We get a lot of requests for sturdy metal, glass, or wood commercial signs only to have people balk at the price when we send them a quote. Because these are heavy materials that take the right skill, time, and tools to work with, these are some of the most expensive materials to make signs out of. But just because they don't want to pay for the real deal, that doesn't mean people on a budget can't still get the look of their favorite materials. Here are a couple of substitutes you can get to help get you the best of both worlds.
Looks Like Metal
The first option actually is metal, but a lot thinner and lighter. Aluminum Composite Panels (ACP) are a great way to get the basic look of metal for much less. These panels are really really thin pieces of aluminum sandwiching a light board usually made out of a foam core material. This makes ACP lighter and more malleable than regular metal sheets, so it's easier to ship and route which often also decreases the final cost. The downside to using ACP is that it is thin and less likely to stand the test of time than solid metal.
This logo sign may look like metal, but it's actually acrylic with a metallic finish.
Another option for those who like the look of metal but don't want to purchase it, is acrylic. Acrylic is great because you can get it to mimic the appearance of almost every type of metal. You can also get it in brushed textures for those that like brushed stainless steel. Like ACP, acrylic is much lighter than metal because it's made out of dense plastic. It's easy to work with and bonds really well with other types of materials.
Looks Like Glass
Here's where acrylic wins again! Clear acrylic can look like glass but costs less, is less fragile, is much easier to work with, and much easier to package and ship. If you already have glass but want it to have a frosted or etched look, you don't have to use chemicals to get the result you want. Frosted etch vinyl lets you have detailed designs, logos, or just letters on glass doors and windows at an affordable price and without the permanence and mess of chemical etching.
This dimensional statement wall for Ascend FCU includes a brushed metal arch, frosted acrylic statement panels, and a wall-mounted logo sign with brushed and polished metal letters. The panels and logo sign, although acrylic, provide the appearance of glass.
Looks Like Wood
3M Di-Noc vinyl can look like a lot of common surfaces from marble to wood. It's easy to apply to surfaces like floors, walls, furniture, or sign substrates. You can also use different types of foam that is shaped and painted to look like wood. Certain types of foam signs might not initially be cheaper than wood, but they'll save you money in the long run. Wood can take a lot of maintenance. It regularly needs to be sealed and refinished, and exposure to the elements can cause it to deteriorate over time. Foam, on the other hand, will never need to be refinished and won't deteriorate since it's not made from organic materials.
This sign was cut out of high density urethane sign foam but was painted to look like it was made out of wood.
Sure, sometimes actual glass, metal, or wood is the material you really need. But for those on a budget, these substitutes can really do the trick! For a general guide on how much sign materials cost, click here.
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