
looking down on the site on which a sign is to be
erected. A plot plan will commonly show such
things as the sign's relationship to buildings,
parking, pedestrian ways, etc. It is sometimes
required to obtain a permit.
- A computer-controlled printer or cutter.
- PMS colors
- See pantone matching system®.
- 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
- pole sign
- A freestanding sign, usually double-faced,
mounted on a round pole, square tube, or other
fabricated member without any type of secondary
- A method where a computer sends a signal to a
plotter or printer requesting information on the
current production area. The device sends back an
answer on production parameters; the production
software then sets panels, or tiles, based on the
information. Works only with serial
- A specific thermosetting resin characterized
by its durability, flexibility, machinery, and
endurance under UV exposure. Lexan is a
polycarbonate. See also acrylic.
- A type of plastic sheet used in banners,
noted for its flexibility at low temperatures and
its resistance to chemicals.
- A type of hard thermoset plastic foam used in
sign production. It has the density and
characteristics of wood, but only one-third of
the weight. It can be used for carving and
sandblasting signs much like wood.
- polyvinyl chloride
- A specific thermoset plastic which is weather
and chemical resistant, available extruded into
many forms or cast as sheets in a variety of
colors and thicknesses . (It is also used for
drainage and plumbing piping).
- porcelain enamel /
- 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.
- positive space
- The copy and art on a sign face. The opposite
of negative space.
- post and panel
- A sign panel with one or more posts.
- 1. A series of paper sheets printed
for use on a billboard. Other substrates used for
poster include plastic and cloth. 2. A
sign typically printed on paper and intended for
indoor use. Other substrates used for poster
include plastic and cloth.
- Postscript (PS)
- A graphics software that is also used for
proportional scaling of images. It is what makes
most scalable type and artwork possible for
Windows- and Macintosh-based graphics
- pounce pattern
- A full-sized pattern of any design to be
painted. Once the pattern is created, the outline
is perforated using a manual or computer-driven
perforation wheel. The pattern is then held
firmly against the substrate and the perforations
patted with powder, charcoal, or colored chalk
dust, leaving an outline of the design. This
ancient technique was used by Michaelangelo to
transfer images to the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel and is still in use today.
- pounce wheel
- See perforating wheel.
- poured in place
- Refers to concrete footings for signs. Wet
concrete is delivered or mixed on site and poured
into a form, creating desired shape. Normal
curing and finishing techniques are applied as
necessary. Alternative to pre-cast concrete,
which is formed, poured, cured and finished off
site, then brought to site and installed.
- powder coating
- A specific process for applying paint to a
surface that creates a very durable protective
- PPI (pixels per inch)
- 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
- precast concrete
- Steel- or glass-fiber reinforced concrete
cast in a mold.
- precinct sign
- See gateway sign.
- An adhesive that reacts when pressure is
applied to the surface it is between. Sometimes
used to refer to vinyl with a pressure-sensitive
- 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.
- To coat a substrate prior to the application
of paint or adhesive. A primer coat prevents
subsequent coats of paint or adhesive from being
absorbed. The process is intended to improve the
performance and life of the product.
- print stroke
- A pass of the squeegee across the screen in
screen-printing. This forces the ink through the
stencil onto the substrate.
- process color
- The three primary colors of printing?yellow,
magenta, and cyan?plus black. When printed as
halftones in that order, they create a full range
of natural colors. Also called four-color
- 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. See also
- 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
- pumping system
- In neon tube production, the pumping system
is used to remove impurities from the tubes and
fill them with rare gases. A pumping system
typically consists of a manifold, vacuum pumps,
rare gases, a bombardier, and electrical
- A letter or graphic which is cut out, then
pushed through a corresponding space that has
been removed from the 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
- See polyvinyl chloride.
- A freestanding sign that is not a pole or
- A printing process that uses varying
concentrations of black ink instead of different
colors such as CMYK (four-color process). The
result is heightened midtone and shadow
appearance in black and white images.
- quarry tile
- A large clay floor tile, usually
- quarter round
- Wood or metal molding and trim which in
profile is the equivalent of a quarter
- An electronic holding area, usually in random
access memory (RAM) or on a hard drive, where
data is pooled and waits before being released
sequentially for output.
- A metal structure enclosing the electric
components of a sign, exclusive of the
- rain lap
- A method for applying printed paper or vinyl
sheets by starting at the bottom of the area to
be covered and working upward. As each strip is
applied, it overlaps the one below it, preventing
rain form getting into the seam and weakening the
bond with the substrate.
- random access memory (RAM)
- Computer memory available to the user for
creating, loading, or running programs and for
the temporary storage and manipulation of data,
with rapid access.
- raster image
- See RIP.
- 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
- Removing a screen-printing stencil from a
screen mesh so it can be used again.
- 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. The amount of light
reflected, along with the angle of vision for
which the reflective property is effective, is
rated in different grades, such as promotional,
engineer, and highway.
- A sign that has been coated with a highly
reflective material. See also reflective
- 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 signs
- Signs installed by various government bodies
to inform the public with of traffic laws and
- The projection of art from a flat surface.
The shortened form of "bas-relief."
- remote control
- A method for changing the message on
electronic changeable copy signs, whereby the
data is provided to the control console by
- An artistic sketch or representation of a
- resin transfer
- A method of heating a colored resin material
and printing it onto vinyl. The resin is
sublimed, or momentarily turned into a gas
without passing through a liquid state. The gas
seeps into the vinyl and then resolidifies,
creating a permanent image.
- 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.
- The projecting rim around the sign face that
holds it in place.
- retarder / retardant
- An additive that slows the drying time of
- reverse channel
- A channel letter that has a face and sides
but no back, and is pinned out from a background
surface. When the neon tube inside the letter is
illuminated, it produces a halo effect around the
- revolving sign
- A sign that has the ability to turn 360
degrees because of the presence of an electric
motor to drive its movable parts. All or a
portion of the sign may revolve at a steady or
- RGB display/sign
- Stands for red-green-blue. Any high-quality
electronic screen display that makes use of the
three primary colors to produce a full-color
- RIP (raster image processing)
- Software or hardware used to convert data to
specific information needed by a printer or other
digital output device to produce finished output.
Action referred to as "RIPping" the file.
- roof sign
- A sign structure that is erected on or above
a roof, or that is installed directly on a roof's
- 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
- Elimination of material in a substrate, using
a tool bit that has been machined for this
purpose. In computerized signmaking, using a
CAD/CAM machine, a tool is programmed to
eliminate material along a tool path created
along x-, y-, and z-axes.
- 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
- sans serif
- Any typeface that lacks serifs. In most sans
serif fonts, there is little differentiation
between the width of strokes within the letter.
Futura are familiar
sans serif fonts.
- An optical device that senses different
levels of reflection of light and translates that
information into numeric formulas that can be
read by a computer and replicated on a screen or
- schematic design /
- A conceptual design developed at the
beginning of a project which demonstrates a
design approach or strategy.
- Cutting or notching a material prior to
bending it. Sufficient scoring of some
substrates?glass and some thicknesses of PVC
boards, for example?will also allow them to be
broken cleanly without cutting them all the way
- 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.
- A stencil method of applying paint or ink to
surfaces such as wood, paper, glass, metal,
through a resist applied to fabric stretched over
a frame. Can utilize a photographic process to
create/control the resist for more precise
imaging. The artwork is also cut into rubylith
resist on computer-driven plotters or tables. See
- 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.
Also called butt joint.
- 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.
- A continuous or related series of things
following in a certain order or succession. In
signmaking, a sequence may refer to the operation
of a flasher or chaser, or to the order and
frequency of messages in an electronic changeable
copy sign, or the pattern of an advertiser's
- 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.
- In computer networks, servers act as a hub
for storing programs used workstation
- 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.
- service cover
- In an electric sign cabinet, a panel that
allows ready access to the bulbs or lamps and the
electrical connections for their replacement and
- 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
- A color made darker than the original by
adding black to it.
- 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 sun
- sheet metal
- Aluminum or steel in sheets or plates used as
a sign substrate.
- shop drawings
- 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. See also template, contract
- 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
- signage / signing
- Interchangeable terms used to describe signs.
Any group of posted commands, warnings,
information, or directions.
- sign cabinet
- The enclosure of an electric sign, not
including the components and mounting
- sign can
- An informal term for sign cabinet.
- sign categories
- Signs are typically used for the following
purposes: life safety or fire code, directional,
identification, informational, life safety,
orientation, ornamentation, point-of-purchase,
- 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 face
- The front surface of the sign (in elevation),
where the graphics are placed. Also called
- sign location map
- Usually a site plan or floor plan indicating
where signs will be placed (called "sign
- sign schedule/ sign
- An inventory or list indicating the
quantities of signs and messages for each
individual sign. Typically used as a contract
document for final text and sign wording, keyed
to a sign location plan.
- sign type
- Defines the style or use of each unique sign
component in a system. Sign types are
individually determined in each sign project. A
sampling of sign type descriptions: building
identification, directory, freestanding,
monument, pedestrian directional, pedestrian
informational, post and panel, regulatory,
vehicular directional, vehicular informational,
- A brand of specialized polymer foam cell
products designed for three-dimensional signage
applications, available in different densities
and strengths. This open cell foam machines
easily and holds shape well. When primed and
painted, it can look like other more permanent
- The overall shape or profile of a sign, or a
block of copy within a sign.
- 1. Trade name for a popular adhesive
used in installation of letters and signs because
of its elasticity, strength, reasonable curing
time, and its impermeable nature. 2. Any
of a group of polymers characterized by
wide-range thermal stability, high lubricity,
extreme water repellence, and physiological
inertness, used in adhesives, lubricants,
protective coatings, paints, electrical
insulation, and synthetic rubber.
- One of the oldest and simplest forms of
printing. A print is made using a squeegee to
force ink through stencil or emulsion that is
supported by fabric that has been stretched over
a frame to create a screen. Several synthetic
fabrics have replaced silk as the fabric of
choice for screen printers. See also screen
- 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
- sizing / size
- The substance applied to the substrate before
gilding in order to make the gold leaf stick to
the work surface, and its application. Today, the
most common sizing used by glass gilders is made
of gelatin capsules dissolved in boiling water
and then strained.
- The metal frame on which a sign is
- Foundation consisting of two bolts fastened
between the foundation plate and the concrete
- A method used to vary speed and movement of
material and knife-head of a plotter, making for
less-jagged transitions between nodes during
- snipe sign
- An overlay sign added to an existing sign
layout, as an additional message to the main
sign, for example a band across a corner saying
"coming soon." Also a term for illegal posting of
handbills and posters without permits.
- soda-lime glass
- The most common type of glass manufactured
and the type used in most fluorescent tubes and
incandescent bulbs. Soda-lime glass is made from
a combination of sand, limestone, and sodium
carbonate, and can either be clear or
- soil bearing
- Refers to the ability of uncompacted soil to
support a weight, such as the footing for a sign.
The figure usually has to be obtained from an
engineer (or soils engineer), and is expressed as
pounds per square foot.
- A petroleum-based liquid used to modify
oil-based pains and inks and to remove them from
sign components, frames, and brushes.
- 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.
- May include General Requirements, Products,
and Execution sections for sign specification
package. Similar to architectural construction
format per CSI (Construction Specifications
- An extra-large outdoor sign that incorporates
special lighting and/or motion effects, or an
interior sales display that also includes special
lights and motion elements.
- 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.
- A source of illumination for an externally
illuminated sign; a lamp with a strong focused
beam directed toward a sign.
- spun glass
- See fiberglass.
- Occurs when the electrode in a neon tube,
because of the heat and electrical forces,
gradually erodes, blackening the ends of the tube
near the electrode and decreasing gas pressure,
eventually making the tube inoperative.
- 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 signmaking, 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
- standard frame
- The structural supports found inside a sign
- See supports.
- star of life
- The asterisk symbol, indicating exit level,
showing preferred route for gurney, emergency
egress, etc., required by A.D.A. next to floor
indication on elevator control panels and
- A thin sheet of material into which a design
is cut. When a stencil is place 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
- A method for taking out brush marks and
creating a transparent look on windows. Paint is
mixed with linseed oil to slow the drying
process, then brushed on the surface to be
stippled. A stippler is created by wrapping a
piece of cheesecloth or other lint-free cotton
rag around a wad of cotton, which is then either
held firmly in the hand or securely attached to a
short stick, taking care that the work surface of
the stippler is wrinkle-free. Stippling is done
by daubing the stippler over the wet, painted
- A silkscreening process that conveys the tone
of a screened image by varying the number and
location of dots rather than just varying the
size of the dots within the grid.
- 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
- A long, narrow banner included in interior or
window displays only.
- 1. The process of securing mesh to a
frame in screen-printing. 2. The
stretching of vinyl sign face material over a
flex-face sign cabinet.
- 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. See also stroke width.
- stroke width
- The width of the major lines comprising a
letterform. A wider stroke width is used to make
a bolder letter, a narrower stroke width is used
to make a lighter letter.
- 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.
- The material out of which the face is made.
Wood, metal sheeting, paper, and acrylic are some
examples of sign substrates.
- Insulators that support a neon tube, as well
as hold it away from the background surface and
provide some impact resistance. Also called
- symbol of
- See international symbol of
- The balance of design elements in which one
side equals or mirrors the other.
- 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.
- tangential knife
- On a plotter, a blade holder that is
mechanically turned to aid in deflecting the edge
to create curved cuts.
- Temporary Certificate of Occupancy, which
typically allows a new building to be occupied
before it is fully complete and therefore
requires life safety signs to be in place, to
protect the public at large.
- Telecommunications device for the deaf.. This
communication system enables visual typographic
messages to be transmitted and received over
telephone lines. A.D.A. requires use of symbol to
show where TDD unit is available.
- Transportation Equity Act for the 21st
Century. An extension of the ISTEA program passed
- Pigment mixed in a water medium, usually with
a binder and adhesive. Tempera paints produce a
- 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
- 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
- A finish floor material of concrete with an
aggregate of marble chips selected for size and
color, ground and polished after curing. Terrazzo
used to integrate words, graphics, shapes and
maps into floors of heavy traffic areas.
- A process that takes a flat sheet of material
and gives it dimension by heating then forcing it
into a mold either mechanically or pneumatically.
See also vacuum-forming.
- Any liquid used to reduce the thickness of
paint or ink.
- three-dimensional (3D)
- 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
- The actual speed of a plotter in completing a
job. Difficult to measure, but it represents a
plotter's ability to process information and then
cut an image.
- A type of rough sketch of a design made prior
to developing more finalized presentations.
- The digital process of dividing a large image
into individual sections to print with
- time and
- Among the first electronic devices to change
copy, these popular signs alternate between
showing the time and temperature. Some also
display a simple messages.
- time switch
- A switch that utilizes a clock or timer to
automatically turn on and off electric signs at
set times each day.
- A color made lighter than the original by
adding white to it.
- touch screen
- Computerized CRT or LCD screen directory or
information station that is activated by touching
the screen. See also interactive.
- The ability of a computer, at the operator's
instruction. to add or subtract minute increments
of space between letters. See also
- 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. See also logo.
- traffic count
- The estimated number of people who will see a
sign in a given time period. Traffic count is
most commonly associated with number of vehicles
passing a location in a day.
- transfer tape
- A medium-tack adhesive coasted 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
- In electric signs, the mechanical or
electronic component that transforms the voltage
coming into the sign (the primary voltage) into a
higher or lower voltage (the secondary voltage)
necessary to run the sign. Most signs?especially
neon, which operate at
990-15,000 volts?require a higher voltage to
operate, but all low-voltage lighting requires a
step-down transformer (unless powered by a
- 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.
- The property of a material that allows light
and images through and may also show a color
- In screen-printing, to overlap one color on
another. Trapping may result in the creation of a
third color in the overlap area, or, if opaque
links are used, the edge of the first color may
be hidden for purposes of registration. See also
- An LED that displays only the colors red,
yellow, and green.
- triple message
- A type of sign consisting of rotating
triangular louvers. The louvers turn in unison
showing three different messages as the three
faces are exposed. Allows for three times the
static advertising/communication power at one
- tube colors
- Tubing for neon signs is produced as a clear
glass, or in colors. Different tube colors serve
as filters that only allow the desired color to
shine through. In many cases the only way to
achieve rich primary colors is through colored
- tube diameter
- The term used to describe the width of a
tube. The standard measurement to describe the
width of neon tubing is expressed in
- 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
- The design of a given set of letters,
numbers, symbols, and punctuation, without
reference to its size or width. See also
- typographic terms
- Terminology associated with typesetting, as
utilized in the sign industry: ascender,
condensed, counter, descender, extended, flush,
font, kerning, leading, letterspacing, line
spacing, sans serif, serif, stroke width,
tracking, typeface, word spacing.
- ultraviolet light
- Part of the spectrum ranging form 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
- underwriters laboratory (UL)
- A private organization that tests electrical
devices and their construction and certifies
- See ultraviolet light.
- Taking a flat sheet of material and giving it
dimension by placing it in a mold, heating it
until pliable and them drawing the air out of the
mold, creating a vacuum and forming material to
- value engineering
- Assessing a sign based on the cost of its
material, design, installation, and maintenance,
with the goal of getting the best value for the
- A method by which a government body formally
deviates from the terms of its sign or zoning
code. Typically, obtaining a variance for a sign
requires the applicant to show that it would not
be contrary to the public interest or that a
literal enforcement of the regulations would
result in unnecessary and undue hardship (due to
conditions peculiar to the property).
- In computerized signmaking, a line segment
between two coordinates, on which a knife or tool
path can be created for plotting or routing.
- A function of the process of tracing around a
bitmap image to create an outline comprised of
line segments, or vectors.
- Tape produced by 3M. Very High Bond joining
systems are applied between mated parts to
eliminate the need for mechanical fasteners or
welded attachments. This tape is available in
many grades and thicknesses.
- video wall
- Array of CRT monitors, plasma screens, etc.,
linked to display a single image or variety of
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film that, in
signmaking, 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
- vinyl letters
- Letters cut from adhesive-backed material, in
dozens of opaque, translucent, metallized, and
transparent colors and patterns.
- The thickness or density of a paint or
- Capable of being seen by the human eye. A
sign may be visible without being readable or
- Resembling glass, as in transparency,
brittleness, hardness, glossiness, etc.
- wall mount
- A single-face sign mounted on a wall. Another
name for a wall sign.
- wall sign
- In the most literal sense, a sign that is
painted on a wall. The term is often expanded to
include flat signs that are placed on or attached
to the wall of a building. These latter signs are
also called fascia-mounted signs and wall
- The process of opening up the image area of a
screen after a photo stencil has been
- water resistant
- Describing a face that has been treated to
make it resistant to the damage or deterioration
caused by water.
- Computerized high-pressure stream of water
used to cut stone and metal up to 2 in.
thick. Also called hydrocutting.
- wax transfer
- A method of heating a colored wax material
and printing it on to vinyl.
- The process of using spatial and
environmental information to find one's way in
the built environment. It can also be defined
from the standpoint of the designer or owner and
operator seeking to establish or improve the
function of a particular environment. Wayfinding
is not a separate or different activity from
traditional signage design, but rather a broader,
more inclusive way of assessing all the
environmental issues which affect our ability to
find our way. This word has gained popularity
with the adoption of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (A.D.A.). In its most literal
sense, wayfinding is the ability of a person to
find his or her way to a given destination.
- Woman-Owned Business Enterprise.
- weathering steel
- A steel alloy that forms a tenacious,
self-protecting rust layer when exposed to the
atmosphere. See cor-ten steel.
- 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
- wet location
- A watertight electrical or light fixture that
is sealed to protect against moisture.
- White Paper on
- See SEGD WHITE PAPER ON A.D.A.
- white space
- See negative space.
- window sign
- A sign that is mounted for display on a
window, and intended to be viewed from the
- x height
- In a given typeface, the height of the
lowercase letters which do not have ascenders or
- Theoretical horizontal line providing a
lengthwise reference point for plotters and
- Theoretical vertical line providing
longitudinal reference point for plotters and
- 1. In regulatory signs pertaining to
traffic flow, concede right of way. 2. In
production, the amount of material utilized
versus what is wasted or dropped. See also
nesting, maximum yield.
- Theoretical line providing a depth reference
point for routers. Ads third dimension when
plotting coordinates as part of x, y, and z
- A malleable metal that has unique gray
appearance, somewhat like lead, and can be used
raw in exterior applications.