The Dos and Don'ts of Designing a Channel Letter Sign

Direct Sign Wholesale specializes in channel letter signs, the best option for any business looking for a durable, customized, and high-quality outdoor sign. A lot goes into designing channel letters, which is why we’re sharing our years of expertise.

Before designing a channel letter sign for your client’s business, make sure you’re familiar with best practices. Follow these rules to ensure an effective end-product and a very satisfied customer.

When designing channel letters, you should definitely...

Aim for visibility:

Visibility is the name of the game when it comes to outdoor signage. The lettering and graphics need to be easily seen and understood quickly and at a distance. In general, large, well-lit serif letters that contrast with the background will improve sign visibility and legibility.

Consult the color wheel:

Color is one of the biggest opportunities and challenges when it comes to designing an effective channel letter sign. When designing a channel letter set for your clients, it’s important to consult the color wheel. That’s because using complementary colors (colors opposite each other on the color wheel) can make the sign more effective.

In addition to using complementary colors and following best practices for using color effectively, you should also:

  • Choose colors that reflect the company’s business or service

  • Make sure you can match the client’s colors, fonts, and style

Work with the background color:

Make sure you check your client’s building façade and compare the color to the letter faces. Your customer’s sign should have a clear contrast to the mounting location color. If the channel letters face color is similar to that of the mounting surface, the sign can “blend in” and not be as visible in the daylight.

In general, if the building is dark, choose a lighter color. If the building is light, choose a dark color. And if you can, use a color that’s complementary to the building color.

Consider a backer panel:

If using the building’s complementary color would be off-brand for your client, a backer panel could be the solution. A backer panel can provide the background you need to stick to your client’s visual brand identity and still maintain high contrast and visibility.

You should also consider a backer panel if the mounting surface has a feature and/or color that may negatively impact the halo once lit.

Consider the kind of illumination

Another important aspect to consider when designing an effective outdoor sign is the sign’s illumination. Obviously, if the sign doesn’t light up, customers and employees will have a harder time finding the business.

But the illumination method does more than just light the channel letters for visibility; different lighting methods give off different effects and are an extension of your client’s brand identity.

MAke sure the illumination method chosen aligns with your client’s brand.

There are many things you should consider when choosing an outdoor sign for a business.

You should NOT do any of the following when designing channel letter signs...

  • Design channel letters with a face color that matches the color of the building’s façade.  

  • Design a channel letter sign using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. A sign with all CAPS will always be less legible than a sign with mixed case lettering.

  • Use cursive script. There are several important font-related considerations to make. Learn how important font and typeface are in channel letters.

  • Design channel letters using serif fonts. Serifs may cause illumination issues, due to the small stroke contained within the serif. Sans serifs are more legible than serifs, and legibility is crucial when designing channel letters, as these signs must be read quickly.

  • Design channel letters with a letter stroke less than 1.5 inches. The stroke must be at least 1.5” for proper LED module installation and illumination, so make sure you suggest increasing stroke size if you see a smaller stroke on your customer’s design (including serifs).

Learn more about signage design mistakes here.

Partner with Direct Sign Wholesale to Design Effective Channel Letters

Luckily, channel letter signs are fully customizable, so you won’t have to worry about ordering a sign that won’t meet your client’s needs.

Combined with well-illuminated channel letters, a clear font, and strategic sign placement, your customer will succeed despite a crowded signage environment.


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