How should my sign be illuminated – or How do I light up my sign
There are three main directions that a sign can be illuminated, namely FRONT ILLUMINATED, EDGE LIT and REAR ILLUMINATED.
1. Front Illumination – also known as front lighting – refers to the sign being illuminated (lit) from the front, generally either from below or from above, and is commonly used on advertising billboards.
Front illumination is most commonly achieved with bright, ‘spot’ light type lighting, although almost any lighting, including florescent lamps, can be used for front illumination, where the light is being ‘reflected’ off the face of the sign.
Front illumination tends to have the advantage that it can keep costs – both initial investment and running costs – low. This saving does, however, tend to be at the trade-off of clarity and possibly visibility, because one of the largest disadvantages of front illumination is that if the light source is not properly, or well, focused, the sign can become totally illegible at night – just when the lighting is supposed to make the sign visible – as the light reflecting at the incorrect angle can result in the full brightness of the light reflecting off the face of the sign directly into the viewers eyes, similar to the effect of looking into the headlights of oncoming traffic, and effectively blocking the sign’s message.
2. Edge Lighting – also known as side lighting or side illumination or edge illumination – refers to when a sign – generally for a framed glass type sign – is illuminated from one or more side (or edge). Edge illumination is commonly used for safety signs that are illuminated from one edge, as well as for smaller signs that are placed in poorly lit area’s, and ‘slim’ signs that are located in area’s with limited space.
The biggest advantage of edge lighting is that the sign can be extremely thin – from as little as 20 mm deep – so that the illuminated sign can be hung like a work of art or used in the place of a standard piece of artwork, such as a decorative painting.
While there are many advantages to having thin signs, especially when space is at a premium, it is worth remembering that edge lighting can only be used with ‘thin’ light sources, such as T5 florescent tubes or LED lights, so that, for now, (or until the technology improves), the illumination is often not very bright. This does not tend to be an issue if the area where the sign is to hang is poorly or not illuminated, but can be problematic when the area is well illuminated, or there is a lot a ‘other’ light in the vicinity of the sign, as the edge light may not be as bright as the competing light, and thus the most powerful effect of the illumination can be lost.
3. Rear Illumination – also known as internal lighting, back illumination and back lighting – is the most powerful, and most common lighting, used for business signs, building signs and ‘light boxes’. Rear illumination refers to the light ‘passing through’ the face – and illustration – of the sign, thus enhancing the picture, and / or message.
Because of the work involved in the manufacturing and wiring process, rear illumination does tend to be the most costly form of illumination, although the costs are coming down with all the wonderful developments being made in lighting technology.
One of the many advantages of rear illumination is that different types of illumination can be used to create different effects for the viewer. An example of this is when old technology florescent lights (running off magnetic ballasts and starters) are placed behind a picture of running water. Because of the flow of energy in the tubes, the water in the picture also gives the impression that it is moving. While the effect is wonderful, and old technology ballasts are inexpensive when first purchased, it is common for these ballasts to fail. They are also very eco-unfriendly and use a lot of energy because almost 80% of their output is lost to heat.
Modern, energy efficient florescent lights such as the one’s that SignForce use, run off eco-friendly electronic ballasts, and while their cost is constantly decreasing, the initial investment required for this type of lighting is still significantly larger than that required for the older technology, magnetic ballasts. That said, the increased initial investment is WELL WORTH IT, both because of the longer life expectancy of the modern ballasts and tubes, and also because of the lower running costs – both from a power consumption AND a maintenance perspective, as well as the fact that the sign box will not need to have all the ventilation required from the heat generating magnetic ballasts, contributing to a lowing of the manufacturing costs.
It is becoming increasingly common for rear lit signs to be illuminated with energy efficient, eco-friendly LED lights, because of the reduction in running costs, the extended life expectancy of LED lights and the ease of use.
Another advantage of rear illumination is that the picture and / or commercial message is enhanced when the lighting is from the rear, making the message brighter and clearer.
If you are in the market for professional looking, illuminated signs, or simply require advice on how best to illuminate your sign – and get a return on your illuminated sign investment – email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com using the subject line: ADVICE PLEASE and we will get back to you as soon as possible.