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Sign Blanks, Substrates, Plastic, PVC, Metal, Magnets & More

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A Guide to Sign Blanks

Everywhere you look, there are usually signs displaying directions, safety precautions, business promotions and much more. Signage has become fundamental in the modern world and quite frankly, without them, we would all be lost.

At ColDesi, we offer a wide variety of sign blanks in different shapes, materials, colors and sizes all for different purposes.

Since there are a great deal of options, it’s important to be informed about what works best for each purpose.

Whether you want to promote your business or provide important information to the public, it’s important to do some research in order to deliver an impactful message.

Let’s take a look at some questions you might have before you start buying your blank signage.

What can I use sign blanks for?

There are countless ways to use sign blanks, but each serve a different purpose. We’ll go over a few of the most common ways to get the best use out of your signage.

  • Outdoor: These can be beneficial when trying to increase exposure for a business or to drive some foot traffic to a store.
  • Indoor: You can use indoor signs for a variety of purposes. Some of the most popular uses are to highlight products or services, meet ADA requirements and provide directions for customers.
  • Persuasive: Signs used to persuade can be used to advertise a product, promote a brand, or initiate a call to action.
  • Informational: Signs used to inform others are usually short and concise, commonly using symbols to help people receive important information while navigating.

Some common uses for any of these signs are safety precautions, yard sales, brand promotion, menu boards and much more. The list goes on!

Now let’s move on to what sets the groundwork for a successful sign, the material it’s made of.

What are blank signs made of?

The material of a sign blank is one of the most important elements to pay attention to when choosing a blank sign. There are 4 popular sign materials that are used often.

  • Corrugated Plastic
  • Polyvinyl chloride or PVC
  • Aluminum
  • Magnetic

Here we’ll discuss what each material is and where you’ll most commonly see them displayed.

Corrugated Plastic, or corrugated signs can be used inside but are mostly popular for outdoor. You can use them for thingssuch as yard signs, real estate, campaign promotion, etc. Although they are made of plastic, these signs are extremely durable and cost effective. This lightweight material creates an advantage over using signs made of aluminum or PVC because its ease of installation and cutting ability.

PVC Signs made from PVC material can be displayed both indoors and outdoors. However, due to the thickness of the material, they are known to be ideal for outside use. PVC is the same material the pipes in your home are made of but instead they are reshaped into a lightweight, foam-like board. You may see some of these signs on menu boards, wall graphics and point of purchase displays.

Aluminum Rust resistant and waterproof, aluminum signs are perfect for exterior use and hold up well to the elements. Metal signage only needs occasional maintenance, making it affordable and worth the investment. This material also translates well inside and create a smooth, modern look to the surrounding area.

Magnetic Perfect for on-the-go advertisement, magnetic signs are mostly seen on the sides of car doors. This mobile marketing tactic is a way to increase brand visibility, which will essentially increase brand awareness. Car magnetics are incredibly inexpensive and can create a lasting impression to those around you. Considering the different materials sign blanks are made of and what they are best used for can help when you are in the purchasing process. Additionally, size will make a difference as well.

Some common uses for any of these signs are safety precautions, yard sales, brand promotion, menu boards and much more. The list goes on!

Now let’s move on to what sets the groundwork for a successful sign, the material it’s made of.

Retail Sign Blank
Sign Sizes



Magnetic Car Sign

What sizes do signs usually come in?

There are a variety of different sizes that signs usually come in. Determining the size you need will depend on what the sign will be used for. Keep in mind that you may want to have your design planned out beforehand in order to account for the size and space you will need for your sign.

The most common sizes for sign blanks are of the following:

  • 10”x5.5”
  • 12”x6”
  • 8”x12”
  • 18 x7”
  • 24”x6”
  • 12”x18”
  • 28”x11”
  • 6”x12”
  • 6”x18”
  • 6”x24”
  • 12”x18”
  • 18”x24”
  • 24”x36”

These are a few of the most common sizes sign blanks come in. However, custom sizes can also be made through special requests.

You can have the correct material and size that you need but those are just two elements that make a good quality sign. Now, let’s discuss what will make your sign stand out.

What makes a good quality sign?

Creating an impactful sign that delivers the message you want has many different aspects including your logo, colors, size, graphics, fonts and some other basic elements we’ll get into.

Why Visibility is Important in the Customization Process

The ability to see the sign and its message is key when deciding on which size blank you are choosing.

There are several other crucial factors that you may want to consider as well such as sign placement, color choice, graphic quality and font size.

Making sure that you are choosing the right colors is essential in creating a well-designed sign. Colors can create a brand identity, raise awareness and visibility.

Keep in mind that contrast plays a role in readability. Pairing similar colors for the background and text can create limited readability, resulting in an unsuccessful and worthless sign.

Why Clarity Plays a Role in the Making of a Custom Blank Sign

Having too much text on a sign or too little can affect the message you are trying to convey.

While you may be trying to provide people with as much information as you can, this may take longer for people to read. You’ll want to make sure the message is straightforward and actionable.

Now let’s get into some of the ways you can customize a sign blank.

How to Decorate a Blank Sign

Here are 3 ways you can use to decorate a blank sign in no particular order.

Making a Custom Sign with Vinyl Film  

When it comes to decorating a sign, there are a few different ways to do this and a few different kinds of vinyl you can use.

Choosing the method for you will depend on how you want your sign to turn out.  

One way to decorate a blank sign is using sign vinyl film. 

Sign vinyl is one of the materials that eye catching displays and signs are made with. This material has an adhesive backing that can be easily applied to sign blanks or directly on a wall or window.  

It also comes in a variety of different kinds such as calendared and cast. These are made for different purposes and deciding on one depends on what the project may be. 

Calendared Vinyl

For short term outdoor use, calendared vinyl is the best option. This inexpensive and less stretchy vinyl tends to last from three to six years depending on the color. 

Options like black, white and translucent will have a longer durability out in the sun than metallics like silver and gold. Calendared vinyl is ideal for applications that don’t require the film to stretch around complex curves. 

Using a squeegee for the application process will result in the best results avoiding air bubbles and wrinkles.  

Cast Vinyl

Cast vinyl is considered a premium grade vinyl that is more durable, expensive and flexible than calendared. This will last longer and can be applied to complex surfaces such as vehicles. Cast vinyl has an outdoor life span of eight to ten years depending on the brand and color.  

Some helpful tools when applying sign vinyl to a sign blank are a tape measure, squeegee and a razor knife.  

We’ll list all the tools we use a bit later.

Another great way to decorate a blank sign is with a UV Printer.

Using a UV Printer to Print on Sign Blanks

 UV printing is a unique method that uses ultraviolet light to dry or cure ink.  

 The process of printing on sign blanks using uv printing is quick and cost effective because you can print on multiple signs at a time with the right machine. This requires a uv printer like the Compress UV 1200.  

Once you get the artwork loaded and lined up correctly into the Compress’s RIP software, you will print an outline of the sign blank onto the bed of your printer. Once that’s done, you will load the sign blank into the printer to correspond to what is in the software and the outline on the bed and press print. 

The result will be a dry, decorated sign ready for display.  

Uv printing is a great way to turn your blank signage into real estate, political, directional signs and much more. This method is not limited to a certain material either, you can uv print on sign blanks made of acrylic, laminate, aluminum, metal, pvc and nearly any other you can think of.  

The last method we’ll talk about is white toner transfer printing.

Decorating a Blank Sign with a White Toner Transfer Printer

Using white toner transfers to decorate blank signs is very popular due to how quick and easy the process is.

White toner transfer printing uses white toner along with colors to create full color graphics and images to light or dark colored substrates. The white toner is what allows you to make transfers that will be heat applied to dark colored substrates.

These office style printers are self-wedding and don’t use ink, leaving little to no daily maintenance.

To apply a white toner transfer to a sign blank is simple and easy to learn.

First, you’ll print a design or multiple designs onto a sheet of EZ Peel hard surface paper. Using heat tape, you will then secure your design in place on the sign blank and place into the heat press with a hard surface silicone mat on top.

After it’s cooled, you can peel the sheet back and you have a decorated sign.

Now let’s dive into some what kind of tools and products you may need to decorate a blank sign.

Sign Vinyl Film

Rotary Jig In Machine

Compress1200

Sign Tools

A-Frame Sign

What tools do I need for blank signs?

Along with a sign blank, you’ll need some other items to successfully display it.

Some tools will differ depending on how you’ll be creating the sign, therefore we’ve created a list of essential tools you may need using some of the different processes.

What Tools to use when Applying with Vinyl

Tools Needed for UV Printer Applications

Essential Tools when Printing White Toner Transfers

One of the main tools you will need if you plan on exhibiting your sign on floor level indoors or outdoors is a sign stand. Let’s talk a bit about different sign stands and their purpose.

What kind of sign stands can I use?

As minimal as it may seem, sign stands are more important than you think.

Factors such as location, shape, color and size can all contribute to whether your sign will be noticed or not.

Getting the right sign holder can make your custom sign stand out and create a lasting impression.

We’ll go over what a-frames, metal frames and step stakes will mean to you in this process.

A-Frame : Most sidewalk signs are displayed on a portable plastic holder like a-frames. These are designed to hold two signblanks, front and back. Due to it being lightweight, an a-frame stand can be moved easily from one place to another. To add some versatility, some a-frame sign stands come with replaceable signage, so that you can reuse the same stand for multiple events or occasions. This is one of the most cost-effective stands for any business.

Step Stake: A common way to display corrugated signs is using step stakes. Usually used roadside or as yard signs, step stakes can be easily installed into any soft surface. Just as easy as they can be installed, they can also be removed and used again in another location if needed.
Step stakes are frequently used with corrugated sign blanks with vertical fluting. Vertical fluting on a sign blank provides small holes that run throughout the interior of the sign, creating a space for the step stakes to be inserted into. Other sign blanks made from aluminum and rigid plastic can also be used on a step stake as well.

Metal frame: Known for durability, metal sign stands are ideal for outdoor use. Therefore, you will typically see real estate signage being held up on a metal frame because these can withstand outside elements. Offering versatility, metal frames can also hold corrugated plastic, rigid plastic and aluminum sign blanks.

Who buys sign blanks?

Almost anyone in the customization business can benefit from adding sign blanks to their list of products.

There is a huge demand for all different types of signage and an industry full of the materials and substrates you need to get started.

Let’s say you are already supplying uniforms and materials to a school, why not add custom graduation signs to that list? The market for graduation signs has increased offering a huge opportunity for profit if taken advantage of.

People who own printing machinery like UV printers are often also in the market for sign blanks for the same reason.

Those who work with creating custom products with vinyl can expand as well.

If you have the equipment needed to generate a variety of signs and sign products, now is the time to grab a hold of the opportunity.

The sign making business is diverse and offers opportunities to business owners in all markets.

The last subject and possibly the most important we want to talk about is how much a decorated sign blank goes for and what you can make.

What is the retail price for a decorated sign blank?

Decorated sign blanks vary in price depending on the size and the job being done. A decorated sign blank can range anywhere from $5 to $150.

Let’s start with an example which can help us determine what people charge for sign blanks, and what the profit looks like.

We took a look at three different sign shops and what the price was for a custom 8”x12” sign blank with the following options:

  • 6”x12”
  • Aluminum
  • Single Side Print
  • No Coatings
  • No custom drilled holes or fasteners

This provided a single sign quote (not including shipping)

  • $44.00 #1 on google for a custom sign
  • $36.00 #2 on google for a custom sign
  • $55.00 #3 on google for a custom sign

This makes for an average price of $45.00

The cost of a blank sign like this is less than $9 and to print on this could range from a few cents to a few dollars.

In other words, in this example the markup for a custom printed aluminum sign retails for 3-5x the cost to produce.

Through our own case studies, we’ve seen that the most cost-effective method to create decorated sign blanks would be through using UV printing, with the overall profit being significantly higher than the total cost of goods.

However, many people choose to use a cutter and sign vinyl film do to the low cost of entry for equipment. Either way, both solutions offer a great finished product.

After reviewing a few examples we found online, it’s evident that sign blanks can bring a huge profit to anyone’s business regardless of the method you decide to take.

Now that you have a bit more knowledge about sign blanks, decision making and purchasing will be smooth sailing.

Although it may appear as easy as buying a sign blank and choosing a design, you have learned that there are many key factors and elements to consider.

Every sign blank is an opportunity for a new, creative idea. No matter the size or shape of the sign, there are endless possibilities in the sign making business.

Retail Sign

Retail Sign

Retail Sign