What is a Backer Panel?

What is a Backer Panel?

Backer Panel Definition

A backer panel is an optional channel letter sign feature that can help to optimize the appearance of your customer’s channel letter set. These structures are also known as backing boards, backer plates or simply backers. A backer panel is basically a flat structure mounted behind the sign letters - like a picture frame. Panels are typically painted a color that is selected to display the sign most favorably. Despite the name “backer panel”, these structures are not necessarily rectangular. Backer panels can be custom designed and manufactured to differing shapes and colors.

For example, this reverse lit letter set has a custom yellow backer panel:      

Backer panels may be utilized with any channel letter type. A common application is to support reverse lit letters (as these boards can provide an ideal halo reflection surface), but they are also specified for front lit and front/back lit letter signs.

Common Panel Design and Purposes

The primary purpose of a backer panel is to provide a strong contrasting background color for a sign. For example, a set of channel letters can be far more effective when it is mounted on a surface which provides a higher degree of letter and/or halo contrast than the actual building facade surface. A well chosen backing board can substantially increase the overall conspicuity of a letter set. A second (and related) backer panel purpose is to cover a problematic building façade.

For example, if a building has a multicolored interlaced brick facade, the contrast and exposure of the sign may be compromised by the varying façade colors. A backer panel can eliminate this problem.

Note the clean appearance of the raceway-mounted backer panel in this photo:  

An additional panel purpose is to cover (or hide) a raceway mount, as the panel in the above T-Mobile sign does. Some letter sign designs may be compromised to a degree by the appearance of a raceway mount, even when the raceway has been painted to blend in with the facade. Mounting the backer panel (and letters) to a raceway reduces the potentially compromised sign appearance.

Construction Materials and Paint

Backer panels are typically constructed of aluminum. This material provides a compelling set of advantages – light weight, high tensile strength and strong corrosion resistance. Direct Sign Wholesale typically uses either .063 or .090 aluminum, depending on the project specifications. Backer panels are typically painted a custom color to optimize both the sign appearance and the contrast to the building façade.

Cost Considerations

The added cost of a backer panel depends on the project and letter size. If the panel can be cut from a single 4’ by 8’ aluminum sheet, that will add less to the project cost. If the design requires multiple sheets (or a larger sheet size like 5’ by 10’) that will result in a higher additional cost.

Additional Panel Appearance Options

Also, custom paint colors are not the only way to enhance the effectiveness of a backer panel. A panel may also receive vinyl applications for additional sign effectiveness. Here is an example:  This panel was not only cut to a custom shape but also had vinyl applied to the upper panel area to provide an additional aesthetic appeal and image enhancement. Another design idea is to combine a backer panel with a reverse logo box. This layout can provide an excellent day/night effectiveness combination.

This Smashburger sign is a good example:

Here is one final backer panel design consideration. Reverse lit channel letters should not be mounted to a glossy backing panel surface. Doing so generates a sort of “mirror image” on the panel and the actual LED modules (and sign wiring) may be seen in the sign reflection. Obviously, this is not good. It is much better to use a matte or satin finish when mounting reverse lit letters to a backer panel.

In conclusion, backer panels can be an important and effective component of an effective channel letter sign design. They can provide a forceful addition to a sign’s visibility and exposure.

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