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Channel Letters 101

Storefront signage is one of the most effective ways to let consumers know what your business is called and where it is located. While there are several signage options available, channel letters are an incredibly popular selection with many advantages. Here’s an introduction to this popular signage option.

What Is a Channel Letter Sign?

As the most recognizable outdoor signage option, channel letters use three-dimensional graphic signage. Their three-dimensional structure creates a channel into which you can install illumination to light the sign. The structure and illumination are separate elements, with the lighting often (but not always) being internal to the structure. The channel letters themselves are letters, numbers, and other characters combined to make up a sign.

Why Are Channel Letter Signs Popular?

Channel letter signs are popular in part because of how flexible they are. They can come in a wide array of colors, sizes, and fonts, making it easier to make storefront signage consistent with the store’s branding. Channel letter signs also can be illuminated around the clock, meaning the storefront has a better chance of standing out to consumers and attracting them. Because of their high degree of visibility and their ability to aid in branding consistency, channel letter signs are both practical and attractive.

How Are Channel Letter Signs Fabricated?

The face, return, back, and lighting elements comprise the main parts of channel letters. They are commonly made from aluminum sheeting on the sides. The face and back can also be aluminum but are typically made from acrylic. The lighting generally is either neon or LED lighting.

Fabricating channel letter signs requires the creation of each character in the sign. The back and the return of the character is made first, which is also called the can. The can’s interior is usually painted to improve the reflectivity of the lighting, which gets installed next. Then the face is shaped out of acrylic, which typically measures 3/16th of an inch thick. The face is then applied to the can using a trim cap.

Types of Channel Letter Signs

There are different types of channel letter signs, each of which creates a unique look. Knowing the various options is essential to make sure that the signage used is right for the storefront.

Front-lit or face-illuminated channel letters are the most common type of channel signs. Their design lets the interior illumination shine through the face, creating a highly-visible and easy-to-read sign.

Back-lit channel letters, also called reverse or halo channels, use spacers to create a halo effect around the characters. This effect gives them the appearance of floating off the wall. These channel letter signs typically use metal for the face instead of acrylic and have a transparent back, reversing the typical structure seen in front-lit channel signs and giving it a reason to be called a reverse channel.

How to Mount Channel Letter Signs

Of course, once you decide what type of channel letter sign you want and have it fabricated, it will need to be installed. We strongly recommend that you let us mount your channel letter signs, as it’s extremely easy to get this part wrong!

Installation is usually done with a flush mounting, in which the letters are individually mounted on the building. The letters have their whip, all of which are collected and connected to one or more transformers. These whips are then wired to the electrical box. Using a raceway or wireway is another option. If you need to limit the holes in the wall, this option is the way to go. Instead of being mounted directly onto the wall, the letters are attached to an aluminum box deep enough to house the wiring. If the box has clips welded to the top, you can use them to mount the box to the building, making it easy to install.

Signs are a significant investment for businesses, so getting it right is essential. Knowing what channel letters are and being familiar with this signage option makes it easier to make an informed decision about whether or not it’s the right choice for your business. It’s also essential to find a way to balance the business owner’s needs with that of the property owner. Choosing the right type of channel letter signage and installation method is ultimately a matter of learning about your options to select which one is best for you.