Channel letters come in a wide variety of fonts and styles and sizes. As a 3D graphic design element, they are typically fabricated from sheet metal, usually aluminum because it won’t rust. A flat sheet of aluminum is cut on a table by a computer-controlled router, creating the back of the channel which is the basis for the letter shape. Another option for manufacturing channel letters is from injection molded plastic.
The sides of the channel letter, called the “returns”, are then formed by bending a 3- to 6-inch-wide strip of aluminum sheet around the aluminum back. This return can be welded at the seam or flanged and riveted to the back to create a solid “can” in the shape of the custom channel letter. The letter can is then painted and fitted with the LED modules.
A translucent plastic face (usually of 3/16″ thick sheet acrylic or polycarbonate) is routed out to fit the open face of the letter can. A plastic trim cap border is applied to its edges which gives the letter face a finished appearance and creates a fastening surface to attach it to the letter can.
Channel letter signs can be made with an illuminated sign cabinet called a pillbox, logo box or cigar box. Channel letters can also be designed so that the light comes out from behind the letters. The letters are raised from the surface allowing the light to bounce off of the back. These are called reverse channel letters.
Another type of channel letters are open face channel letters. The channel letter does not have a face and you can see the lighting exposed. Since it’s exposed these must be illuminated using neon lights.
Today, unless specified, our channel letters are made using LED illumination instead of neon or florescent because they last much longer and are less expensive to manufacture.
If you’re considering a channel letter sign, we’d be happy to show you samples and discuss the various options. Our recommendations will be based on your brand guidelines and the final design, the site location, your budget, timing and specific sign regulations for your city and building. Give us a call today!
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