What is the best material for signs?

Most of our signs are printed and mounted on some material. Banners and posters are the exception: they are printed on the material on which they will be displayed: banner material and some sort of paper.

Other signs, however, are printed on vinyl or adhesive-backed paper and mounted to a substrate. Use will determine your substrate.

Here are some of the sign substrate options.

Foam Core

Foam core is a 3/16” material that is ideally suited to temporary indoor displays. Many academics and companies use foam core displays for conventions, trade shows and conferences. We typically print on an adhesive-backed paper and mount that to foam core.

The benefits of foam core include:

  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Rigid, making it ideal for displays on easels, and, flat surfaces

The downside of foam core include:

  • Easy to dent and ding – Doesn’t travel well
  • Low resistance to water and humidity

Gator Board (sometimes Gator Foam)

Gator board comes in many widths, but the most commonly used is 3/16”. Like foam core it is used a lot for indoor displays and wall graphics. Like foam core, we usually print on adhesive-backed paper or vinyl, and then mount that to the Gator board. It is an excellent alternative to foam core, especially when a more durable material is desired.

The benefits of Gator board include:

  1. Relatively lightweight
  2. Rigid and resistant to environmental factors like humidity
  3. Does not dent or ding easily

Gator board does have a few minuses:

  • Relatively more expensive than foam core
  • It can break in extreme circumstances

PVC

Extruded PVC, a solid, yet flexible material makes for an excellent substrate because of its ability to last a long time outdoors. It comes in 1/8”, 3/16”, ½” and 1”. It’s an ideal material for outdoor signs and indoor signs that need to last a long time.

The benefits of using extruded PVC include:

  • Long outdoor life
  • Will not rot or separate
  • Easy to drill through and mount

In a high-heat and high-sun environment, PVC can warp if not mounted solidly to a building or sign frame.

Aluminum

Aluminum is the most costly common sign substrate. It can be difficult to work with, requiring a dedicated workshop. At Kona Impact, we do have a workshop facility to cut and prepare aluminum substrates.

Aluminum comes in many gages: we typically use 040, a flexible, yet hard aluminum material. We also work with thicker aluminum substrates and do have aluminum with an enamel finish. These are ideal for relatively small building signs.

Aluminum’s down side is cost, but it is a great material cut vinyl signs and long-term building signs.

What about wood?

Wood is generally a horrible substrate for signs. It’s not smooth and requires a lot of sanding and special paints to make suitable for any kind of vinyl material. Latex paint is usually made to be cleaned, which means it is not made for things to stick to it. Wood is also porous and will absorb moisture, which will cause it to warp. If you need another reason: termites.

At Kona Impact, we want our signs to look great and last as long as our clients want to use them. There is always a balance between cost, quality and durability. Want the highest quality and durability, and you’ll pay the most. Signs are no different from most goods in that regard.

We encourage businesses to give us a call and discuss their sign needs. We can usually present a range of materials and for a range of budgets. Give us a call at 808-329-6077 to get started.