A comprehensive glossary of terms and acronyms used in the fields of digital and electronic signage, wide-format inkjet printing and traditional sign-making industries. (as provided by Sign & Digital Graphics Magazine)
– A –
Abatement – In sign law, the removal or control of an annoyance, such as a sign not meeting and community sign code
Acetate – A tough, clear plastic film that’s ink-receptive
Acrylic – An extruded or cast rigid plastic characterized by its clarity and ability to accept color. Also a type of paint with an acrylic resin base.
ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) – Federal civil-rights legislations addressing the needs of physically impaired citizens. Sections dealing with signage ainclude Title II, affecting government and public-sector activities, and Title III, involving the private sector. Additional rules are included the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.
Adhesive – A material able to hold two surfaces together, often activated by heat or pressure.
Aliasing – Visual stair-stepping of edges that occurs in an image when the resolution is too low for the size of the output.
Ambient Light – The light in a given area, excluding direct or internal illumination.
Anchor – In sign making, refers particularly to the fasteners used to secure awnings and fascia signs to facades.
Animated GIF – An animation in the GIF format, capable of automatic looping playback.
Anti-Aliasing – In digital printing, the process of mixing various amounts of surrounding colors to pixels forming lines or edges of colors. Helps eliminate the jagged look that sometimes occurs.
Aqueous Inks – Inks that use water as a carrier. Aqueous inks may contain dyes or pigments as colorants
Architectural Sign – A sign type, often part of a systems of signs, associated with the architecture of a building or building complex, giving information about specific locations within, wayfinding and other features.
Aspect Ratio – The height-to-width measurement of an image as displayed on a monitor and ultimately printed. Can sometimes be altered when using a software’s import/export feature and transferring an image from one computer to another. Ration can also cange with pixel size, although most computers use a 1:1 aspect.
Attribute – A distinguishing characteristic. The characteristics of color are such attributes as hue, lightness and saturation.
Awning – A shelter constructed of non-rigid materials on a supporting framework which projects from and is supported by the exterior wall of a bulding. An awning may or may not be illuminated and/or decorated with graphics to serve as a sign.
– B –
Backlit Sign – A sign consisting of a cabinet containing a light source surrounded by one or more translucent faces, illuminated for visibility.
Baked Enamel – A type of metal sign finish. A special enamel paint is sprayed or screen printed on the metal surface, dried, then cured. The result is an exremely durable surface similar to that found on many appliances.
Ballast – A devis that operates as part of a fluorescent lamp and designed primarily to provide sufficient starting voltage.
Banner – A sign usually made of fabric, vinyl or other non-rigid material with no enclosing framework. May be painted, screen printed, digitally printed or decorated with vinyl.
Bitmap – Refers to images made of rows and columns of monochrome or multi-colored pixels, or dots, for displaying or printing.
Blade – In screen printing, the flexible part of a squeegee that comes into contact with the ink.
Bleed – In screen printing, the portion of the job that extends beyond the area of the finished print.
Block Colors – Colors printed without gradations, tints or shades.
Bounding Box – The area of an on-screen image at its maximum X and Y axes measurements. Altering the bounding box by moving its control points can change the shape or size of an image. Bounding boxes allows scaling of all graphics images in PostScript file types.
Braille – A form of tactile signage consisting of raised symbols that enabling visually-impaired and un-sighted people to read and write. Braille is broken into two grades: Grade 1 Braille involves a charter-by-character translation of printed material; Grade 2 Braille uses special contractions (much like the phonetic parts of speech) for messages. Grade 2 Braille is required by federal law according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Brightness – A measurement of the reflective quality of medium such as paper or vinyl. Different brightness levels can cause changes in the appearance of color on the medium, and may require printer adjustment.
– C –
Cabinet – An electric sign, not including the components and structure. A cabinet is made up of a face and back, or two faces, along with the edge. Also called a can.
CAD (Computer Aided Design) – The sue of computer programs and systems to design detailed two or three-dimensional models of physical objects, such as mechanical parts, buildings, and signs.
Captive Audience Network – A captive audience network is a digital advertising media network installed where your target audience is assured to remain in place for a period of time. Typical captive audience networks are installed in supermarkets, gas station pumps, banks, and wherever people gather and wait.
Cast Vinyl – A type of vinyl film formed by spreading a molten plastic mixture on a carrier sheet in a thin layer, and then baking at high temperatures to remove solvents and fuse the remaining material into a film. Cast film is usually thinner, more pliable and more-expensive than calendered vinyl.
Channel – In electronic digital signage, a channel is a script that has been published in such a way that when its contents change, the updated material is forwarded to machines running the viewer that have subscribed to the channel.
Channel Letter – The outline of a letter, with extended sidewalls that create depth, into which a light source is placed.
Clip – A predefined graphic image, such as a picture, drawing, symbol, etc. that can be imported and position on a background.
Clip Art – Ready-made, royalty-free pieces of printed or computerized graphic art.
CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) – The four process colors used in most analog and digital printing systems. Black is called ‘K’ because in process printing black is the key plate or keyline color.
Coat-Out – To paint the surface before the art is applied.
Color Management – Refers to coordination of coor with output and display. In output, color management is often handled on a device-by-device basis by imaging production software.
Color Modes – Models of tones based upon different values, such as hue, saturation, luminance (HSL); red, green, and blue (RGB); and cyan, magenta, yellow, black (CMYK).
Colorant – Colored material, such as including pigments, dyes or toners, that are mixed with a carrier to create inks.
Content – In electronic digital signage, content consists of any files that are played back on a video screen.
Contour Cut – With vinyl cutters and print-and-cut digital printing devices, the ability to cut around the outlines of an image, both on the outer border and along any internal closed-loop borders.
Contrast – In graphic design, the use of dissimilar or opposing elements, such as light and dark areas. Also, a term describing the difference between elements within an image in tersm of their relative lightness and dark.
Corrugated Board – A board created by cluing a corrugated pieces to a flat face, or between two flat faces.
Curing – The process of effecting a chemical change in some inks or paints by the application of heat or ultraviolet light.
Cut-Outs – Lettering or graphics that are cut from another material, then attached to the sign face to provide depth.
– D –
Decal – Copy and/or graphics printed on a PSA vinyl, then cut to a specific shape.
Definition – The amount of contrast between a sign’s art and background.
Density – In sign making, a measurement used to express the hardness of foam boards in pounds-per-cupid-foot.
Die-Cut – A cut made with a steel rule die manufactured to cut a particular shape, commonly, when a large number of shapes with curves lines are to be cut.
Digital Printer – A printing device that is capable of translating digital data into hardcopy output. Technologies employed in digital printers include inkjet, thermal transfer, electrostatic and laser photo-imaging.
Directional Sign – Signs designed to provide direction to travelers. The Highway Beautification Act sets guidelines for the size, placement and content of true directional signs.
Directory Sign – An on-premise sign that identifies the names and locations of tenants in a multi-tenant building, or group of buildings.
DPI (Dots Per Inch) – A unit of measure used to describe the resolution capability of a given piece of equipment by measuring the number of individual dots the device can reproduce in a linear inch.
Double Face – A sign with two parallel but opposing faces.
– E –
Embellishments – Elements added to a sign face for aesthetics and visibility. Cut-outs, push throughs, neon strips and clocks are all examples.
Engraving – Method of marking metal, plastic or glass in shallow, negative relief utilizing a bit or graver.
EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) – File type that allows different information, such as colors and fill patterns, to be carried between software programs.
– F –
Facade – The front or principal entrance of a building.
Face – The decorated surface of a sign; the area on which the copy and art is placed
Flatbed Printer – A digital printer designed to accommodate and print directly to various thickness and rigid substrates.
Foam Board – A type of lightweight, rigid board used for interior signs. Foam boards consist of a foam center sheet laminated on one or both side by a variety of substrates.
Focal Point – The spot in a design or layout that first catches the eye. IN good design, the focal point and the main message the sign seeks to convey will be the same thing.
Font – Font refers to a single style of a particular typeface, but since the advent of the computer and scale-able fonts, not its size.
Footing – The concrete supporting base of a structure, as for a pylon or monument sign.
– G –
Galvanized – Steel or iron that has been protected by a zinc coating
Gold Leaf – Gold manufactured into thin leaves, commonly available in a range from 10-23 karat
Grommet – A reinforced metal eyelet found in banners used to receive cords or other fasteners.
– H –
Halftone – The process of converting images into dots of various sizes with equal spacing between centers.
HDU (High Density Urethane) – A type of hard foam product used in sign production. Urethane has the density and fabrication characteristics of wood, but only one-third of the weight.
Heat-activated Adhesive – A type of adhesive used on some film laminates that is not sticky at room temperature but softens when heated, thus activating the adhesive.
Hue – The property of color that indicates the color name, such as purple, blue, or green, that can be specified by particular wavelengths or by CIE coordinates.
– I –
Inflatables – Plastic signage that assumes a three-dimensional shape when filled with air under pressure or helium gas.
Inkjet Printer – Device that drops liquid ink onto a substrate for printing. The thermal bubble-type of inkjets heats ink to approx. 400 degrees inside a small chamber before shooting it through a series of nozzles.
Intensity – The density or opaqueness of a color.
Internally Illuminated – A sign which is lighted through the use of internal electric fixtures or lamp-banks.
– J –
JPEG/JPG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) – A type of compressed computer file usually used when sending photographic images through the Internet.
– K –
Kerning – The process of moving pairs of letters farther apart or closer together to make them appear more evenly spaced
– L –
Laminate – A process by which different materials are layered and then bonded together using adhesion. The end result may be the creation of a substrate – such as a overlay – or the protection of the underlying surface, as when a clear, plastic film is laminated to a decorated surface.
Layout – The total arrangement of a sign’s graphic and copy elements.
Light Box – A slim cabinet with internal lighting, used to backlight translucent graphics displays.
Location Based Advertising – The placement of advertisements near an actionable location. In other words, location based advertising deals with strategically placing messaging near where buyer behavior can be most immediately inflused and coveredt into a sale.
Luminance – Refers to the lightness or brightness of an image.
– M –
Masking – In painting or screen printing, the process of covering – usually with tape or paper – areeas to pretect them from receiving subsequent layers of paint or ink.
MDO (Medium Density Overlay) – An exterior-grade plywood with an average veneer on both sides.
Menu Board – A changeable point-of-purchase advertising display that allows the retailer to list products and prices
Message Center – Any sign that displays changeable copy through electronic or mechanical means.
Mirror/Mirror Print – Function of reversing type or an image to be printed. USed mainly for cutting jobs to be installed on the insdie surface of a window.
Monument Sign – A free-standing sign sitting directly on the ground or mounted on a low base.
Multimedia – The combination of various presentation media such as text, sound, graphics, animation, and video.
Multimedia Signs – Multimedia signs are a growing trend in the singage industry where televisions or flat panel display devices such as plasma screens or liquid crystal displays, are turned into updated-able signage.
– N –
Negative Space – The area around and within the art and copy. Also known as white space.
– O –
Opacity – Measurement of resistance to light passing through a particular substrate.
Open Channel Letter – A channel letter that has no face and in which the neon tubing is visible.
Outline/Inline – In computer graphics, a closed-loop path that copies an originals shape, but is offset by a positive measurement outside the original (outline), or a negative measurement inside the original (inline).
– P –
Panel – In printing, the division of a job based on the production area of a printing device.
Pantone Matching System (PMS) – A numbering system for identifying 3,000+ colors created through combinations of 14 base colors. The Pantone company produces numerous color-matching systems for standard print and computer applications.
Pattern – In sign making, a full-sized layout of the work to be done.
Permit – A license granted by the appropriate authorities to allow a sign to be erected.
Pixelization – Process where the number of pixels are simply multiplied to increase resolution. The result is a higher dpi but the altering of detail from smooth to jaggies.
Plastic-Faced Letter – Channel letter in which the front of the channel is covered by plastic material or facing, hiding the neon tube from view.
Pole Sign – A free-standing sign, usually double-faced, mounted on a round pole, square tube or other fabricated member without any tape of secondary support.
Polycarbonate – A type of plastic used in a sign faces, noted for its heat-resistance and impact strength.
Polypropylene – A type of plastic used in banners, noted for its flexibility at low temperatures and its resistance to chemicals. Noted for its recyclability.
Poster – A type of sign, typically printed on paper, and intended for indoor use.
PPI (Pixels Per Inch) – Describes how many of the pixels in a raster image will occur in one inch. The higher the number of pixels-per-inch, the greater the resolution.
Process Color – The three primary colors of printing – cyan (blue); magenta (red); and yellow; plus black.
Projecting Sign – A sign that is attached to a building but extends beyond the building structure.
PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) – The most common form of plastic in use today. PVC is extruded or cast as sheets, tubing or films. PVC fimls are commonly referred to as vinyl.
Pylon – Any free-standing sign that is not a pole or ground sign.
– Q –
– R –
Readability – The quality of a signs overall design that allows the viewer to correctly interpret the information presented on it, and the optimum time and distrance in which this can be done.
Regulatory Signs – Signs installed by various government bodies to acquaint the public with traffic laws and other regulations.
Resolution – The degree of crispness/clarity of an image. In digital imaging, resolution is measured by the number of pixels of color information per horizontal inch of an image.
Reverse Channel Letter – A channel letter that has a face and sides but no back. It is pegged out from a background surface.
Router – In sign-making a router is a machine tool that mills out the surface of metal or wood, usually equipped with various bits and able to remove material along the axis.
– S –
Sandblasting – A pressurized stream of sand or synthetic particals used to remove material from a substrate, such as glass, wood, or HDU.
Showcard – An interior sign utilizing a card stock substrate and often decorated with tempera paints. The standard showcard size is 28″x44″.
Skeleton – The metal frame on which a sign is installed.
Structure – In the sign industry, a structure designed for and capable of supporting a sign.
Substrate – The material out of which a sign face is made. Wood, metal sheeting, paper and acrylic are all sign substrates. In screen printing and inkjet printing, a substrate can be any printable material, but usually some form of rigid sheet.
– T –
Tack – The stickiness of an adhesive under a given condition. Some adhesives require a particular temperate range for maximum tack.
Temporary Sign – Any sign which is not intended to be permanently installed, such as banners and construction site signs. Often, sign codes week to limit the length of time a temporary sign can be in place.
Tone – The effect on a color brought about by blending it with another color.
Transfer Paper – A special paper used for the transferring of color images to substrates by using a heat press or similar device.
Typeface – The design of a given set of letters, numbers and symbols, without reference to size or width.
– U –
– V –
Value – When dealing with color, value is the measurement of brightness, with zero percent representing solid black.
Vanishing Point – In graphic design, the place where a series of angled lines continue but are too small to be detected by the unaided eye. The lines coverge into one point and seem to disappear, creating a 3D relief effect.
Vector Image – A computer image that defines graphic pixels through the use of mathematical descriptions of paths and files.
Vinyl – The most common form of plastic in use today.
Viscosity – The thickness of a paint or ink.
– W –
Walldog – Slang term for old-style sign painters who produce signs, murals and other large graphics by hand.
Wall Mount – A single-face sign mounted on a wall.
Wayfinding – A system of signage and graphics which is designed to give direction to a given destination. While the copy and graphics on a building’s signs are important to the process, wayfinding also depends on the information inherent in a building’s design.
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– Y –
– Z –