Glossary of Terms

The Words That Sign Masters Use

We believe the more you know about sign making, the more you will appreciate the skills and capabilities of the sign masters at April Graphics. That is why we are providing you with a glossary of terms we use in our business.

You do not need to know the terms to order custom signage, but you may want to look up terms that puzzle you or seem particularly interesting.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Legislation enacted by the U.S. federal government in 1991 with the goal of removing barriers that limit a disabled individual’s ability to engage in normal daily activity in the physical, public environment.

Bleed: In printing, the term refers to the portion of a printed image or graphic which extends beyond the intended borders of a sign.

CMYK: Abbreviation for the ink colors cyan (blue), magenta (red), yellow and black (K). Combinations of these four colors of inks are used in printing to create all other colors.

Construction Site Sign: A temporary sign, typically large and freestanding, displayed at construction sites to promote and provide information about the company or companies involved in the project. These can include the contractor, architect, developer, etc. (Also called a job site sign.)

Dimensional Letter: Any letter, logo or symbol that has a raised profile in relation to the sign substrate.

Engrave: To cut a design into the surface of hard material such as metal using a handheld or machine controlled tool.

Font: A set of letters and numerals sharing the same design characteristics. Examples of font sets include Times New Roman and Arial. (Also called typeface.)

Grommet: A small metal or plastic ring that prevents fraying of the material around the hole and provides a durable, easily threaded opening for rope or twine. (Also called an eyelet.)

Internally Illuminated Sign: A sign that is illuminated by a light source contained within the sign structure or housing.

Italic: A font style characterized by a distinct slant in the letters and numbers. (Example: ABC123)

JPEG/JPG (Joint Photographic Exports Group): A common file format for color digital images. The JPEG standard utilizes a ‘lossy’ data compression method, meaning that in order to reduce the overall size of the file a small amount of sharpness from the original image is sacrificed. Typically used for photographic images.

Kerning: The act of moving letters further apart or closer together in order to achieve a desired effect.

Laser: A highly focused beam of light that when generated with sufficient power can be used for the purpose of engraving or cutting material.

Logo: A visually distinctive name and/or symbol that identifies a business, product or service.

MDO (Medium Density Overlay): An exterior grade plywood sheet that has been given a resin-impregnated overlay to improve its paintability.

Monument Sign: A freestanding sign that stands directly on the ground or ground level foundation. A monument sign is often used to mark a place of significance or the entrance to a location.

OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration): A U.S. federal government agency that monitors and enforces workplace safety laws.

PMS (Pantone Matching System): A standardized color scheme used in the printing industry to ensure the consistency of color from design to final print.

POP (point of purchase) sign: In-store advertising designed to stimulate impulse purchases by shoppers inside a store. Also known as “point-of-sale advertising”.

PPI (pixels per inch): The number of pixels in a raster image that will occur in one line in the span of one inch. The higher the PPI, the greater the resolution.

Reflective Sheeting: Film with very small glass or glasslike bead materials encapsulated below its surface, creating the ability to bounce light back to their source, such as from a car headlight back to the driver.

Registered Trademark: A trademark that has been officially registered with the government by its owner. Indicated by the symbol ®.

Registration: In printing, the correct placement of the image to be printed on the substrate.

Resolution: In digital images, the number of pixels shown on a screen; the higher the number of pixels in a given space, the more precise the pictured image.

Sandblasting: A method for decorating sign substrates using a rubberized stencil of the artwork which is then sprayed with a pressurized stream of sand to etch the unprotected area.

Sandwich Sign: A moveable sign supported by its own frame and most often forming the cross-sectional shape of an “A”. (Also known as sidewalk sign.)

Sans Serif: Any typeface that lacks serifs. Helvetica and Futura are familiar sans serif fonts.

Second-Surface: Refers to a sign made of a clear substrate, such as acrylic, where the art is applied in reverse on what can be an interior face of the sign.

Serif: A small line or embellishment finishing off the strokes of letters in some fonts. Well-known serif fonts include Souvenir, Times New Roman and Garamond.

Sign: Any device, structure, display or placard which is affixed to, placed on or in proximity to, or displayed from within a building to attract the attention of the public for the purposes of advertising, identifying or communicating information about goods and/or services.

Silkscreening: One of the oldest forms of printing. A print is made using a squeegee to force ink through stencil that is supported by fabric that has been stretched over a frame to create a screen.

Stencil: A thin sheet of material into which a design is cut. When a stencil is placed on another substrate and paint or ink is applied, the image represented by the cut-out portion of the stencil is printed on the substrate below it. Stencils range from metal to card stock to photo emulsions.

Stroke Width: The width of the lines comprising a letterform.

Substrate: The material out of which the sign face is made. Wood, metal sheeting, paper and acrylic are some examples of sign substrates.

Tactile Sign: A sign with raised or engraved artwork, making it accessible to the visually impaired. Required by A.D.A. for all permanently identified rooms.

Template: A full-sized pattern, layout or computerized output showing the exact size and placement of letters. Typically used for installing dimensional letters & signs..

Temporary Sign: Any sign that is not intended to be permanently installed. Banners are good examples of temporary signs. Often, your city/county sign codes seek to limit the length of time a temporary sign can remain in place.

TIFF/TIF (Tagged Image File Format): A standard graphics file format used for scanned bit-mapped images.

Typeface: A set of letters and numerals sharing the same design characteristics. Examples of font sets include Times New Roman and Arial. (Also called font.)

Vinyl Letters: Letters cut from adhesive-backed material, in dozens of opaque, translucent, metallized, and transparent colors and patterns.

If there is a sign term that you do not see listed here, but would like the definition of, please email us at: