How to Choose the Right Material for Outdoor Signage

Selecting the right material for outdoor signage is crucial, especially for signs and interpretation panels used in heritage sites, parks, nature reserves, and public open spaces. The durability, visibility, and overall aesthetic of the signs can significantly impact their effectiveness. Here’s a guide to help you choose the best materials for your outdoor sign.

Understanding the Environment

The first step in choosing the right material for an outdoor sign is to understand the environment where the signs will be placed. Different environments have varying requirements in terms of durability and weather resistance.

Heritage Sites

For these locations, the material should blend with the historical aesthetics while offering durability. Materials such as wood can enhance the historical feel. Signs must be weather-resistant and capable of maintaining their appearance over time without frequent maintenance. The use of professional-grade, durable materials ensures the signage complements the heritage setting and attracts visitors without looking out of place.

Parks and Nature Reserves

Signs here need to withstand natural elements like rain, wind, and sunlight without fading or deteriorating. Materials such as aluminium, treated wood, and weather-resistant GRP plastics are ideal. These materials are durable and can endure harsh outdoor conditions. The signs should also be designed to blend with the natural surroundings, offering a harmonious look while providing necessary information and directions to visitors.

Public Open Spaces

High-traffic areas require robust materials that can handle physical impact and vandalism. Options like stainless steel, reinforced aluminium, shatterproof polycarbonate and toughened glass are excellent choices. These materials are not only durable but also easy to clean and maintain. Ensuring the signage is vandal-resistant and can withstand the wear and tear of frequent use is essential for maintaining a professional appearance and providing clear information to the public.

Here are some of the most popular materials used for exterior signs:


Lightweight, rust-resistant, and durable, aluminium is a popular choice for outdoor signs. It is ideal for both wall-mounted and free-standing signs. Aluminium signs are versatile and can be customised with different finishes and coatings to enhance durability and appearance.

Encapsulated Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP)

GRP has proven over many years to offer an exceptionally robust solution for outdoor graphics. It is an easy-to-clean material and is recommended on sites where vandalism may be a concern. Colour fastness is excellent – we have signs, still in service, produced on an earlier printer with colours showing no fading after 10 years.


A composite material made of aluminium and polyethene, Dibond is known for its strength and weather resistance, making it suitable for large panel outdoor signage. Its smooth surface is perfect for high-quality printing, ensuring your message is clear and visually appealing.


Acrylic offers a sleek, modern look with good weather resistance. It is often used for illuminated signage and directional signage. Acrylic signs are available in various colours and can be easily cut into different shapes, making them a versatile option for many outdoor applications.


For a natural look, especially in parks and nature reserves, wood is an excellent choice. It can be treated to withstand weather conditions, though it may require more maintenance over time. Wood signs blend seamlessly with natural environments and provide a rustic charm that is appealing in outdoor settings.


Lightweight and versatile, Foamex is great for vibrant, high-impact displays. It’s ideal for temporary signage and events. Foamex can be easily printed on and cut to various shapes and sizes, making it suitable for creative and eye-catching designs.

Stainless Steel

Highly durable and resistant to corrosion, stainless steel is perfect for high-end signage that needs to attract attention and stand the test of time. Stainless steel signs offer a sleek, professional appearance and are often used in areas requiring a high level of sophistication.

Specific Sign Types and Considerations

Panel Signs

Best made from encapsulated glass reinforced plastic (GRP), Dibond or aluminium for their durability and ability to support large graphics. These materials provide a sturdy base for detailed and colourful displays, ensuring the signage remains attractive and informative over time.

Directional Signage

Wood, acrylic or aluminium works well due to their clean appearance and durability. Clear and concise directional signage helps guide visitors effectively, reducing confusion and enhancing their overall experience.

Illuminated Signage

Acrylic is the preferred choice because it diffuses light evenly. Illuminated signs are essential for visibility in low-light conditions, making them ideal for evening and nighttime use in public spaces and parks.

Pavement Signs

Foamex or aluminium for lightweight and ease of movement. Consider double-sided options to attract attention from both directions. Pavement signs are excellent for temporary promotions and events, as they can be easily relocated and stored when not in use.

Wall-Mounted Signs

Depending on the wall material, wood, aluminium or Dibond is usually the best option for their easy installation and durability. Wall-mounted signs are often used for informational and directional purposes, providing clear guidance to visitors.

Design and Aesthetic Considerations

The design process is crucial for effective exterior signs. A well-designed sign can significantly impact how well it attracts attention, conveys its message, and aligns with the overall branding of a business or site. Here are key considerations to ensure your outdoor signs are both functional and aesthetically pleasing:


Effective visibility is essential for outdoor signage to attract attention and convey messages clearly.

High-Contrast Colours

Use colours that stand out against the background. High-contrast combinations like white on treated wood, black on white, white on blue, or yellow on black are easier to read from a distance.

Readable Fonts

Choose fonts that are easy to read, even from a distance. Sans-serif fonts such as Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana are often more legible for outdoor signs. Avoid overly decorative fonts that can be hard to read.

Size and Placement

Ensure that text and important elements are large enough to be seen from the typical viewing distance. Position signs in locations where they are unobstructed and can be easily noticed by passersby or drivers.


Align the design with your branding to maintain consistency across all signage. Consistent branding helps reinforce the identity and professionalism of the organisation or site.

Logo and Colours

Use your brand’s logo and colours consistently across all signage to strengthen brand recognition. This consistency helps in creating a cohesive visual identity.


Stick to the same fonts and style guidelines used in your other marketing materials. This uniformity reinforces your brand’s identity and ensures a professional look.

Imagery and Graphics

Incorporate relevant images or graphics that support your brand’s message and appeal to your target audience. High-quality images can make your signage more attractive and engaging.


Choose materials that can withstand the local weather conditions and require minimal maintenance. Durable signs reduce the need for frequent replacements, saving time and costs in the long run.

Weather Resistance

Select materials like aluminium, stainless steel, or weather-treated wood that can endure rain, wind, and UV exposure without deteriorating. For example, outdoor business signs often need to resist fading and corrosion.

Vandalism Resistance

In high-traffic or vulnerable areas, consider materials that are resistant to vandalism. Coatings like anti-graffiti laminates can protect your signs from defacement and make cleaning easier.


Opt for materials that require minimal upkeep. Durable materials and finishes can significantly reduce maintenance costs and keep the signage looking fresh and professional for longer periods.


Balance between initial costs and long-term durability. Sometimes investing in higher-quality materials can save money on replacements and maintenance. Consider the total cost of ownership when selecting materials for outdoor signs.

Initial Investment vs. Longevity

While the upfront cost of premium materials might be higher, their longer lifespan and lower maintenance needs can make them more cost-effective in the long run.

Energy Efficiency

For illuminated outdoor signage, consider energy-efficient options like LED lights, which consume less power and have a longer lifespan compared to traditional lighting.

Total Cost of Ownership

Evaluate the total cost over the sign’s expected life, including installation, maintenance, and potential replacements. Investing in quality materials might be more economical than opting for cheaper, less durable options.

Before finalising your outdoor signage, check if you require planning permission. Some signs, especially in heritage sites or protected areas, may have specific regulations. Ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations helps avoid potential legal issues and ensures the signage is installed correctly.

Choosing the Right Material for your Outdoor Signage Project

When making a decision for your signage it is important to consider the environment, the type of sign, design aesthetics, and legal requirements. By selecting durable, weather-resistant materials, you ensure that your signage remains effective and attractive for years to come. Whether it’s for a park, nature reserve, or public space, the right choice of materials will enhance the visitor experience and convey your message clearly.

Incorporate these insights to make informed decisions for your outdoor sign projects, ensuring they serve their purpose and stand the test of time.

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