How to Make a Plexiglass Sign

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Plexiglass is a durable alternative to glass.
Plexiglass is a durable alternative to glass. (Image: ICHIRO/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Plexiglass is a lightweight acrylic transparent polycarbonate sheet used in the construction of some vinyl signs. Plexiglass is durable and 20 times stronger than glass and can be used in light-box type signs as an alternative to glass panels, or used as a stand alone substrate. Because of the ease of making a sign with plexiglass, simple tools will help you complete the process in no time at all.

Things You'll Need

  • Sheet of plexiglass
  • Large work table or workbench
  • Grease pencil
  • 2 to 4 C-clamps
  • Box cutter or sharp utility knife
  • Carpenter's square or T-square ruler
  • Translucent vinyl graphics
  • Vinyl cutter blade, 30-degree angle (optional)
  • Masking tape
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Sign holder or illuminated light box (optional)

Cutting

Remove the protective covering from the acrylic sheet. Lay the plexiglass on a large table or work bench. Measure the sheet of plexiglass horizontally and vertically. Mark with a grease pencil for guidelines. Cut materials for two signs.

Plexiglass is a functional substrate for signs.
Plexiglass is a functional substrate for signs. (Image: exit sign image by bawinner from Fotolia.com)

Keep one edge flush with the table. Lay a metal straight edge on the pre-measured cut line. Use a carpenter’s square or a T-shaped ruler, a T-square, aligning of the line. Clamp the plexiglass to the table with two to four large C-clamps.

C-clamps hold the plexiglass to the table when cutting.
C-clamps hold the plexiglass to the table when cutting. (Image: single clamp image by Albert Lozano from Fotolia.com)

Score with a box cutter or other heavy duty knife. Repeat scoring until you are one-third to one-quarter of the way through the material. Unclamp the plexiglass from the table.

Wear work gloves, protecting your hands from knife slippage.
Wear work gloves, protecting your hands from knife slippage. (Image: working gloves image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com)

Position the plexiglass with the score line flush with the table edge, with the excess hanging over the table edge. Reposition the clamps and tighten. Snap off the waste by pushing downward on the plexiglass. Don’t apply excessive force.

Score the plexiglass with a utility knife.
Score the plexiglass with a utility knife. (Image: Utility knife image by Andris Daugovich from Fotolia.com)

If the plexiglass does not break easily off, score again and repeat. Lightly sand any rough edge areas. Do not sand the face of your sign.

Edges of the sign may be lightly sanded removing an excess.
Edges of the sign may be lightly sanded removing an excess. (Image: sable 2 image by Blue Moon from Fotolia.com)

Production

Create or buy vinyl graphics and text for your sign. Use only translucent vinyl film if making the sign for a light box. If you are making your own vinyl graphics, use a 30-degree angled cutter blade.

Translucent vinyl allows light to pass through a seemingly solid object.
Translucent vinyl allows light to pass through a seemingly solid object. (Image: tranches de tomate image by Hubert Isselée from Fotolia.com)

Remember that plexiglass is transparent so in most cases, unless you use primer or lay opaque vinyl over the sign, the text and graphics will be visible through the back.

Paint the plexiglass for opaqueness.
Paint the plexiglass for opaqueness. (Image: brush in paint image by Vladislav Gajic from Fotolia.com)

Make two exact sign faces for the sign, because even if you line up the letters exactly, shadows behind the letters may cause readability issues.

Avoid shadowing.
Avoid shadowing. (Image: shadows on the wall image by Stefan Andronache from Fotolia.com)

Apply an image-only graphic if background transparency is desired. Apply vinyl graphics on one side only and make sure the sign will be the same no matter which side faces the viewer.

Text can not be applied to one side and be right-reading.
Text can not be applied to one side and be right-reading. (Image: mirror image image by Robert Kelly from Fotolia.com)

Remove any initial grease pencil lines with Isopropyl alcohol and a lint-free cloth. Clean the entire sign with the rubbing alcohol removing dirt. Allow to air dry.

A cloth can leave tiny particles on the sign, causing errors with graphic application.
A cloth can leave tiny particles on the sign, causing errors with graphic application. (Image: cloth background image by Roslen Mack from Fotolia.com)

Applying Graphics

Clamp the cut plexiglass to the table. Measure the area and make new guidelines with a grease pencil. Line up your vinyl graphics on to the plexiglass. Secure the vinyl graphic to the plexiglass with masking tape creating a hinge. Apply masking tape the entire length of the graphic.

Avoid slippage when applying vinyl graphics.
Avoid slippage when applying vinyl graphics. (Image: plastic tape image by timur1970 from Fotolia.com)

Flip the vinyl graphic upward so that the white paper backing is facing you. Remove the backing paper. Hold the non-taped edge of the graphic in one hand. Don’t let the vinyl graphic adhere on the sign just yet.

Seal the edge of the graphic, just below the tape line with your finger or a sign making squeegee. Angle your stroke to 45 degrees. Slowly attach the vinyl decal to the plexiglass sign substrate. Move the squeegee across the graphic in a horizontal and vertical stroke. Removed any trapped air bubbles with the corner of the squeegee. Pop stubborn air bubbles with a pin, then smooth releasing the trapped air.

Use your finger to seal the edge before laying down the vinyl.
Use your finger to seal the edge before laying down the vinyl. (Image: Flame Finger 3 image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com)

Starting at any edge, slowly peel away the pre-mask tape, keeping the pre-mask as close to the graphic as possible. Do not pull upward or tug on the pre-mask or the decal may release from the surface of the plexiglass.

Don't start a war with your graphics.
Don't start a war with your graphics. (Image: tug-of-war image by Pavel Losevsky from Fotolia.com)

Clean the sign with isopropyl alcohol removing any grease pencil marks. Place in the holder of your choice.

Check with the manufacturer when applying heat to an acrylic sheet.
Check with the manufacturer when applying heat to an acrylic sheet. (Image: searchlight image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from Fotolia.com)

Tips & Warnings

  • If translucent vinyl is not available, remove the vinyl sections of the letters and leave the background, allowing the light to shine through.
  • Some home improvement stores will cut plexiglass free of charge.
  • Use only translucent vinyl when making a lighted sign.
  • Some plexiglass is combustible. Always consult the manufacturer before applying a heat source to plexiglass.
  • Never clean a plexiglass sign with harsh or abrasive chemicals.

References

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