Channel Letter Sign uses 3M Day Night film for different colors during the day vs. night, day night channel letters

Day Night Channel Letters Play with Color

Channel Letter Sign uses 3M Day Night film for different colors during the day vs. night, day night channel lettersDay Night Channel Letters create a unique look between daytime and night.  Traditional channel letters will typically show the same color day and night, but with 3M’s Day Night Film, you can achieve two different face colors.  Since the best day color choice might not be the best choice for nighttime, Day Night Channel Letters get you a visually compelling and effective sign for both day and night.

Also known as a light management film, this specialty film produces the appearance of dark graphics during the day and the appearance of white or colored graphics at night.  The film is perfect for illuminated signs and lasts up to 9 years.  With 47% light transmission, 3M’s film works as a diffuser so letters appear dark during daytime and white when lit at night.

“This is the second job we have done for Apex Physical Therapy.  The first one at their north store was for new polycarbonate/Lexan faces in a pole sign and two monument signs, as well as door and window vinyl for name and hours.   Bernadette Hamilton from BLH Marketing worked on the logo and rebranding,” Signs for Success designer Vanessa Bogensberger explained.  “Next we worked in channel letters for the Sunset Highway/Airway Heights location.  They did not like white letters during the day, so we discussed a “day black, night white” face option.  They loved it! The channel letter set turned out very nice, and within budget.”

Apex Physical Therapy liked the look of black letters on their sign, but needed them to be illuminated at night.  Since white reflects all the colors of the light spectrum, it is arguably the most effective night color choice.  The diffuser film used over their Day Night Channel Letters also helps distribute illumination evenly and eliminate “hot spots.”  We’re happy we could help them achieve an effective and great looking sign for both day and night!

Signs for Success is a locally owned family business in Spokane, and we strive for excellent customer service, perfect color, and quick turnaround on every project.  Our large production facility allows us to design, print and install everything in-house.  Contact us for a free quote on day night channel letters.

See the difference our triple strike method produces, everyone else in town prints backlit like the frog on the right, Signs for Success produces full color like the one on the left, come see us now for a fast quote

Digitally Printed Backlit Signs in Three Easy Steps

Digitally Printed Backlit Sign test

Signs for Success triple strike backlit sign test

Digitally printed backlit signs are extremely effective,

working double shifts day and night, but if the sign is not printed well, it may look too dark during the day or faint and washed out at night.  Traditionally, backlit signs required single-color translucent vinyl cut into letters or shapes to be viewable both day and night.  However, with these 3 Steps, it is possible to get custom full color backlit signs that show well 24/7.

Lexan is the best material for digitally printed backlit signs.  It’s translucent, cut to size so it perfectly fits your sign cabinet, and it’s practically indestructible.  Other sign materials may get brittle in very cold climates, but Lexan is weather-proof as well as fire-proof and shatter-proof.  When we manufacture backlit sign faces, we start with a custom-cut piece of Lexan.

Step 1: First, we run the sheet of Lexan through our large format HP FB500 Flatbed Printer, which can handle material up to 64″ wide.  On the first run, the sign receives full color graphics.  The UV curable ink dries immediately as the UV lights just beyond the print heads hit the print.  It’s as easy as that, and you’re ready for Step 2.

Step 2: The Lexan sign can be loaded immediately back into the printer for the second run.  This time, a layer of 50% opacity white ink is printed over the image.  This may seem counterintuitive for the moment as the beautiful full color graphics get covered up, but bear with us, the third step will explain everything.

Digitally Printed Backlit sign at Night

Spokane First backlit sign

Step 3: As the Lexan runs through the printer to receive white ink, another layer of full color is laid on top.  This creates a total of three layers of ink: color-white-color.  These 3 Steps are what we call “Triple Strike” technique.  After much testing, we found this to be the best combination of layering inks to achieve perfect color in digitally printed backlit signs both day and night.

Here’s why: when light is shone on the front (as it would outside in daylight), the image in full color is vibrant and clear.  The white layer in between blocks the bottom layer from showing through.  However, when sign panel is illuminated from behind (as it would be at night when backlighting is turned on), all layers of ink are illuminated.  This produces a heavier concentration of ink since there were two layers of full color, which makes the image properly saturated and still vibrant rather than washed out.

While the sign could be installed after these 3 steps and have 3-5 years of outdoor durability, we highly recommend laminating the image to add additional years of life.  If it’s time to trade out your old, faded, or traditional outdoor sign for a vibrant backlit sign, the Signs for Success team is ready to transform your outdoor sign into something truly memorable!  Call or email us for more information on our triple strike backlit signs.

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See the difference our triple strike method produces, everyone else in town prints backlit like the frog on the right, Signs for Success produces full color like the one on the left, come see us now for a fast quote

How to Get Perfect Backlit Signs Day and Night

See the difference our triple strike method produces, everyone else in town prints backlit signs like the frog on the right, Signs for Success produces full color like the one on the left, come see us now for a fast quote

Signs for Success triple strike backlit sign test

Driving around Spokane, you may not see a whole lot of full color backlit signs.  That’s because full color outdoor backlit signs present a special challenge: constantly changing ambient light.

In the beginning of sign making, backlit signs were hand painted with translucent paint that looked great when lit from the front by the sun as well as at night when lit from behind.  The transition from hand-painting to cut vinyl made the process easier, and translucent vinyl worked well for both day and night settings.  The downside to the vinyl was that it was and still is very expensive compared to other options.  In addition to a high price tag, the vinyl could only produce spot color, so images and text had to be simple. Photos, gradients and special effects were not possible.

Digital printing has solved both of these problems, but naturally, it leads to some of its own complications.  Digitally printing a sign face is more cost effective than either hand-painting or ordering and cutting several colors of translucent vinyl.  It also allows for a multitude of nearly unlimited color choices, and digitally printed gradients produce a realistic, vibrant image.  The complication arises when different lighting – from the outside by the sun, and from the inside by electrical lighting – hits the print.  Backlit signs have to not only look good at night when they’re lit from behind, but they also have to look good all day long when the light source comes from outside. “Traditional digitally printed backlit signs look washed out at night.  One option is to bump up saturation, which makes the sign too dark during the day,” Signs for Success owner John Bogensberger explained.

Balance Eternalle Day Spa in Spokane wanted more visibility at night, so this backlit signs light up great and shows hot stone massage

Balance Eternelle Day Spa Backlit Sign during the day

The solution?  Over several weeks of testing, we found that the best combination was printing the image in color, then a layer of 50% opacity white ink, and finally another layer of color.  These three layers make it possible for the image to shine through no matter what direction the light comes from.  “During the day, the white backs up the outer layer, and during the night, the second layer of color comes through due to the backlighting,” John explained. “This allows the sign to look great day or night.”

In the picture above, we printed the same image using three different processes.  The image on the right shows a “single strike,” or just one layer of ink.  This type of printing is great for most signs, but as you can see, the backlighting washes out the image at night.  The image on the left shows the same image printed on the front of the sign face, then printed in reverse on the back side.  This “double strike” method gives better color, but can be very difficult to register exactly on both sides.  The center image is a “triple strike” with color, white ink, then color printed on the sign face.  Our test image is printed with 100% opacity white ink, but by lowering the opacity to 50%, the image is bright and clear.

Change the faces for the backlit signs logo and readerboard on pole signs in Spokane, done fast by Signs for Success

Spokane First backlit sign

Even with the extra ink and extra printing time required for a triple strike, this is still the most cost effective option for vibrant full color backlit signs that look great in any lighting conditions.  The color will be sure to last at least 3-5 years, and if the sign is laminated, you can expect 5-7 years of life.

We coined the phrase “backlit triple strike” – since perfecting the method, we just don’t do backlit signs any other way.  “Triple strike” refers to the three trips the material takes through the printer, first receiving the sign graphics in full color, then a layer of white ink, then another run of the graphics in full color.  This technique allows the intended color and saturation to show through whether the light source comes from outside the sign or from within, creating great backlit signs day or night.

See More Back-lit or Illuminated Signs or Request a Quote today.