Custom neon signs—understanding your options and why LED neon might be a better alternative
On this page, we explain what decisions you’ll face when buying a custom neon sign.
We also cover how LED neon signs such as NeonPlus® provide an excellent alternative to traditional neon by offering the same range of options and being just as easy to design and create.
- What does it mean to create a custom neon sign?
- What are my options for sizes, colours, lettering and backing?
- What’s the process for getting a custom neon sign made?
- How much does a custom neon sign cost?
- Can channel letters be used in custom neon signs?
- Why is acrylic used in faux neon signs?
What does it mean to create a custom neon sign?
A custom neon sign is one designed to your exact specifications, rather than bought ‘off the shelf’ already made.
The options you have to create a custom neon sign with a unique touch will depend on the provider. Generally though, you’ll be able to specify the following:
- Style and layout of lettering/design
- Type of backboard or mounting
You might also be able to choose from more advanced options, such as:
- tailoring the sign for outdoor use (where the sign is treated with different primers, resins etc. to stop water getting in)
- giving the sign more sophisticated lighting functions, such as the capability to flash or dim
The majority of neon signs are custom-made, as most businesses that use them need them for a certain purpose and to convey a specific look, style or design. For example:
A representation of a brand or logo
A slogan in a particular font or style of lettering
A sign to advertise or promote a type of business
A unique image of an object or thing
Nowadays, though, you aren’t just limited to traditional neon signs that use neon gas. There are LED alternatives on the market—such as NeonPlus®—that have the same versatility and range of features, as well as a host of benefits that traditional neon can’t offer.
To read more about how neon and LED neon compare, click here
Bar signs are particularly popular
This is one extremely common use for neon, and it’s unlikely you’ve never been in a bar, pub or club without having your attention drawn to some kind of neon signage hanging in the room.
Like any custom neon sign or custom LED neon sign, bar signs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colours and designs and can be fixed to the wall, mounted in a window or suspended in the doorway. They can be personalised to match the theme of the establishment and give the place a truly unique touch!
What are my options for sizes, colours, lettering and backing?
When you approach a manufacturer to make you a custom neon sign or custom LED neon sign, they’ll need a full picture of exactly how you want the sign to look.
Depending on how they work, they might ask you to send instructions and/or an example image via e‑mail, fax or a quote form on their website. They’ll use those to put together some final designs for your approval.See What’s the process for getting a custom neon sign made? below.
Some sign making companies have online tools that allow you to select some basic options then generate a example on screen of how the final sign might look.
Below, we look at the most common elements you’ll be able to personalise, and what’s generally on offer.
The size of your sign all depends on what you want it to display. A sign with a logo/image and text will likely be larger than a sign that carries only text. Also, a sign with several lines of text will occupy more space than one with a single line.
Most manufacturers will be able to accommodate requests for large custom neon signs, or signs of whatever size you need. However, some may restrict you to certain standard sizes or make you choose from a limited range of templates.
Common standard sizes
Below are some standard sizes you might find offered by neon sign manufacturers.
Overall size (height x width)
Lines of text
Maximum letters per line
100mm x 430mm
180mm x 510mm
305mm x 610mm
330mm x 760mm
460mm x 810mm
460mm x 1120mm
1020mm x 760mm
760mm x 660mm
610mm x 510mm
510mm x 400mm
Maximum size limits are typically set for shipping reasons, to make sure the sign can fit the transportation method used to deliver it to you (whether by road or by air).
The manufacturer might also advise staying above a particular minimum size (100mm, for example). This is usually recommended to ensure the lettering looks neater and has a sharper definition.
Most custom-made neon or LED neon signs are priced according to size, so keep this in mind when deciding on your budget.
Most neon signage companies will offer you the choice of around 10–50 colours.
With LED neon, there’s an almost limitless choice. There are 10 static colour options (LEDs that remain one colour only), but the digital and colour-tuneable ones (those that change from warm white to cool white with a click of a button) and the RGB options allow you to choose any colour in the colour spectrum.
Red is the standard colour for traditional neon signs, used for all kinds of applications and bright enough to be visible at any time of day or night. Other standard colours include:
When discussing the design with you, the manufacturer might suggest the best colours to use to produce a sign of the highest possible quality.
Generally, the colours you choose don’t have any bearing on price, so using a number of different colours on one sign shouldn’t cost you any extra.
Lettering, design and layout options
Again, many sign manufacturers will aim to simplify things by providing you with a choice of lettering options, while giving you the opportunity to request your preferred fonts too. Most typefaces can be converted into neon tubing, or acrylic tubing for LED neon signs.
Typically, you’ll be able to select from a variety of script-type fonts (also called serif or cursive fonts) or block-style fonts (also called sans serif or non-cursive fonts). When it comes to neon and LED neon signs, both styles seem equally popular.
Example of a block font
Example of a script font
As explained above, the layout of your lettering influences what size the sign will need to be, and you may be restricted to a certain number of characters per line. With custom neon signs, however, you should be free to specify a design with as many letters as you need.
And like with fonts, most designs and logos can be turned into neon or LED neon signs. Just keep in mind that the more complex the logo or design, the larger the sign will need to be.
Generally, neon and LED neon signs are mounted directly to the wall using acrylic, wood, metal or aluminium composite, but most sign companies will try to accommodate you if you request a backboard in another material. You’ll receive the sign ready to hang.
There might also be the option to have your sign set on a stand or encased in a box.
What’s the process for getting a custom neon sign made?
Every company will have a slightly different process when taking orders from customers wanting custom neon signs or LED neon signs. Generally, however, the process will go as follows:
Step 1—You give the sign company your instructions
Obviously, the manufacturer can’t make anything without understanding exactly what it is you want. So the more detailed you can be with your instructions, the more easily they’ll be able to meet your requirements and give you an accurate quote for what the work will cost.
They’ll need to know the following information:
- The design you have in mind
- If it has text:
- What you want this to say
- What font to use
- Size of the sign
- Colours to use
- Backing material
Some companies might choose to work from a set of simple instructions you’ve provided by speaking to them directly. Others might ask you to draw your design for them.
However, it’s more likely that the company will request some form of digital artwork as a visual demonstration of how you envisage the final design.
Often, they will ask for vector artwork, which means a specific format of image created using Adobe Illustrator, a type of design software. They’ll ask you to send this by email or whatever online file transfer program they use.
Step 2—The sign company produces a design
Once they have your instructions and artwork, the company will use that information to create some custom designs that, if approved by you, will be the basis for the sign itself.
Step 3—The sign company provides a quote
As the company’s design team are working on Step 2, it’s likely you’ll be given a quote for what the sign would cost if you were to go ahead. See ‘How much does a custom neon sign cost?’ below.
Step 4—The sign company makes the sign
If you’re happy with the design and the quote, you can give the manufacturer the go-ahead to start making the sign. How long this takes will depend on the complexity of the design, but you should expect to wait one to two weeks.
How much does a custom neon sign cost?
Because custom neon signs and LED neon signs are made to order, prices are worked out on an individual basis and depend on the options you choose for your design.
For traditional neon signs, quoted prices will also be based on the length of neon tubing used, and whether this is straight or bent into block letters or cursive script. You might also have the choice of clear or coloured glass, which again plays into the final cost.
As a very rough guide, the table below shows example prices for custom neon signs in various sizes. These are traditional neon signs with simple images and between one and three lines of text. The prices don’t include VAT or delivery.
Size of neon sign
400mm x 250mm
600mm x 300mm
750mm x 500mm
850mm x 400mm
950mm x 350mm
650mm x 550mm
1000mm x 600mm
750mm x 950mm
900mm x 900mm
750mm x 750mm
1000mm x 1200mm
There are no real guide prices for LED neon signs as each product is bespoke and made to order. Subtle differences between products can both increase or reduce the cost, depending on what’s chosen, so it’s best to contact the manufacturer directly for an accurate price.
Can channel letters be used in custom neon signs?
Yes. In fact, they are used all the time.
Channel letters are custom-made three-dimensional letters made from aluminium and acrylic. Shaped to any style or lettering or logo, they are used as signage on the facades of business premises and other commercial and public buildings.
When fitted with internal lighting—whether traditional neon or LED neon—they glow and become highly visible, especially at night. This makes them a very effective form of advertisement.
Why is acrylic used in faux neon signs?
Acrylic is a strong, clear plastic that can be heated and moulded into shape (a process also known as thermoforming). It has glass-like qualities, so is transparent, but it’s much lighter and stronger than glass, making it the ideal material to use for neon signs.
Acrylic is strong enough to withstand a wide range of weather conditions, meaning it’s ideal for outdoor signs as well as those used indoors.
When creating a design, machinists use special tools to cut the desired shape from a block of acrylic. Then they round the cut shapes to form the tubes that will house the LEDs.
The acrylic is either painted or covered in vinyl to achieve the desired look. The LEDs are then fixed into the acrylic tubes.
The sign can be housed in an acrylic box to make it free-standing, or fixed to a backing board.