Six ways to juice your flat sign designs

By signcraft

Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

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Not every customer can afford a 3D masterpiece sign—and not every customer needs one. But that doesn’t mean that a flat sign can’t take advantage of the illusion of 3D to make the sign more appealing and more effective.

Braun Bleamer [Jet Signs Inc., Palmerton, Pennsylvania] does a lot of great-looking signs on flat panels. When a client comes looking for a 3D sign but decides it’s beyond their budget, he converts these sales to upscale flat signs that deliver a lot of impact for his clients and excellent profits for his shop.

“Often when a customer comes into the shop,” says Braun, “it’s because they’ve seen my dimensional work out in the field and they want something comparable. I usually end up working up a price on a dimensional sign because that’s what they believe they need.”

But he’s also ready with a price for a flat version of the sign in case the cost of a dimensional sign is out of reach. Many of his dimensional signs are for resorts and other businesses who have more resources than the average customer.

“Instead of allowing a customer to possibly walk out the door disappointed and with nothing,” Braun says, “I show them how they can walk away happy, within their budget, and with a sign that does the trick.”

Here are some of the ways Braun gives a custom 3D look to signs done on flat panels:

Use a panel. Besides helping you manage the copy, a panel in a contrasting color can add a 3D effect.

Add a shadow. Experiment a little here—try a heavy outline with an in-shade on the lettering or a cast shadow beside it. Or, a pale pencil-thin shadow on the main copy. There are a lot of cool shadow effects to play with—like Braun’s inset shadow on the Blackout Seal Coating sign.

Effects can help. Adding a convex effect to the primary copy or a chrome-effect outline works well. Using a chrome or gold-effect border on a panel does, too. Braun uses such effects sparingly, though—just enough to create a feel of dimension.

Put something in the background. A pale image in the background can make the lettering appear to be raised, or push the lettering toward the viewer. A fade, blend or texture in the background can do the same thing.

Try a layer. Look for one element that could be cut out and applied to the main panel, like the logo graphic. Or create the look of layers on the whole sign by mounting the sign panel on another panel that extends beyond the edges to create a border.

Cut it to shape. Try an interesting panel design, or maybe just slice off something to get away from the monotony of the standard 4-by-8 format. Cut a 4-by-10 panel down to 3-by-10. Create a shape by cutting out a panel or some of the letters so that they appear to extend beyond the sign.

Remember to keep the primary copy strong. This is true for any sign—flat, 3D or on a vehicle—but it’s worth repeating. It’s the most important copy, so why not make it obvious that it’s important?

Not every customer can afford a custom 3D sign, but that doesn’t mean they won’t stretch their budget for a custom flat sign. These signs are just as profitable for a sign shop, and they make great advertising for the customer.

There are plenty of great examples of Braun’s work in past issues of SignCraft Magazine. Search our Article Index for his name and enjoy the results.


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