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Tips for Illuminating an Outdoor Sign

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It’s good that you are thinking about your outdoor signage. It can have a surprising impact on business foot traffic. The fact that you’re here to look at outdoor sign illumination is even better. You’re on the right track, and with a little information, you can have amazing signage.

When it comes to illumination, there are a few tips that can make a world of difference. Once  you understand how to light your sign, how to account for shadows, and how to choose lighting temperature, you can optimize your sign and make an aesthetic with great impact. These four tips will get you there.

Not All Light Sources Are the Same

For the most part, there are three ways to light a sign. The sign can light itself (usually with colored illuminating letters), the sign can be lit from the back, or you can shine a spotlight on it.

Spotlighting, often done with outdoor lamps, is extremely common for signs that aren’t necessarily meant to be seen from the road. Shops in the middle of shopping centers are a great choice for spotlighting. The lamps preserve the daytime aesthetic of the sign, and they’re ideal for signs that have a lot of style and beauty to them. When spotlighting, keep in mind that you will be casting shadows (more on that in a moment).

Self-lit signs are a completely different approach. These signs tend to be very bright and easy to see from long distances. They create the nighttime city aesthetic, and with the implementation of colors, designs, and even flashing lights, they can catch a lot of attention.

Backlighting is available with some sign mounts and sits between these other lighting ideas. With a backlight, you can easily see and read the sign. The look is closer to what you would see in the day, but a backlight will struggle to save the aesthetic of a very stylized sign.

Think About Shade and Shadows

Any time you turn on a light, it will cast shadows. You want to think about shadows with your lighting. Casting obscure shadows can change the whole look of a sign and can even hide important information. This matters most when using spotlights on a sign, so we’ll use that as an example.

If you use a single spotlight from the wrong angle, the shadows can make it hard to read your sign. This is more of a problem when you have three-dimensional elements on the sign, like large pop-out letters. The solution is to add more points of light. Each point of light combats the shadows cast by other light sources, so with a handful of lights, you can usually control the shadows well.

With self-lit or backlit signs, shadows are less of an issue. These types of signs typically use diffuse lighting, which is specifically designed to minimize shadows and their impact on communication via outdoor signs.

Use Warm and Cold Colors Well

Signs can be lit with warm or cool colors, so it’s important to choose your lighting temperature deliberately.

The very basic idea behind color temperature is that warm colors are homey and cold colors are industrial. Remember that warm tilts towards reds and yellows while cold tilts towards blue.

With this in mind, your light’s color temperature should blend nicely with the colors of the sign itself. A nice, soft wood-colored sign will look better in warm light than cold. An industrial sign for a kitchen appliance warehouse is probably better illuminated with cool colors. If you think about color temperature and browse a few ideas, you’ll easily find the right temperature range for your outdoor sign lighting.

Remember the Law

There’s a final consideration when it comes to outdoor sign illumination: the law. Regulations and ordinances are common, and they can even vary in different municipalities in the same metro area. There is no hard, simple rule for outdoor lighting regulations. You should double check the sign and lighting ordinances in your specific municipality before you install something new.

It would already be a miserable experience to have to take down your brand new lit sign. If you have to pay a fine on top of that, it only adds insult to injury. A five-minute investigation can prevent this problem in the first place.

The most important tip you can get regarding outdoor signs is to remember Legacy Signs of Texas. We are your local Dallas/Fort Worth sign fabricators. We can help you design an original sign. Then, we’ll make it and install it for you. If you want the best, then you want to work with us. Contact us today to get started.

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