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The How-To Magazine

N ov e m ber 2017 | signs h o m

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How To: Improving Design Workflow

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Contents NOVEMBER 2017

Vol. 31

No. 269

How-To Columns




By Brooke Albring Strategies to improve project turnaround and workflow.


8 10 44 48


A blockbuster announcement was made at the most recent SGIA Expo, and Editor Jeff Wooten analyzes what it means for the industry’s future.


OSHA extends crane deadline, GSG helps hurricane victims, and a university gets a big digital upgrade.

Sign Show

The newest products and services from sign manufacturers.

SBI Marketplace

Advertisements and announcements from the sign trade.

Shop Talk

Ashley Bray explains how a company’s three divisions lead to expertise in multiple areas.


16 20 26 34 38

40 2

Sign Builder Illustrated

November 2017



By Jeff Wooten A classic neon rooster sign is meticulously recreated.


By Ashley Bray How a sign company completed a sparkling channel letter performance.


By Jeff Wooten Pirok Design achieves custom looks with HDU and more.


By Jeff Wooten Incorporating LED lighting into your client’s wayfinding plans.

DIsplays in action

By Various Providing an LED display system to the world’s largest sports brand.


By Jeff Stadelmans Best vinyl installation practices for optimum results.

​Cover Photo: TDH Experiential.


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What was the biggest trend you noticed at SGIA Expo last month?

November 2017, Vol. 31, No. 269 Sign Builder Illustrated (ISSN 0895-0555) print, (ISSN 2161-0709) digital is published by Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation

Subscriptions: 800-895-4389

executive offices President and Chairman Arthur J. McGinnis, Jr. Publisher Arthur J. Sutley 55 Broad Street, 26th floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7247 ; Fax: 212-633-1863

editorial Editor Jeff Wooten 323 Clifton Street, Suite #7 Greenville, NC 27858 212-620-7244

“Custom signage—thanks to dye sub, engravers, and flatbeds, to name a few—is becoming the ‘it’ buzzword now.“

Managing Editor Ashley Bray 55 Broad Street, 26th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-620-7220

“Automation to streamline and speed up the finishing process for digital printing.”

Contributing Writers Brooke Albring, Jim Hingst, Lori Shridhare Jeff Stadelman

art Art Director Nicole Cassano Graphic Designer Aleza Leinwand

production Corporate Production Director Mary Conyers

circulation Circulation Director Maureen Cooney

advertising sales Associate Publisher/East Coast Sales Jeff Sutley 212-620-7233

“I saw more 3D printers amazing me with their output. Keep an eye on this in the near future.”

Publisher/Mid-West & West Coast Sales Art Sutley 212-620-7247 Sign Builder Illustrated is published monthly. All rights reserved. Nothing herein may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher. To purchase PDF files of cover and layouts or hard copy reprints, please call Art Sutley at 212-620-7247 or e-mail


Sign Builder Illustrated

November 2017

Editor’s Column


By Jeff Wooten

November 2017 NOVEMBER 30DECEMBER 2:

USSC Sign World International is scheduled to be held at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (

January 2018 JANUARY 18-20:

The Southern States Sign Association’s Trade Show and Conference takes place in Jensen Beach, Florida. (

Converging Ideas

The sign and graphics industry widens its focus.


Sign Builder Illustrated

Honestly how many traditional shops today are strictly sign or print anymore, especially in this era of customization and personalization? Nowadays you’ll find printers sitting next to routers sitting next to automated finishers and so forth. It seems more projects and more possibilities are being taken on just to survive in today’s marketplace. Walking around this year’s Expo, I noticed laser engravers creating startling imagery on a variety of materials, dye sublimation increasing its influence in fabrics, and 3D printing venturing into channel letters. “The convergence of technology and capabilities underway is leading printers to expand their services and products into adjacent markets very rapidly, creating new opportunities and growing their businesses as a result,” said Rich Thompson of Ad Graphics, chairman of the SGIA Board of Directors in a press release. “PRINT United will present a broad vision of these opportunities under one roof.” There’s one more SGIA Expo to come (next October 23-25 in Las Vegas), and after that, a whole new frontier in its presentation and attraction. But as stated earlier, many shops today are already multi-faceted, so let’s face it—the future just got even more diverse.

Jeff Wooten Editor,

November 2017

February 2018 FEBRUARY 15-16:

The Midwest Sign Association will conduct its Winter Meeting at the Renaissance Hotel in Toledo, Ohio. (


The Mid South Sign Association’s “New Ideas, New Possibilities” conference will take place at the Holiday Inn, Alexandria Downtown Convention Center in Alexandria, Louisiana. (


Graphics of the Americas 2018 will commence at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (

March 2018 MARCH 22-24:

Photo: Shutterstock/ KvaS.


would probably say that the biggest news coming out of the recent SGIA Expo, a seventy-plus-year event that showcases the latest imaging-related technologies, applications, and education, is that, after 2018, SGIA Expo will cease to exist! It is yet another reminder that our industry continues to be defined by blurred lines. In 2019, SGIA and business-tobusiness media company NAPCO Media will be premiering PRINT United, a brand-new, super-sized exposition scheduled to be held in Dallas, Texas that will cover everything print-related. This event, according to officials, will host a broader range of printing and finishing technologies—covering a wider range of industry segments from garments, graphics, and commercial to packaging, mailing, and industrial. Explaining this redirection, SGIA officials pointed to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics showing that printing establishments in the United States declined 31.2 percent between 2000 and 2015, while explaining that many remaining print shops have expanded their range of services in order to increase their profits. The state of the industry today actually brings to mind Star Trek: The Motion Picture. For those of you old enough (or interested enough) to remember, that film featured a giant cloud absorbing everything in its path and was (spoiler alert!) powered by a piece of hardware in need of an upgrade.

ISA International Sign Expo 2017 is scheduled to be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida. (

In The Industry University Gets a Big Digital Upgrade

M OSHA Extends Crane



ashington, D.C.—The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has officially extended the deadline for sign companies and installers to comply with crane operator certification requirements to November 10, 2018. (Note: The original mandate was scheduled to have taken effect this November.) The regulation will require any professional who operates a mobile crane to be OSHA-certified by a third-party evaluator and designated as “qualified.” Some states already mandate crane operator certification, and this OSHA delay does

not affect those states. The extension was agreed upon after a key committee member of the ACCSH advisory group voted to recommend that OSHA extend the requirements for crane certification for another twelve months, in order to give OSHA enough time to clarify and fix confusing language in the current rule. The pushback follows an already three-year delay on these certifications, which came as a result of the industry pushing back on initial regulations and deeming them “arbitrary.” However the certification is fully expected to still be enacted.

issoula, Montana—The University of Montana has selected ANC of Purchase, New York to design and install a new center-hung display at its 7,000plus seat Dahlberg Arena. The display will be the only one in the Big Sky Conference to have four 6mm LED video displays. The four main 6mm LED video displays measure 9.45 feet highby-16.38 feet wide and will include another four 6mm LED video displays along the bottom of the display measuring 2.62 feet highby-14.70 feet wide. They will feature video, animations, sponsor content, promotions, and statistics. A N C c o l l a b o ra t e d w i t h t h e University on the design process, providing support beginning with the initial design through the installation and will manage and operate the new center-hung display. All of the displays will feature Mitsubishi Electric Power Products’ Diamond Vision System Division’s XL Series featuring Real Black® technology and will be controlled by ANC’s vSOFT™ system.

GSG Helps Hurricane Victims Fort Worth, Texas—During the Imprinted Sportswear Show (ISS) held this past September, wholesale distributor GSG ( hosted a Texas Strong fundraiser to help aid families along the Texas coast that had been affected by Hurricane Harvey. The company sold limited-edition T-shirts printed on the show floor with 100 percent of sales going to local charities. GSG collaborated with ISS and other vendors at the show (including 8

Sign Builder Illustrated

Reece Sign Supply, Ryonet, M&R, and F&M Expressions) to collect donations. The effort raised $9,000 in donations over the three-day show, displaying amazing solidarity among those in the graphics community! The donation amount will be split among several local charities: Crisis Assistance Center, Houston Food Bank, Southeast Texas Food Bank, Food Bank of Corpus Christi, and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Houston.

November 2017


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Sign Show DIGITAL PRINTING EQUIPMENT/SUPPLIES Graphics One Introduces a New Twenty-four-inch Dye Sub Printing System The GO 901X 24-inch Dye Sub System from Graphics One is a fully integrated, four-color, high-quality dye-sublimation printing solution. The 901X bundle is a complete system and includes the 901X printer, DTX Industrial Dye Sub Ink, Wasatch SoftRIP advanced workflow software, GO Xtreme Dye Sub Paper, and stand/catch basket. Additionally Graphics One will offer a complete system with an advanced Mogk 25.5-inch-by-31.5-inch P-32 Heat Press (including two sets of ink and paper). The system comes with a one-year warranty.

A Look at HP's Most Economical Entry Point into Sign Printing Using Water-based Latex The new 54-inch HP Latex 115 Printer delivers stunning results with high image quality across a wide range of applications for indoor and outdoor signage. HP Latex 115 Print and Cut also provides an end-to-end solution for producing applications such as labels, decals, stickers, window graphics, and more. The dualdevice solution delivers simultaneous and continuous printing and cutting in a single, integrated workflow. Additionally the printers enjoy seamless integration with HP Signage Suite and HP WallArt in the HP Applications Center.

LED MODULES/STRIPS/TUBES Aries Graphics Announces Co-marketing and Software Integration Partnership with ikeGPS Spike from ikeGPS allows sign and digital graphics professionals to quickly and safely capture measurements for estimates of signage locations from a smartphone or tablet picture and the Spike device. After capturing a photo of the existing sign using their smartphone and the Spike laser device, the sign maker uploads it to the Spike Cloud and creates a 1:1 scaled and perspective-corrected JPEG file. This file type can be imported directly into Aries Graphics’ LED Wizard already scaled and at proper perspective. At that point, the sign maker can use LED Wizard’s design and layout tools to match the font, draw various shapes, and trace the design on the Spike photo in preparation for LED population. (800) 294-7273;

ROUTERS/ENGRAVERS Kern Lasers Releases New OptiFlex High-performance System The next-generation OptiFlex is a redesigned large format laser system equipped with Kern Laser Systems’ new HyperDual motion package. This improved motion package features a rack and pinion gear system at each side of the laser system with dual Y-axis servo motors. Cut acceleration rates are up to three times faster with a 100 percent increase in top-end vector speed. The X-axis has been upgraded with twin linear rails and a thicker steel reinforced belt. The OptiFlex system truly sets the standard for a high-performance, large format laser cutting and engraving system! (888) 660-2755;

SERVICE TRUCKS/EQUIPMENT CraneMate from Reach-All, LLC Allows You to Do More Work in Less Time The CraneMate features a 6-foot-by-600-pound platform capacity, a package weight of 570 pounds, and a compact, center-mounted platform excellent for use to mount to the tip of larger boom trucks' swing jib or on smaller 8- to 10-ton boom trucks “per factory capacity.” Self-contained, hydraulic-powered auto leveling provides safety of personnel and stability of payloads. Meanwhile 180-Degree Full Platform Rotation with proportional controls enables excellent positioning of the platform and prevents workers from bunching up at one corner and stretching unsafely to hard-to-reach areas. The “stow and go” feature allows the platform to be attached to the crane tip for safe road travel. (941) 256-4165;


Sign Builder Illustrated

November 2017


How To


Collaboration: Design & Sales Strategies to improve project turnaround and workflow.

Issue No. 1: Timelines and Turnaround Expectations. Turnaround time is a touchy subject for sign companies, as they want to produce drawings while the customer is actively thinking about 12

Sign Builder Illustrated

the sign or beat their competition to the submission. Sales representatives are creating deadlines and promising drawings to customers. The art department is drowning in projects and has to find a way to meet these deadlines. This problem sets both departments up for failure. Solutions: “General deadlines” should be established through a quick weekly or bi-weekly meeting between art and sales. These “general deadlines” are for typical projects that your sign company produces frequently, and they should always have an additional day for padding. Remember that this transparency will create a better relationship with the customer. Wouldn’t you rather promise two weeks out and deliver in one, than the other way around? Sales reps should discuss all other “unique” or more time-consuming projects with the art department before providing a deadline to the customer. Simply put the customer on hold and buzz your art department for an accu-

November 2017

Issue No. 2: Design Department Work Flow. Customer drawings are continuously backed up within the department, taking too long to be sent out, and art quality is lacking. Multiple revisions are also a common occurrence and are not returned promptly to the interested customer. Solutions: This problem is frequently the result of issue number one. Consider those solutions as well as the ones below. Designers should try to address revisions first or before moving into a new project. These items have the customer’s attention and are considered “hot.” Then move on to projects that take less than twenty minutes. This will keep any backlog work lighter. Sales reps should work hard to gather and organize all needed materials, pictures, files, and information ahead of

Photo Credit: Dreamstime.


here’s an ongoing battle between designers and sales representatives, which is predictable considering designers like to have more time with projects and sales reps need everything now. This can create much tension between these departments. However if we keep the main objectives for these groups in focus, it will be easier to maintain a relationship that is less resistant. These two departments have the same goals: first, to generate profit, and second, to please the customers. Obviously there are additional responsibilities and goals that are department specific, but everyone’s number one goal is to increase the company’s profits. Here are three points, along with a few tips, to help smooth out potential bumps in the road.

rate answer. The art department should have all projects displayed for both departments to clearly see their order and workload. This can be achieved through project management software or by simply installing a large dry-erase board on the wall with the submitted projects listed. Do not, by any means, place static turnaround times on the art department from which your sales reps are expected to work. Your creatives are constantly in flux depending on the project, project type, the day, and even the overall momentum. Some weeks will be faster than others, and in limiting this expression, drawings take a huge blow in quality, which ultimately hurts overall profitability. Most customers do not immediately pull the trigger in our industry, no matter how quickly the drawing is delivered. The most important factor that will maintain your customer’s interest, allow you to stand out, and always result in the customer purchasing the sign is when they truly love the design.

How To


submitting projects. This allows designers to begin right away. (Note: See issue number three for more information.) Additionally for issues one and two, try distributing projects according to your designers’ strengths and interests. Ongoing efforts to assess the workload per designer ratio can help you determine if another designer needs to be hired. Once you have made these adjustments, watch your turnaround time, art quality, and workflow become more compatible with your company’s goals. Issue No. 3: Sales Department Submissions. Sales representatives’ requests are not being returned to them in a timely manner, or what they do receive is different from what the client or rep requested. Another way this issue is presented is when design is not receiving the needed information for projects in

an organized, understandable fashion. Solutions: Design and sales should collaborate to create a simple project submission form that must be utilized by the sales reps for every project. A few helpful parts to include on this form would be a 1-to-10 creativity scale, space to draw out objects, and even a budget estimate. Sales should be educated by design on proper file extensions, as well as image resolutions and how they are both used. It will also be beneficial for sales reps to understand image perspectives, camera angles, and how scaling is done on the computer. Sales reps and the involved designers should have a quick discussion for every project submitted before it is begun. This will help ensure all needed information is present, allow the designer to take notes, and keep both departments on

the same page. Designers should provide a brief explanation of their designs and “train of thought” via email or in person to help the sales rep better understand and sell the drawings. Conclusion Art and sales departments must focus not only on their shared goals, but also on communication, which is the underlying problem within most of these issues. I’d encourage these departments to meet regularly, speak openly, and implement drastic changes, if necessary. Within their partnership lies a power to dramatically increase profits. Brooke Albring is CEO of BA Innovative, a design firm based in St. Petersburg, Florida. For more information, log on to bainnovative. com or email





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Sign Builder Illustrated

November 2017


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A classic neon rooster sign is meticulously recreated.


Comes Home to


Sign Builder Illustrated

February 2017


All Photos: TDH Experiential Fabricators.

ancouver’s Chinatown is experiencing quite a resurgence nowadays, as the area simultaneously embraces its history while adopting modern-touch flourishes and improvements. For example, a brand-new recreation of a once-glowing neon rooster sign is again brightening the neighborhood thanks to a recent installation that marries one restaurant’s rich history with a shinier future. And the return to its perch is a sign story for the ages. The Challenge Located in Chinatown’s East Pender district, Sai Woo Restaurant re-opened in 2015. The establishment was named after the original restaurant that served as a chop suey house in 1925 before its closing in 1959. Today Sai Woo thrives as a local favorite, operating out of the exact-same building in the historic neighborhood. The original neon rooster sign identified Sai Woo from the late 1930s up until its closing. But since its removal, the sign has been lost to the passages of time. Current owner Salli Pateman had been using a large awning and painted lettering on the exterior of her restaurant and had no idea that this neon sign ever existed. But after someone shared with her a grainy YouTube clip of a 1958 Chinatown parade that featured a brief glimpse of the lit sign, Pateman was determined to find it, restore it, and return it to her restaurant’s exterior. However her inquiries with local archives and sign shops yielded nothing on its whereabouts. In fact, the only evidence of its existence that she had was in the one frame from this video clip. It was going to take a lot of work for this neon rooster to rise phoenix-style from the ashes. Pateman teamed up with TDH Experiential Fabricators ( of Surrey, British Columbia to bring this piece of history back to Vancouver’s Chinatown in a brand-new construction. Although the company considers themselves a sign shop, TDH also identifies as a custom fabrication shop that specializes in lighting. “We tend to specialize more in artistic-style retro signs and the

build displays that utilize creative fabrication techniques,” says Troy Hibbs, managing partner at TDH. During initial discussions with TDH, Pateman learned that it was going to cost $18,712 to recreate the neon rooster, which put the brakes on its resurrection. She remained passionate about this project, so employing a twenty-first century strategy, she launched the Kickstarter campaign “Bright Lights, Van City” to raise funds to bring this sign back to life—and she succeeded! “This was the first time that we had experienced waiting for a Kickstarter campaign to conclude before getting the go-ahead to start work on a project,” says Troy. “It was...unique.”

We approached it as an artistic application. we like to tell a story with each aging process we added to the sign. The goal was to make the new Sai Woo rooster sign look exactly like it had never left its original location. TDH grabbed a screenshot of the rooster sign from the YouTube video and studied the layout, style, and techniques used on the original sign. “The clip was not HD-quality,” says Troy. “In fact, it was very grainy.” So they imported the screenshot into Adobe Illustrator and handcrafted the sign the best they could from there. The Build The all-steel sign cabinet features an angle frame inside it. “After building this cabinet, we started hand-forming the steel rooster and outer shape to fit the look of it,” says Troy. The company had to approach this

project as a history lesson. While TDH knew the overall shape of the sign, they didn’t know its exact colors (although they had a vague idea). “We studied the other signs in that area that would’ve been in Chinatown Vancouver back then,” says Troy. “We then looked at the different features and finishes that would’ve been used.” TDH also applied different aging processes to dull it down, which involved the team going through a discovery phase. “There’s no one-size-fits-all way that a sign ages, and we didn’t know its repair or service history,” says Troy. “So we approached it as an artistic application [using] our own interpretation. “We like to tell a story with each aging process we added to the sign.” They began by using Matthews Paint Systems for the base colors of the sign, and then they painted and airbrushed the lettering and some of the finer gradient colors. “Once we started handbrushing the lettering, it immediately started looking like an older sign,” says Troy. “We also wet-sanded the paint in order to make it look faded, as if it had been sitting in the sun for many years. “We also added fake rust spots where water might have pooled or dripped consistently over time and thought about any possible burn marks or arcing neon. We also banged up the sign a bit, imagining a bucket truck hitting the sign while servicing it.” TDH Experiential had final choice for the sign’s neon colors. In addition to the brief video clip, the Sai Woo owner provided them with some articles about the sign around that time, as well as a faded original menu featuring the rooster to help them better gauge the appropriate colors. “We also considered if the sign had been sitting in the sun for sixty years, how the colors would age,” says Troy. They settled on Clear Gold, Green, Red, and White 12mm-diamater glass tubes. The end result is a bit softer colors than the original but still close. “I’m sure the original had some different shades in it,” says Troy. The neon tubes were shaped by Troy’s younger brother, Andrew, who at age thirty-one is Vancouver’s youngest recognized neon bender. Troy and his

November 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


brother grew up in the sign business, as their father was an original neon master. (Note: Andrew started bending when he was fifteen years old.) “We were always surrounded by neon growing up. We would be out there repairing neon before and after school,” says Troy. They attached the neon to the sign shape using glass tube supports that were riveted into place. “The neon sits

in the grove of the glass support and is tied off with wire,” says Troy. The amount of neon used on this sign is tremendous for its size—34 units averaging around eight linear feet per unit (approximately 275 feet of neon). It also features six transformers inside of it. “We had to take into account that the internal structure needed to be able to be serviceable in the future,” says Troy. “We also had to make sure all the wires were properly separated from each other and that the transformers were in safe positions.” Since the 6-foot-tall neon rooster sign weighed 600 pounds, they used a crane to lift it into place onto the restaurant exterior. “We were very selective on where to place the strapping, so there would be no chance of pinching or hitting the neon, as the straps started to flex,” explains Troy. The sign features a plate on the outside that’s welded to the main structure and a plate on the inside that sandwiches it between the wall. They bolted it

through the wall using 3/4-inch threaded rods and added four lines of 3/8-inch aircraft cable running up the upper side of the building to help spread some of the weight load on it. The Reaction This project was accomplished thanks to a team effort and pre-planning meetings between Troy, his brother, the designer, and the two main fabricators, as well as the sketching of full-size patterns. “My brother pointed out where he needed electrodes and lead wires placed, and they had to consider how the steel work and internal frame would affect the neon placement,” says Troy. Troy says the restaurant owner’s interest in Chinatown and her passion for her business and building made this experience enjoyable. In fact, she was in tears during the final installation. “To see a customer being that excited about a sign coming to life was cool,” he says. —Additional reporting by Sandra Shechter

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Sign Builder Illustrated

November 2017



he Baltimore Harbor got a little brighter thanks to a new set of color-changing channel letters on the rooftop of Anthem House, a luxury apartment building in downtown Baltimore’s Locust Point neighborhood. To bring their vision to life, Bozzuto Development (the management company for Anthem House) with Yount Design Inc., brought on Triangle Sign & Service (trianglesign. com), a Baltimore, Maryland full-service sign company that specializes in custom retail and architectural signs with fabrication, installation, and service capabilities. “We have an existing relationship with the ownership, building management, and design team and had recommendations from all three groups to utilize our services on the project,” says David Shapiro, director of Business Development at Triangle Sign. Yount Design had a clear vision of what they wanted the rooftop channel letters to look like—and do. “The original inspiration they gave us was a video where they had superimposed a twinkling star effect in the letters, and they asked if we could make the letters do something similar,” explains Shapiro. Triangle Sign searched for an LED


Sign Builder Illustrated

manufacturer that could make the twinkling effect happen, and they chose Everylite. “They were the only ones that we were able to identify that had electrical engineering in-house and the ability to program the DMXcontrolled modules in-house,” says Shapiro. “Everylite was able to take that video the designer had first set up of the twinkle effect and program the controller to do that. Then they asked if the client wanted the American flag on there for July Fourth, and they programmed the American flag. “They were able to give us not only the preloaded programs but then uniquely adjust the programming of that controller to give my client exactly what they wanted. The sign has over one hundred pre-programmed designs to run, and each module is addressed differently for each of those designs.” Everylite’s Spectrum Series DMX LED modules were used inside of the channel letters. Everylite Smart iFlex, which serves as an LED alternative to neon lighting systems, was used as border tubing around the edge of each letter. “In the letters, it’s a DMX control signal, however, the border tube is a DMX converting out to an SPI signal,” explains Shapiro. “A master controller located inside the building controls all the lighting elements from one central file.” With the lighting chosen, Triangle Sign worked on building samples for Anthem House from conceptual design files that were sent over. They used a combination of CorelDRAW and SAi Enroute software to design and build the samples. “We worked back and forth with the building designer on this project submitting working samples for review,” says Shapiro. “Somewhere along the line, the designer came up with the idea of using a perforated metal face. “The way that perforation sits, it isolates the light coming out and really made the display ‘pop.’” When the final design was ap-

November 2017

All Photos: Triangle Sign & Service.



ANTHEM How a sign company completed a sparkling channel letter performance.

December 2016

Sign Builder Illustrated


proved, Triangle Sign immediately got to work on fabrication, as there was a tight deadline. However a few challenges set the shop back a bit. For one, the LED lighting had to be manufactured in China, but factories

were closed for two weeks because of the Chinese New Year. “On this particular application, there was so much border tubing that I wanted them to seal everything at the factory in China rather than seal it in the



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Sign Builder Illustrated

November 2017

United States,” says Shapiro. “Your failure rate is only like a one percent difference, but when you have that many pieces, it’s significant.” In addition to delays on the lighting, an engineering change in the middle of the fabrication required Triangle Sign to go back and make changes to the letters. “The sign hovers above a raised portion of the roof, and due to the shape of the roof, the wind is really intense at that spot overlooking the harbor. The engineers significantly upgraded the requirements for the structural supports once we were already in production,” explains Shapiro. Triangle Sign had to stop what they were doing to fabricate the “beefier” supports the engineers called for by welding one-half-inch-thick-by-twelveinch-wide steel match plates onto the bottoms of the letters. The letters, which spell out “Anthem House,” measure six feet-by-three inches tall and are one-foot deep. The letter cans are made out of aluminum. Because the letters are so thick, they were formed by hand using letter breaks. The perforated metal faces were cut on a MultiCam 5000 series router. Cut Lexan faces were inserted underneath the perforated metal to help diffuse the light and make it pop more. All the metal surfaces of the letters were finished with a gray AkzoNobel paint. Overall fabrication took about threeand-a-half months, with Triangle Sign keeping the client updated on delivery times throughout. One would think with a high-flying installation like this one that bringing the letters up to the rooftop would be the hardest part of the installation, but that wasn’t the case. Triangle Sign lifted the letters to the rooftop using its 110-foot Manitex crane without a problem. “We had a great pivot point on one side of the building,” explains Shapiro. “We hoisted at that one side of the building, and then we walked each letter individually across the roof. “Then we hoisted a couple of lifts up to the top of the building and used those to help stage the letters at each location while we were doing our drilling and


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tening. Most of the install was done with hand tools and a magnetic drill press.” The letters were mounted via match plates to an eight-foot-tall steel structural support that is directly imbedded into the building structure. The steel was so thick that the drill bit could only get halfway through on one side, so the install team ended up having to drill the steel from both sides. In total, the actual hoisting and setting of the letters took about a week. Where the real challenge came into play though was the wiring and programming of the letters. For one, Triangle Sign had originally specified for the controller to be located in a control room directly beneath the sign. “However by the time we got up there to do the installation, the general contractor had already filled that room with other components for the building—the power box, air conditioning controls, etc.,” says Shapiro. “So the only place we could find room to put the controller was four-hundred feet away.” A lot more wire was required to reach this new location, and at this point, everything was closed in on the building. The conduit to reach the other room was very small at only twoand-a-half inches. “The wiring we used was a little different than typical sign lighting wire— this was geared especially for the lighting controls—and the wire was thick,” says Shapiro. “We barely had enough room after we bundled all those wires together to get it through the conduit. It was an intense pull.” In working in coordination with the construction schedule on wiring to the control room and working with the management team to teach them how to control the sign, Triangle Sign was on site every day for about a month. In the end, the sign company hurtled over all the challenges, and Anthem House now has a unique set of channel letters that does much more than twinkle over the Baltimore harbor.

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November 2017


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igh-density urethane (HDU) has proven a popular substrate for shops looking to create lighter weight custom signage that mimics the appearance and textures of heavier materials. “If you’re trying to [replicate] a stone, brick, or wood effect, HDU can simulate 26

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this very well,” says sign maker Kevin Pirok. “Most of the time, you can’t even tell the difference in which actual material was used in a finished piece.” Pirok is the owner of Pirok Design ( located in Elburn, Illinois. After attending college for illustration and design, he started out in

November 2017

Pirok Design achieves custom looks with HDU and more. the industry over twenty-five years ago working for “some of the most talented sign businesses.” In 1996, Pirok branched off to start up his namesake company, focusing on the design and production of unique visual identity logos and designs. He has found success and satisfaction

All Photos: Pirok Design.

ing as a “niche” company. “We have the ability to either design a new logo for a start-up business or revise an existing logo for a company,” says Pirok. “And then, we implement that design toward all their needs as far as signage and graphics are concerned.” Currently Pirok has three other employees, while he uses a bank of installers for projects that are out of his range. “I’ve found that, over the years, it’s easier to run with a light crew and then bring on help when we need it,” he says. Pirok has utilized HDU for projects since opening his doors, as this easy-tohandle substrate allows him the flexibility and ability to custom-cut shapes and letters himself in his shop. In fact, he has been using Precision Board HDU from Coastal Enterprises ever since the product was released nearly twenty years ago. Cuts Like HDU High-density urethane allows his small shop to work up big ideas. One of the first signs that his shop made using Precision Board was an outdoor wall sign for a computer service company called Xeon. Since this was around the initial advent of the computerized gaming craze, its raised elements featured iconography like a computer monitor, keyboards, and castles. Pirok used a mixture of hand carving and sandblasting to finish this piece. “That one was intense,” he says. “I had to cut and carve each one of those computer keys featured on it.” Today Pirok Design has evolved past sandblasting and effortlessly cuts Precision Board with CNC routers; panel, band, or scroll saws; and hand-carving tools (chisels, gouges, knives, rasps, and files). “[High-density urethane] provides less wear-and-tear on our tooling,” he extols. Pirok Design utilizes Adobe CS6 for layout design of these dimensional signs and SAi Flexi Sign Pro for production. The advantages of using a CNC router for carving HDU is that it allows one to be very precise. “The software for these machines will reproduce just about any texture that’s desired,” explains Pirok.

When it comes to increasing the dimensionality of a sign, Pirok eschews the router and prefers hand-carving portions of the sign in order to give it that extra impact. “When you put a sign up that’s more dimensional, the more interesting it’s going to look,” he says. “And doing so is going to draw a lot of attention.”

If you’re trying to replicate a stone, brick, or wood effect, HDU can simulate this very well. Pirok mentions an upcoming project where his customer has requested a carved HDU monarch butterfly as part of their logo. “I’m cutting it by hand,” he says. “I’m going to layer up Precision Board to achieve the required thickness. “From that point, I’ll go in and start carving. Working with this material is like going through butter with a hot

knife at times.” He points out that carving HDU is much easier than carving wood in a variety of ways. “When carving wood, you have to consider the grain direction,” he says, “but with HDU, there is no grain or knots.” Density: Greater or Less? There are many different densities of HDU material ranging from as low as four pounds all the way up to seventyfive pounds from some manufacturers. Pirok typically stocks fifteen- and eighteen-pound densities at his shop. Pirok selects the density and thickness of HDU for a project in a couple of ways. Ease of use is one. “The lighter the density, the more time is going to be required to get the desired finish,” he says, “whereas higher density means less time is required to seal the material, though it takes longer to carve.” If the sign is going to be installed in a high-traffic area or viewed up-close, Pirok will select the denser weight. “There’s less of a problem with impact,” he says. Pirok says he can utilize six-pound or twelve-pound Precision Board if the situation is right—for example, gilding a letter. In fact, his shop recently employed

This sign for the Geneva Wine Cellars and Tasting Room incorporates steel and HDU elements.

November 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


This mixed media post-andpanel sign features HDU, cedar, and MDO board.

twelve-pound HDU to create gilded gold leaf lettering on a projecting sign for a local jeweler. “Precision Board epoxy doming material acted as a great sealer here,” says Pirok. “This eliminated many steps. It provided a clear dome to the face of the letter. “Then we went straight into applying the size and gilding the letter. In that respect, it gave us great flexibility.” Mixed Media HDU’s very low expansion and contraction rate has allowed Pirok to use the substrate with different materials in custom pieces for clients—mixed media, if you will. For the Geneva Wine Cellars and Tasting Room at The Berry House Shops in Geneva, Illinois, Pirok crafted a multi-textured identity sign that is located, as soon as you enter, on a wall above a flight of stairs descending to an old cellar where the owners have set up quite the visitor experience. “The building has been around for more than 28

Sign Builder Illustrated

150 years, so there are exposed wood beams throughout,” he says. Pirok wanted to incorporate a stone effect in this 42-by-52-inch sign, similar to the atmosphere visitors would see down in the cellar. So he hand-carved this out of fifteen-pound Precision Board and painted it with Chromatic paints. “I used fifteen-pound HDU because the sign is mounted on the wall above the staircase, and no one can touch it,” he explains. He also hand-cut the lettering and wine bottles and used a CNC router to create the background panel with raised red-orange lines. Meanwhile Pirok purchased the steel vine and leaf sections from King Metals and welded these sections to conform to the perimeter of the HDU. The end result makes for a rustic contrast with the sign. “We gave them an acid wash for a more natural look,” says Pirok. The “Geneva Wine Cellar” HDU letters were glued to the faux-stone portion of the sign.

November 2017

The steel vines and leaves were also glued to the sign in sections using West Systems two-part epoxy and repeated all around the perimeter of the sign. The finished sign really complements the environment, which is exactly what Pirok wanted to accomplish with this particular piece. Pirok also created a mixed media post-and-panel-type outdoor sign for the Family Aquatic Center at Phillips Park in Aurora, Illinois. The main sign background is cedar with a dolphin character created from flat-cut MDO board painted with Chromatic bulletin colors. Pirok knew it was going to require an incredible amount of dimensionality to make this sign work, and Precision Board was his most viable solution to do so. “I knew I had to add components to the sign to get the dimensionality required so it would stand out. So while the background is cedar, everything else—the letters, the splashes, and the ‘at Phillips Park’ banner underneath— are hand-carved HDU,” he says. The Family Aquatic Center piece is actually two layers of Precision Board. “The background island is 3/4-inchthick, and the individual letters are oneinch-thick,” says Pirok. The one-and-a-half-inch-thick banner was glued and peg-mounted to the background substrate. While cedar was used on this project, Pirok does find that many of his customers are attracted to HDU because it’s a green material that is made up of ecofriendly recycled plastics. Another type of mixed media sign that Pirok often works on is reverse-lit and accent-lit HDU letters and panels. This type of sign comes naturally for him, as Pirok’s first job in the industry was at an electric sign company. “Having worked in that field, I still use the knowledge I gained there today supplying customers with channel letters, electric monument signs, and so forth,” he says. Signed, Sealed, and Delivered Pirok is adamant that one of the most important things to do when working with Precision Board HDU is making



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certain that it’s sealed properly. In the very beginning, his shop experimented with various painting techniques. “However we found that one of

the most important aspects of the product is how well you seal it and that starts with a primer,” he says. “I use Chromatic Hi-Build primer because it fills

the open cells real nice. If we’re working with eighteen-pound density or higher, it requires less filling.” The shop’s technique for painting Precision Board is pretty straightforward except for the last step—applying a UV clear coat. “This helps as well with longevity and makes the sign UV-protected,” says Pirok. “I have signs that are still up from over twenty years ago.” Using HDU has its advantages. When applying for sign permits, municipalities are attracted to materials that offer a good lifetime. Pirok has found that a lot of his HDU work has been approved because the material is weatherproof. “Wood signs can rot or decay over time,” he says. In the end, Pirok stresses that he really enjoys using HDU because of its versatility. “This substrate allows us to be a bit more creative in our approach,” he concludes.

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November 2017

Laser Engraving and HDU in addition to routing and carving, Precision Board HDU can also be laser-engraved. Jim Dawson, owner of Synergy Sign & Graphics, LLC in Strasburg, Ohio, prefers using his 75-watt Vytek laser cutter for projects requiring finite detail, especially on smaller size designs. “Anytime you’re doing something super small, like text, you can use laser,” he says. There are plenty of benefits to using laser cutters: They’re extremely versatile; cut a wide variety of materials; need no additional setup (i.e., chemical additives or post processing); have low energy consumption and speedier processing times; offer extreme

precision and detail; have reduced waste and by-product thanks to its output being vapors, which can be exhausted or ventilated with an air-filtration system; and require no material finishing. “I ran two passes on the fifteenpound to see how deep it would cut the material, then changed it to one pass on the PBLT-30, and three passes on the PBLT-40 at the slower speed so I could get better detail on the higher densities,” says Dawson. “You’re not going to get a ton of detail in the lower densities, so if that’s what you’re looking for, start at the thirty-pound density or higher, depending on what you’re going after.”

You may be concerned with the toxicity of using lasers on Precision Board, but you shouldn’t be. According to a study conducted by Universal Laser Systems on the effluent created from laser cutting several different densities of Precision Board, “the effluent stream is primarily composed of carbon monoxide, acetone, propene, and acetonitrile. The concentration of the detected compounds did not exceed their respective OSHA PEL at any level of filtration during this study.” Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) are federal regulations that dictate safe chemical exposure levels. —Tai Freligh, Coastal Enterprises

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Finding the Way


n signage talk, LED lighting is often considered as a staple of channel letters and sign cabinets, but this component can also be utilized in the design and function of wayfinding systems. There are several methods for reaching this light destination in exterior and interior wayfinding applications—internal illumination, goose neck fixtures, routed letters and panels, edge glow, etc. But how can you successfully convince your customer to consider adding LED lighting into their already best-laid-out wayfinding plans? Sometimes it’s about recognizing the right environment, the right atmosphere, and the right opportunity.


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Exterior Wayfinding Outdoor applications are plentiful for LED incorporation into wayfinding sign designs. A few possible environments here would include country clubs, public parks, national monuments, etc. “Any client that conducts business before sunrise and/or after sundown would greatly benefit from LED-illuminated exterior wayfinding signage,” says Bill Freeman, vice president of Architectural Sales at wholesale architectural signage manufacturer Howard Industries. “For example, school and hospital campuses would be ideal candidates for this.” “For many cities, their downtown locations are also great opportunities for

November 2017

illuminated wayfinding,” adds Adam Brown, president of sign manufacturer/ installer Sign Effectz, Inc., in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a company that has worked on many different types of LEDilluminated sign projects over the years. “These illuminated signs direct the public in a clear fashion and, most importantly, increase awareness and help drive traffic to area attractions.” In general, the LED application is going to be driven by the availability of ambient light. “Light levels that change from light to dark throughout the day are a really good environment for LED,” says Brown. But why LED? According to

Photo: Howard Industries.


Incorporating LED lighting into your client’s wayfinding plans.

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lighting. “This can make the signs more aesthetically pleasing to the eye,” explains Freeman, noting that edge lighting can also be utilized to highlight an address or other pertinent sign copy necessary for visitor navigation. “Edge-lit LEDs also work well in calling attention to important architectural elements in the environment or helping to set a particular mood,” says Brown. “For example, lighting that comes out at the edge of a glow panel accents the contours of the walking path or sidewalk.” Interior Wayfinding Interior LED lighting wayfinding candidates are going to be those with signage needs for the indoor areas of public places—malls, zoos, and particularly museums, to name a few. “You have to remember that museums require specific considerations,” explains Brown. “Many are usually low-light environments. That’s because UV rays can accelerate the deterioration of parchment papers, textiles, and other old materials that might be on display.” Another strong option for interior LED lighting is exit signage. “These self-illuminated exit signs are crucial for evacuation in power outage situations,” says Freeman. Brown agrees that illuminated exit signs are a great example of usage for

November 2017

ADA Signs You can’t talk wayfinding without also commenting on ADA (Americans With Disabilities) aspects. Despite some occasional chatter within the sign community, ADA codes are not mandating the need for LED lighting into this signage at the moment (an expensive proposition to be sure, if ever enacted). However this doesn’t mean that illumination still cannot be utilized in such applications—especially when it comes to aesthetic value.

Photo: (Top) Bitro Group; (Left) Dave Forrest.

man, this lighting is a cost-effective, energy-efficient choice for internal signage illumination. “In addition to the economic benefits they offer, LED lights are brighter than fluorescent tubes, making signs more noticeable at night,” he remarks. “LED illumination can also be utilized for safety applications, as in the case of pedestrian crossing signage.” The best type of use for lighting in wayfinding signage projects is when it’s used to catch someone’s eye. “LEDs allow us to create that effect,” says Brown. When it comes to incorporating LED lighting into exterior wayfinding designs, there are many different options for illuminated copy, but this really all boils down to your client’s preference. “Polycarbonate sign faces containing either solvent inkjet printed or cut vinyl graphics are a basic sign design option,” states Freeman. “Routed aluminum sign faces offer polycarbonate-backed, push thru-flush or push thru-extended illuminated copy options as well. “However, keep in mind that, if wayfinding signs are susceptible to change down the road (e.g., college or university campus signage), routed sign faces may not be the best choice, due to their inability to be altered.” Another option for adding allure to exterior wayfinding signage is LED edge

LED lighting, as they are simple and help create a safe environment when the power goes out. “It may sound funny, but you should use LED-illuminated exit signs as a benchmark for measuring your signs’ attention-grabbing power,” he suggests. Backlit letters are another interior wayfinding possibility, especially in airports. “You can use the same light source to create a halo effect around the panel,” says Brown, “or you can get that LED to be a direct light around routed copy.” Sign Effectz has successfully found that edge-glow or external illumination creates shadows that add depth and dimension to what would normally be a flat sign. Fortunately there are several ways to create these shadow effects. “LEDs are a great way to back-light a stencil that casts an image on a viewing surface, much like a projector,” states Brown. “It enables our clients to project the image they want to communicate. “For example, you could project a message onto a wall with any mechanical structure and only use the contrast of light to leverage the dimensions of shadows.”

LED lighting provides another design technique that can be added to your “ADA toolbox.” According to Bob Greenberger, director of Sales and Education at photopolymer provider Nova Polymers, any type of ADA illumination would have to be backlit. “Take a restroom sign, for example,” he remarks. “You can do it in a clear acrylic, place the LEDs behind it, and create a glow that beautifully lights it up.” Greenberger emphasizes that it’s important for LED lighting to be used where it’s dark and people have to navigate through the build environment. However Greenberger points out that LED illumination in ADA signage is for the visually impaired (to aid in their readability) and not for the blind. “So the biggest issues that you’re going to have when illuminating ADA signage is contrast,” says Greenberger. “If you have a light-brown sign background, then LED lighting is not going to pro-

vide a good contrast in this instance. “To achieve the correct contrast with LED, you would need a dark brown or black background on the ADA sign panel.” Cost is another factor. “Backlit ADA signs that go up on the wall are going to need electricity,” points out Greenberger. “So the cost could be unreal for a place that needed something along the line of thirty-plus of these signs. “However a restaurant may need only four or five of these backlit signs, so they would be an ideal beneficiary. And nightclubs and casinos too.” (LED) Light at the End of the Tunnel The goal for using LED lighting design elements is to help the wayfinding sign be secondary to the primary signs. “The right elements are good for creating resolution and clarity in the message the customer is sending, while complementing the primary message,” says Brown. “A lighter color and a matte finish in halo applications allows viewers to

see the light much better. The matte finish refracts the light better and spreads it wider on the illuminated surface. “We suggest LEDs that are dimmable, as well as halo glow, routed, or pushthru letters.” Contrasting colors play a big role in getting someone’s attention. “However, that limits the design to merely using colors. LEDs allow one to separate lightness and darkness,” explains Brown. “And the human eye detects contrasts in light as much as it does in printed or painted colors.” The bottom line, according to Brown, is that the sky really is the limit in terms of design options for LED lighting in wayfinding signage. The key is convincing your customer to incorporate this effect into their project. “We find the right LED for the right application, make a prototype, and help the customer test it,” says Brown. “Proof of concept on new, creative lighting developments goes a long way with buyers.”

Sign World 2017 - Booth 504

November 2017

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Providing an LED display system to the world’s largest sports brand.


ansi North America (SNA) Displays recently completed installation of a series of interior LED video displays for the U.S. headquarters of the world’s largest athletic apparel brand. The innovative project features thirteen LED “clouds,” stateof-the-art displays suspended from the headquarters’s lobby ceiling. The S|Video™ interior displays range in size from 22 square feet to nearly 150 square feet, resulting in a combined 620 square feet of digital displays and more than four million pixels. The clouds work in tandem, seamlessly creating a single creative digital canvas as well as a unique experience for employees and visitors. “It’s exciting to provide tight-pitch


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interior displays in a corporate setting like this because the tolerances are reduced dramatically,” said SNA Displays Project Manager John Pisciotta. “Each frame and panel needed to be installed and commissioned with a sharp eye for detail. We had to be perfect.” SNA Displays worked closely with several outside agencies to ensure that the safety parameters and precision required for the installation of each unit were met. “Because of the nature of the project, we needed to design and coordinate a structure that worked with many trades—HVAC, lighting, A/V speakers, and sprinklers—to ensure that the LED displays were properly placed,” said Pisciotta. “Every design and engineer-

November 2017

ing decision throughout the process required extreme precision.” Other partners involved in the project were Ryan Biggs Clark Davis, the structural engineering firm that provided design services for hanging the displays; AMA Sign & Electric Company, which installed the displays; Show + Tell, which provided control equipment expertise; and Coherent Design, the consultant hired by the client to spearhead and manage the project. “We’re very pleased with the outcome of this project,” said Pete Simon, sales manager for SNA. “Providing services and industry knowledge for one of the largest brands in the world was a privilege. Working with their team was truly an honor.”

Photo: SNA Displays.

DISplays in action

Turning a Hang Out into a Family Attraction Skate ‘n’ Place in Bloomington, Illinois is an indoor roller rink purchased by Diane and Tim Overholser after it closed in 2014. “We were concerned that local youth would not have a safe place to hang out,” said Tim. The couple renovated it top to bottom with a new roof, paint inside and out, a new floor and sound system, renovated bathrooms and concession area, new video games, and the largest roller skating pro shop in the state of Illinois. “We did all this work on the inside of the building, but the outside didn’t reflect what was happening inside,” said Tim. Tim decided to replace the old outdoor sign and manual reader

board. “It was forty years old, and there was moss growing out of it,” he says. “Changing out the letters was time consuming and no one wanted to do it when the weather was bad.” The Overholsers decided to rebrand the location with a new contoured logo cabinet featuring back-to-back LED message centers from Watchfire Signs. The sign was designed and installed by Prairie Signs of Normal, Illinois. “Once I found out from the city that more than 3 million vehicles a year drive by our facility, investing in digital signage was a no-brainer,” said Tim. “The new sign completely changed the curb appeal of the building, and our business has definitely picked up.”


The Overholsers easily program the new sign with as many as twenty to thirty different messages a day to appeal to its various audiences, including using cartoon characters when kids will be driving by with their parents.

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Surface Applications Mastering Textured

extured surfaces, like brick and cinder block walls, are some of the most sought-after advertising and marketing platforms today. But preparing and applying graphics to these surfaces can pose challenges for any installer, novice to experienced. Among numerous considerations, when preparing a textured surface application, installers need to look at the various textures and finishes that were previously applied. This process alone can be daunting as, for example, there are hundreds of brands and chemical


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make-ups of paints—each affecting how well a graphic’s adhesive will stick. And when it comes time to actually apply the graphic, the effort, time, and techniques for textured surface applications are significantly different than smooth applications. With the proper knowledge, right films, and appropriate tools, installers can master textured surface preparation and application. In addition to formal training from a skilled installer or expert, the following best practices will help achieve textured surface application success.

November 2017

1. Prepare and Pre-test the Surface. Surface preparation is a critical first step in textured graphic applications. Prior to application, most surface contaminants must be removed. For unpainted brick, poured concrete, or cinderblock walls, in most cases, using a stiff brush to dust away organic contaminants like dirt, grime, loose grout, bug spatters, bird droppings, and tree sap is sufficient. If the surface has previously been painted, you may want to do a more thorough job of cleaning. To properly

All Photos: Mactac.


Best vinyl installation practices for optimum results.



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exposure to environmental extremes the graphic may encounter. 2. Use the Right Tools. Applying graphics to textured surfaces requires a few tools, including: Hard and soft squeegees; a heat gun capable of reaching 1,000°F (a hair dryer is not an acceptable substitute); and a semi-rigid foam roller.

move petrochemical contaminants (wax, road tar, grease, oils, gasoline, or pollution), wipe the surface with a lint-free cloth soaked in a solvent-based cleaner, like an automotive tar-and-wax remover. Avoid solvents that are weak (glass cleaners or alcohol), and solvents that are too strong and pure (paint thinner, acetone, and toluene). Use another cloth to dry the surface

and another to wipe the area with Isopropyl Alcohol (IPA) to remove any dust, solvent or detergent residue. Helpful Tip: Surfaces must be fully dry prior to application, as moisture left over may result in premature graphics failure. Allow twenty-four hours of dry time. To guarantee good adhesion, pre-test a section of the graphic. An ideal test is 10-by-10-inches in size and contains

3. Choose a Film Known for Conformability. For the best results, apply a durable cast film that can withstand high application heat and is known for its ability to quickly and flawlessly conform over the uneven textured surface without tearing or lifting. A gloss or matte overlaminating film can provide protection and ease of installation. 4. Use the Hinge Method. The hinge method allows for proper alignment and deters movement. Align your graphic on the wall and hold in place with masking tape. Flip the top of








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November 2017

the graphic back away from the wall and remove about two to four inches of the release liner to expose the adhesive. Lay the exposed adhesive back up against the wall and then, starting in the center, begin installing the flat areas of the graphic first; use a soft squeegee to make overlapping strokes in each direction. Do not focus on the texture during this important first step. Remove the next four to eight inches and repeat, working your way down the graphic until the entire panel is installed. Move on to the next panel and repeat. For best results, at least a one-inch overlap is recommended to account for rough wall variability. Helpful Tip: When applying graphics to outdoor textured surfaces, make sure each individually hinged graphic is taped down to avoid movement from the wind. 5. Apply Heat to Conform the Film to the Rough Texture. To get the graphic to conform to the

rough surface, use a heat gun heated to at least 850°F and work the film into the surface in small sections from left to right. Heat the film and then immediately and firmly press the heated film onto the rough texture of the surface with a semi-rigid roller. For brick or concrete blocks, apply the film onto the smoother surface first and then apply into the mortar joints from the middle out to allow the air to escape. For any remaining air pockets, gently poke the bubble with a pin, re-heat and press the air out with a soft cloth or roller. 6. Relax, Reset, and Finish the Graphic. To properly finish the application, lower the heat gun temperature to 220°F to 250°F and reapply heat to the graphic. This will relax and reset the film’s memory. Where the graphic is seamed, or overlapped, allow more time for the heat to penetrate. Give extra care to the graphic’s edges

as these are often overlooked, making them a common failure point. Graphics should start and end on the flattest portion of the textured surface, as ending in a mortar joint, for example, can result in graphic lifting. Return to the graphic a second day to address areas that didn’t receive enough heat or pressure. It’s normal to have some lifting of the graphic from the textured wall or floor, depending on the roughness and depth of the surface. One final piece of advice is to understand that some surfaces are near impossible to work with and are better to avoid, such as crumbling brick, stucco, plaster, and pressure-treated wood. If a surface has large peaks and valleys, there won’t be enough surface area for the adhesive to bond to and, unfortunately, the surface likely won’t accept any material. Jeff Stadelman is marketing manager for Mactac Distributor Products (

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November 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated


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Sign Builder Illustrated


WE’RE HERE TO ANSWER THE CALL! Sign Builder Illustrated is the “how-to magazine” of the sign industry. Each issue includes SBI’s signature “how-to” columns and features with detailed, stepby-step instructions covering a wide range of signage. SBI’s website (, newsletters, Buyer’s Guide, and digital edition keep you updated with timely news, recent projects, and upcoming industry events.




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ADA Central Signs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44


Peachtree . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7


AdamsTech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48


Rowmark Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35


Alpina Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45


Sign America Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39


A.R.K. Ramos Mfg. Company . . . . . . 44


Sign Bracket Store. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18


Bell Company. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

28 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C4


Brooklyn Hardware . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44


Sinalite. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1


CAB Sign . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37


Small Balls. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45


Duxbury Systems Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . 44


Southern Stud Weld . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23


EBSCO Sign & Display. . . . . . . . . . . . C2


Stamm Manufacturing . . . . . . . . . . . 30


Echod Graphics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44


TRC Electronics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11


Elliott Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19


Trotec Laser . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31


FASTSIGNS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13


USSC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32


Gyford Productions.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14


USSC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33


International Sign Association. . . . . . 15


Vantage LED. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24


J. Freeman Inc.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23


Wilkie Mfg. LLC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C3


Johnson Plastics Plus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9


YJ Inc. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5


Keystone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


Manhattan Signs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44


Metomic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22


Aries Graphics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Orbus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42


Graphics One. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Orbus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44


HP. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Orbus. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44


ikeGPS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Ornamental Post Panel & Traffic. . . 44


Kern Laser Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10


Reach-All, LLC. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10




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November 2017

Sign Builder Illustrated



By Ashley Bray

The Power of Three

Three divisions lead to expertise in multiple areas.


.S. Signcrafters, Inc. has been in business for twenty-five years. During that time, the sign company has designed, fabricated, and installed countless custom signs and graphics, including pylons, architectural signs, and other commercial signs. “There are not too many things you can do to be automated on the custom side of things,” says Jeffrey Trenery, president of U.S. Signcrafters & Building Impressions. “It still takes a good amount of ‘old-fashionedness’ and good builders.” However Trenery cites advancements in lighting with LEDs and in graphics with digital printing for helping to cut down on the time it can take to complete a project, which translates into more time for the shop to be creative and find additional ways to push the envelope on design. The company’s team of employees,

such as Operations Manager James Lymburner (who leads the fabrication), helps to push the limits on projects, as well. “Our team, from fabrication to installation and places in between—sales, estimating, printing, art department, and office—are the best,” says Trenery. “I enjoy working with this group of people; we have a huge amount of sign knowledge here.” Aside from its custom fabrication work, what makes the company unique is that it has two additional divisions designed and designated for specific and unique purposes. The Sign Store offers vehicle wraps and graphics, and Building Impressions provides custom architectural fabrication for building accents such as facades, canopies, entries, lobbies, and foyers. “It gives us a little more depth, especially the Building Impressions division,” says Trenery. “The former president of

Sign Builder Illustrated (Print ISSN 895-0555, Digital ISSN 2161-4709) (USPS#0015805) (Canada Post Cust. #7204564; Agreement #40612608; IMEX Po Box 25542, London, ON N6C 6B2, Canada) is published monthly by Simmons-Boardman Publ. Corp, 55 Broad St. 26th Floor, New York, NY 10004. Printed in the U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at New York, NY and Additional mailing offices.

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Pricing, Qualified individual working in the sign industry may request a free subscription. Non-qualified subscriptions Print version, Digital version, Both Print & Digital versions: 1 year US/Canada/Mexico $50.00; foreign $99.00. Single Copies are $15.00 ea. Subscriptions must be paid for in U.S. funds only.

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Sign Builder Illustrated

COPYRIGHT © Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation 2017. All rights reserved. Contents may not be reproduced without permission. For reprint information, contact: Arthur Sutley, Publisher (212) 620-7247 or

November 2017

the company saw a niche in things that weren’t really signs but that went around a sign or in that general area. He saw a growing need for these custom elements, and he launched Building Impressions a handful of years ago.” Today Building Impressions creates building accents for places like hotels, school corporations, and franchisees of popular restaurant chains. Trenery says the benefit to a company like his handling accents like canopies is that they are able to measure and prepare for the canopy closer to the install date, which leads to fewer errors in measurements and dimensions. “With some of the bigger companies,” he explains, “they have to put their orders in in advance. So if any part of the build changes, they have to reorder canopies and wait whatever that company’s backlog is to get them. “We do field verifications about two weeks prior on all our canopy builds before the store’s about to open. So we make sure that the canopies are the right measurements the first time.” Sometimes the divisions work together on projects. “It gives you a foot in the door,” says Trenery. “Usually people contact you about signs and then find out you do building accents, and you get both jobs. Or they contact you about building accents and find out you do signs.” An example of a recent joint project was for a new restaurant aptly called Artisan (pictured). Building Impressions and U.S. Signcrafters worked together to create two large canopies that dominate the newly renovated front façade, metal sunshades that protrude from the secondstory windows, and an illuminated sign face along with a projecting architectural wall sign decorated with shaped, rolled aluminum.

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Sign Builder Illustrated, PO Box 3135, Northbrook , IL 60062-3135. Instructional information provided in this magazine should only be performed by skilled crafts people with the proper equipment. The publisher and authors of information provided herein advise all readers to exercise care when engaging in any of the how-to-activities published in the magazine. Further, the publisher and authors assume no liability for damages or injuries resulting from projects contained herein.

Photo: US Signcrafters, Inc.

Shop Talk


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November 2017 Sign Builder Illustrated  
November 2017 Sign Builder Illustrated  

This issue features stories on channel letters, neon, HDU, LED lighting, design, vinyl application, and more.