ImageFirst News

The Ultimate Guide to Channel Letters

Monday, September 16, 2019

From mounting: raceway, stud mount, backer mount. To illuminating: halo lit, back lit, front lit, combo lit.  Sign lettering can be tricky. Find out what color looks best and what color to watch out for. It’s all here.

👉🏻Pro Tip: be smart with your time and check your local sign code before you do anything!

Are there any mounting restrictions?  Are there any depth recommendations?  Is there any specifications when it comes to illumination?  What are the size restrictions for the building you are signing?

Channel Lettering Mounting Options: Raceway, direct, or backer.

Raceway Mounting

Using a raceway reduces the amount of penetrations into the facade of a building which is ideal for a more commercial environment (higher turnover of tenants, etc). The letters are attached to the raceway that houses all of the electrical wiring, power supplies, etc. The raceway is then attached to the building. Typically you want to paint the raceway the same color as the building so that it blends in as much as possible and the letters stand out sufficiently. Here's a video of a set of front lit channel letters on a raceway being installed:


Direct or Stud Mounting

This method lean towards a more clean or architectural appearance. Here, the letters each have multiple non-corrosive fasteners (or studs) that are attached directly into the face of the building. All electrical is run inside the building or on the back of the wall the letters attached to, so accessibility to this space is imperative.

Backer mounted letters 

This also is a more architectural look and is when channel letters are attached to an oversize backer, monument or cabinet sign. Electrical and power supplies are easily hidden in the oversized backer.

Illumination Options: Halo, face, or combination...and be careful with blue.

First things first, when using blue to illuminate your letters, take this into consideration. 

Blue is the closest in color to a dark night sky. Solid blue letters do not illuminate the best at night. If you must use blue, you can choose to use perforated vinyl to show blue during the day and illuminate white at night. Another option is to use a keyline around the perimeter of the faces with a minimum of ¼”.


Front Lit Illuminated Channel Letters 

These can use a lexan or acrylic face dependent upon the size of the letter. There are many choices out there for vinyl overlays, most only allow for <1% light transmission so color selection is a vital component. If the standard array of colors that are offered do not match what you are after, you can also print a specific color.
Dual film is also very popular and has a warranty that fits the quality of the product. Using a dual film you are able to achieve the color you want during the day and white illumination at night which is optimal for visibility.

Back Lit Channel Letters or Halo Illuminated

This method gives more of an architectural or designed look. This type of illumination is best for direct mounted applications. Backlighting is a great way to illuminate unique shapes and letters. Keep in mind, some substrates such as brick do not distribute the light as well and a fabricated backer or oversized cut aluminum letters may need to be used. As well, a shiny surface may enhance the lighting so much that you may be able to see some of the LEDs reflected upon the wall.

Combination - Front and Back Illumination for the Win! 

This is a unique way to make your logo pop, especially if you’re dead set on a color (other than white) for your letter illumination. 

Light Source:

There are many different options available in today's market. LEDs are by far the most popular. ImageFirst typically uses quality LEDs from Principal LED, but any specified LED, (brand), color temperature, or RGB system can be utilized to match your project needs.

Have questions? Need help? We have your back, reach out!

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