What in the Heck Are Channel Letter Signs?

channel letters

Driving down any street in most cities or suburbs you will see signs that display the name and logo of local businesses, hospitals, or restaurants. Many of the signs contain channel letters. You can see channel letter signage at grocery stores, retailers, auto shops, schools, and car washes.  They are all vying to get customers attention with a well-designed channel letter sign. 

A channel letter is a three-dimensional letter that can include a light source. Channel letters are built using plastic or metal materials. They are commonly used in exterior signage.  There are many possible channel letter choice combinations. From fonts to materials, styles, sizes, and colors, the possibilities are endless. 

Channel letters can be customized to fit the style, theme, and brand of your business. There are even illumination options, such as neon or LED. Even without a light source, channel letters are a great signage option.

4 Types of Channel Letters

The flexibility of channel letters can enhance the signage of your business and set you apart from the crowd. There are 4 main types to choose from.

  1. Front-Lit Channel Letters

Also known as standard channel letters, front-lit channel letters use neon or LED lights to illuminate the face of the letters. This is done with a translucent acrylic face and lights that shine from within the letter itself. Front-lit channel letters are the most common type of channel letter and they draw attention during the day or night.

Most front-lit channel letters are made of sheet metal that is cut to create the letter shape. The letters can be painted to the color of your choice.  Front-lit channel letters can be seen from a distance and offer several choices for customization.

  1. Reverse-Lit Channel Letters.
Moby LED

Reverse-lit channel letter signs are mounted away from the wall, causing the light to form a halo effect behind the sign.  They are also known as back-lit or halo-lit channel letters. Reverse-lit channel letters have a metal face.  The back of the channel letter is usually covered with clear Lexan or polycarbonate to not allow birds to build a nest inside the channel letter.

Combination-Lit and Back Lit Channel Lettering

This type of channel lettering generally features an acrylic face and clear back, allowing the face of the letter to be illuminated with one color, and contrast it against a halo backlighting in a different color. For example, you can have a red illuminated sign with yellow halo backlighting.

  1. Open Face Channel Letters

Open face channel letters are designed with the face open exposing the neon illumination. You can also use a clear acrylic face as an option. These letters are appealing because they create a vintage or handmade look.

Channel Letter Components

  1. The acrylic face is the part of the channel letter that is illuminated. Translucent vinyl can be added to channel letter faces to enhance color options.
  1. Trimcap is affixed to the acrylic face and then attached to the return. Many standard colors are available as well as metallic trimcap colors. If those don’t coordinate with your business logo, trimcap colors can also be customized.
  1. The return or sides of channel letters are typically 3 to 8 inches dee[. They are made of aluminum and come in standard colors.  Returns come in standard colors or can be painted a color of your choosing.
  1. The components of the back of a channel letter depends on whether it is face-lit or back-lit. Face-lit letters have a backing made of aluminum, while with back-lit letters the backs are clear polycarbonate which can have translucent vinyl applied to add color to the halo. All come in a variety of thicknesses.
  1. Lighting used in channel letters include LEDs and neon lights. You can also opt not to have your channel letter sign illuminated.

Mounting Channel Letters

You can choose to have your channel letters mounted on:

A raceway. This rectangular structure is typically made of aluminum. It conceals and protects the electrical components of the channel letter.

A wireway or backer mount is another mounting structure that generally contains wiring only. It is thinner and broader than a raceway.  It can also be used as a backer panel for the channel letters.

Direct/Flush mounting of channel letters is when they are directly attached to the building surface.

Where Do I Begin?

If you’re not sure what type of channel letter signage your business needs, then call a professional sign company to guide you. Schlosser Signs has over 20 years of experience is the sign industry, serving business owners, schools, and local municipalities in northern Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska.  We can help you get the best sign for your business.