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Backlit signage is intended to be viewed with a light source behind it, and is a perfect way to increase your company’s visibility, stand out from your competitors, and get your message seen at any time of the day or night. To create quality backlit signs, you need:

  • a lightbox, and
  • a printed sign.

Choosing a Lightbox

When you’re in the process of choosing a lightbox, it’s important to consider the size of your sign, the location where you want to install it, and how long it needs to last. The answers to these questions will help you decide which of the following options will be the best choice for you:

Fluorescent Lightbox

These light boxes use standard fluorescent tubes to light up the sign. They have very good diffusion qualities, which means the light itself is spread smoothly across the entire image, without resulting in “hot spots.” Fluorescent light boxes are typically made fairly deep, so they have space to accommodate the lamps, and are typically used outdoors in locations like bus shelters and store-fronts.

LED Lightbox

LED lights are popular with many people because they’re remarkably bright, and they use very little energy to operate. Unlike fluorescent lighting, however, LED lights are a “point” source, meaning that unless they have sufficient diffusion they can cause hot spots of concentrated light. They need to be installed in a deeper box or use additional diffusers to help spread the light to avoid this.

Edge-lit LED Lightbox

These light boxes contain LED lights positioned around the edge of their frame. These lights shine into a diffuser, which disperses the glow evenly across the image. Edge-lit LED light boxes can be manufactured of very thin material. They are fairly inexpensive and use very little power, which makes them popular and ideal for retail signage.

Choosing the Best Backlit Material for Your Sign

Now that you know what you’ll need for a lightbox, it’s time to decide what material you should use to print on. Here are some of the options:

Backlit Paper

This is a thin (7pt) translucent Bristol board, which is specially coated to prevent warping in humid climates. We often print on backlit paper because it has a thin profile and is inexpensive. This makes it an ideal choice for short-term signage.

Printable Film

Thin, translucent sheets of plastic materials, such as styrene or polypropylene, make tough, long-lasting outdoor signage. This is ideal for applications like bus stop signs, theatre signs, and mall displays. The plastic film media can either be printed via screenprint or on a UV curing flatbed printer.

Photographic Transparency Film

Transmissive photographic media is often referred to by the brand name ‘Duratrans’, or also sometimes called ‘translites’. We image this material using an RGB, laser-based system, and because it is photographic, the quality of the image is very high. This is fairly expensive to make, however, and the prints have poor lightfastness when exposed to sunlight. For this reason, they are generally used in indoors for high-end retail outlets such as cosmetics, jewelry, and fashion.

Inkjet Backlit Film

Using a polyester film similar to Duratrans, inkjet backlit images can be coated with an ink-receptive layer instead of photographic emulsion. When this material is printed with a high-resolution HP Latex printers, it closely rivals Duratrans in quality. It is much less expensive, however, and it has great lightfastness for indoor or outdoor use.

Vinyl/Fabric Backlit

These materials are printed on grand-format inkjet printers using either solvent or latex ink. They are generally used for signage in sizes larger than can be imaged with photographic or large-format inkjet films. The vinyl and fabric backlit frames have tensioning systems built in to hold the graphics perfectly flat without developing any wrinkles. These work so well that it’s sometimes hard to tell they are not rigid sign faces! Despite the size, these large backlit signs are easy to roll up and ship, which makes them a great choice for retail signage.

Adhesive-Backed Translucent Vinyl

This is usually mounted to acrylic or lexan for installation as store-front and other permanent outdoor signage.

There are many types of backlit lighting available, and the kind of hardware and materials you’ll need depends on the size and location of the graphic, as well as the amount of wear and tear it will need to tolerate.

For more information on developing the backlit signage you need, please contact us today.

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