channel letters sign makers edmonton

Channel Letters Size DOES Matter

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Did you know that in the sign world Channel Letters Size DOES Matter? This is extremely true when it comes to letter height. In the sign world letter height = viewing distance. Ok that is great! Letter height = Viewing distance. So what is viewing distance? Viewing distance is the measurement, usually in feet away from the sign at which the text or copy can be viewed accurately.  

Nothing is worse than trying to pick out just what a sign says as you are cruising by in your car but you cannot because the lettering is just too small to make out.  Okay, okay, we can think of a few things that may be worse, but for this scenario it is THE WORST!

So how do you ensure your Channel Letters that you have spent so much time carefully picking out with your dedicated designer are seen by your potential clientele? After all that effort you have spent getting your business up and running you definitely want clientele to know that you exist! The first thing you need to consider before you ever figure out the height is the distance at which you want your potential clientele to be able to view your sign from.

Do you want customers that may be walking by to be able to see your sign at an up close range? Are your customers driving by on a nearby roadway? If so that could need a much larger letter to grab their attention.

Once you have determine the general distance from which you expect your sign to be view a majority of the time you can begin to determine the letter height needed for the correct visibility.  The chart below will give you some indication to the minimum copy or text size required for your desired sign.


Letter Height

Legible Viewing Distance

Letter Height

Legible Viewing Distance

Letter Height

Legible Viewing Distance

Letter Height

Legible Viewing Distance

Letter Height

Legible Viewing Distance





1 ½”

















These sizes are relevant to all types of signage from your illuminated channel letters to the copy or text on the faces in a pylon sign. Many confuse a Pylon Sign with the little traffic cones you see on the road that cautions other drivers. While these are indeed called pylons in the custom sign fabrication world a Pylon signs are the large signs you usually see outside of shopping complexes or along the highway with multiple tenants listed. Often these types of sign also have Electronic Message boards that display bright colored text or images. The sign can be up to 28ft tall. This means there is room for many tenants to have space to advertise their company to potential customers.  

There are other factors that may affect the overall size of channel letters or copy on sign face to consider as well. Many times a new business has hired a designer to create a logo. It is incredibly important to a company to have brand visibility.

The only catch is many designers, while wonderfully creative and talented at their jobs, tend to design for print. The logo may look wonderful on your website and on your brochures but is completely impossible to build. This is because most graphic designers are trained for print design and not manufacture design.

This is especially true when building Channel Letters.  Both illuminated and non-illuminated Channel Letters sign are a dimensional shape. Which means there each letter has a face and a back with usually a 3” to 5” return connecting the two.  To be able to bend and mold the return around the letter there has to be ample space to do so. For this very reason font choice can be critical to how a channel letter is made and at what size it can be made.

Typeface can be divided into three main categories serif and sans- serif and decorative.  I can tell you after watching many typefaces being made into channel letters that sign manufacturers prefer sans-serif all the way. Customers however do not always feel the same. Sometime a serif or script typeface is what their branding has always been so it must remain that way.

When this happens there are a few factors that we as manufacturers need to take into consideration. Sometimes even at the ideal viewing height the typeface can be hard to build. Factors like the stroke, or shall we say thickness of areas of the letter face, are too thin to be able to illuminate.  The LED’s going inside of the letter that will eventually light it up need space to fit.

Now, great advances in LED’s have made them much smaller over the past few years which translate into being able to create thinner letters. It still remains that ideally the stroke should be a minimum of 1” thick with a minimum height of 9”.

Even if the LED’s are small enough to fit inside, the human fingers that work to make the letters itself need to be able to fit as well. A lot of labor can go into making a fancy typeface. Attention to detail working to shape the serifs on the end of a letters can take time.

Now all that said and done we manufactures are not saying to not pick a serif or script font. They can definitely still be done. Some adjustments may need to be made to the typeface. An example might be thickening up the stroke to allow for LED’s to fit.

And as if we have not given you enough to think about one very large component to sign visibility is color. Probably since the time of grade school we all have known what our favorite color is.  But not all colors are created equal especially when it comes to visibility.  The illumination of a sign can also add to this challenge. The color blue and the color purple can be especially hard to illuminate. Often additional LED’s will need to be added to the sign to get the correct color. A contoured white line may even be added to help the letters be more visible against the exterior of a building.

We all have to work with what we are given. How true this is for companies trying to move into existing locations where they may not have the ability to pick the exterior color of the building. Many times a company’s branding may be a very similar color to the exterior of the building. This can make the visibility of the sign extremely poor. Dark letters in a dark wall or light letters on a light wall would become essentially invisible.  Using colors that contrast can be a huge help to a sign's visibility. A general rule of thumb is to have a light background when you have a dark letter and a dark background when dealing with a light colored letter.  Below is an example of how color choice can drastically change the look of a sign.

channel letters blog

Thankfully many of these concepts are easy to apply for the average business owner and do not require any additional training in graphic design. Sticking to the basics of using fonts that are easily legible and colors that contrast from the intended background color will go a long way to ensuring the visibility of your sign. When in doubt you can always consult with sign experts such as our our award winning design team that help you to pick the best font and color for your project. After all everybody wants to be seen!

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