Backlit sign box lighting materials determine the quality of signage. Some materials are expensive but create highly visible and eyecatching signs. Others are cheaper and more suitable for short-term marketing and promotions. There are different types of backlit sign box lighting materials. They can be broadly classified into two categories – the illumination source used and the graphics material used. Both play a significant role in determining the final outlook of the signage.
Backlit Sign Box Lighting Material – Illumination Sources
All backlit sign boxes use some form of lighting for illumination. They are located on the inside and light up the decals or graphics panel. There are basically three types of illumination sources.
LEDs are the most popular illumination source when it comes to backlit sign box lighting materials. They are preferred due to their low power consumption and affordable pricing. LEDs are easy to install, exceptionally bright, and stay cool over prolonged usage. An issue with using LEDs as backlit sign box lighting material is that they create hotspots on the graphics or vinyl panel, leading to variable illumination. A diffuser is used to rectify the same, although it can be minimized by opting for LEDs with diamondback optical lenses. They will increase the cost of the backlit sign box. LEDs are used mainly for large, well-illuminated signboards.
Edge-lit LEDs are a viable alternative among backlit sign box lighting materials. They are placed around the edge of the frame. Instead of directly pointing at the graphics panel, the LEDs are aimed away from the front panel. It eliminates hotspots and allows the light to spread evenly. A diffuser may also be used to improve the aesthetic appearance of the sign further. However, using edge-lit LEDs as a backlit sign box lighting material lowers the illumination as the light bounces around a lot more. It means that you will require many more of them to achieve the same brightness as backlit LEDs. Therefore, they are primarily used in directional signboards and small-sized retail signage. They are suitable for creating thin, shallow, and inexpensive signboards. Edge-lit LEDs can’t be used in large sign boxes as the illumination declines as you go towards the center from the sides.
Fluorescent tubes are another backlit sign box lighting material. They were mainly used before LEDs became commercially viable. Fluorescent tubes have excellent diffusion and create a superior aesthetic appearance with a uniformly illuminated surface. There are no issues like hotspots or uneven glow with them. They can be used with signs that are large enough to accommodate them. Sometimes, fluorescent bulbs are used in the place of tubes for smaller signs. However, fluorescent tubes and bulbs as a backlit sign box lighting material are quite expensive. They cost more and have a shorter lifespan as compared to LEDs. The energy consumption is high as well, resulting in higher operating costs. Therefore, their popularity as backlit sign box lighting material is declining in the retail sector as LEDs are becoming cheaper and brighter. Still, Fluorescent tubes are preferred for outdoor signage that requires large and well-lit boxes.
Backlit Sign Box Lighting Material – Graphics Materials
The extent and quality of illumination also depend on the graphics materials used in a sign box. Different graphics materials are used for complementing backlit sign box lighting. Here are the most common ones:
Adhesive Translucent Vinyl
Adhesive translucent vinyl is the ideal backlit sign box lighting material for retail outlets and stores that require durable signage. It is mounted upon acrylic, Lexan, or Plexi panels and is suitable for permanent installation. Adhesive translucent vinyl is a backlit sign box lighting material that can last for several years and is UV safe. It may be used for indoor as well as outdoor signage such as building signs, promotional signs, or directional signs.
Backlit paper is a thin and translucent bristol board sheet measuring about 7pt in thickness. It is economical to produce and suitable for short duration campaigns as it is not as durable as some of the other backlit sign box lighting materials. A special coating may be applied to backlit paper if the sign box will be used in a humid climate. UV curing flatbed and Latex roll to roll are popular choices for printing backlit paper.
Printable film sign boxes use thin translucent plastic sheets made from materials like polypropylene or styrene. These materials are highly durable and weather resistant, making them suitable as outdoor backlit sign box lighting materials. Printable film sign boxes are employed at bus stops, shopping malls, movie theater posters, transit signs, etc. The design is printed on the film via a UV curing flatbed as well as a screenprint.
Photographic Transparency Films
Photographic transparency films are a high-quality backlit sign box lighting material. It is a polyester media, commonly referred to as translites or Duratrans (actually a manufacturer of photographic transparency films). The graphics are printed on the films using an RGB laser system, and their quality is exceptional. Photographic transparency films are one of the expensive backlit sign box lighting materials. A downside with them is that they fade in a short time when exposed to sunlight. They are more suitable for indoor applications in the retail sector.
Inkjet Backlit Film
Inkjet backlit film is an economical and durable alternative to photographic transparency films. It also uses a polyester film but coats the images with an ink-receptive layer instead of photographic emulsion. The quality of the inkjet backlit film is close to that of a photographic transparency film. However, it is cheaper and has better lightfastness, making it an excellent backlit sign box lighting material for outdoor use in addition to indoor signage.
Vinyl and fabric backlit sign box lighting materials are suitable for large-sized applications. They require a grand-format inkjet printer that uses either latex or solvent ink. The frames of vinyl and fabric backlit sign boxes have a tensioning system for flatting them out and eliminating wrinkles. It is required as they are used for grand sizes. These backlit sign box lighting materials can be folded into rolls for easy transportation. They are primarily used in large-scale promotional and retail signage.