Sign Illumination Overview

Lighting is essential for most signage. It allows your sign to be visible and readable day and night, in all kinds of weather. When a sign is illuminated, drivers can read it more quickly. Another benefit of an illuminated sign is that 24-hours a day it is advertising your business. Even when your business is closed, that constant reminder helps build memory of your business.

Signs are generally illuminated by one or a combination of three basic methods: by lamps mounted outside it and oriented to shine on the sign’s face, by internal illumination that shines through the sign’s face, or by illuminated elements such as exposed bulbs, LEDs, or neon-style tubing. A wide variety of illumination methods are available, and rapidly developing technology is creating a virtually unlimited variety of possibilities, many of which are very economical to install and maintain, as well as being energy-efficient.

When you select the color scheme for your business, you should consider your sign’s illumination options at the same time, because the illumination you choose can have an effect on the sign’s appearance. Some businesses want their sign’s colors to match their print and other media advertising exactly. Some forms of illumination are much better than others at accurately displaying color. If accurate portrayal of your business’s colors is important, you should choose an illumination source with a high Color Rendering Index (CRI) rating.

A properly lighted sign should be bright enough that it can compete with other signs in the area without being annoying. Many cities are beginning to impose limits on brightness, so before designing a sign you should check to see what those limits might be to determine whether your sign will be visible at night.

[1] Richard N. Schwab entitled Safety and Human Factors: Design Considerations for On-Premise Commercial Signs, cosponsored and published by The Signage Foundation for Communication Excellence Inc. and the International Sign Association (1998).


Artisan Graphics has been a locally owned and operated company servicing the greater Charlotte, Lake Norman and Triad areas since 1993.  Artisan’s focus has always been on branding companies through in-house manufacturing and printing of logos on all types of products, from large outdoor signage to paper printing to apparel decorating, such as screenprint and embroidery.