Neon sign design—how to do it and how the final product is made

You have an idea for a neon sign for your business or home but you don’t know how to turn it into a finished product you can put on display.

On this page, we explain what’s involved with designing a neon sign and the process signmakers typically follow to manufacture your sign. We also provide some design ideas that we hope will inspire you to get creative.

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How to design a neon sign

Once you’ve settled on an idea for how you want your neon sign or LED neon sign to look, you can get to work on designing it.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours producing a beautifully rendered drawing of the sign you’re picturing in your mind (although you can, if you like!). You just need something you can take to the neon sign manufacturer to show them exactly what you’re after.

Most signmakers will be able to work from a fairly simple concept, whether it’s a quick sketch you’ve doodled, an image you’ve knocked up on the computer, or a photo you’ve taken on your smartphone. The important thing is to present your idea visually—that way, the manufacturer has a better chance of more closely meeting your specifications.

There are online neon sign design tools you can use to translate the idea in your head into a basic visual representation. Usually, these tools let you select three or four elements (e.g. size, font, colour) from a limited selection of options. At the end, you’ll have an image on screen of what your sign would look like if it was manufactured.

If you’re having difficulty communicating exactly what type of sign you want, or if you don’t have any ‘creative’ tools to hand, the manufacturer should be able to show you a gallery of signs they’ve made for other customers, to give you some inspiration and help narrow your focus.

Features to include in your design

The more information you can give the signmakers, the better, as it enables them to give you a more accurate quote for the work.

Generally, a neon sign or LED neon sign manufacturer will, at the very least, need to know:

  • what size you need the sign to be
  • what colour lighting you want—the colour range for traditional neon is limited to 10–50 colours (depending on the manufacturer), while for LED neon the options are virtually limitless
  • if the sign has text, what it should say and what style of lettering you prefer

The manufacturer will be able to offer advice on your options and what to choose to make sure the sign is bright and colourful and has the greatest visual impact.

When you provide your design, if you also know what type of backboard or mounting you’d like, and whether you want the sign to do things like flash, change colour or dim (only possible with LED neon), include that information. The signmaker will do everything they can to accommodate your request.

To read more about the features of neon signage and what size, colour and other options you’ll be presented with, click here.

What happens next

Once you’ve given the sign manufacturer your design, they can start to put together the production artwork they will use to make the final piece.

Every sign making company has a different process, but generally they’ll begin by producing a master image of what the final design will look like when complete. Some signmakers might hand-draw this before printing it out, while others—such as NeonPlus®—create it digitally using computer software (such as Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop).

A good master image will break down each of the separate elements of the sign, so you have a clear idea of what work is needed. The manufacturer might also produce drawings such as side views, section views or even 3D views if they are necessary.

To read about what you can expect from the design and manufacturing process, click here.

What it costs to design a neon sign

Every custom neon sign and LED neon sign is bespoke and made to order, and so there isn’t really a set price. Manufacturers will use the information that you’ve provided to produce a master image (see What happens next above). They will tell you how much it will cost to turn that design into the final sign. Once you’ve approved the quote for your custom order, they will get to work on making it.

Traditional neon signs are a little different to LED neon in that there are considerations around the length of neon tubing that will be used, and the extent to which the tubing needs to be shaped into block letters or cursive script. Different kinds of glass (e.g. coloured) also carry an extra cost.

To read more about the cost of neon and LED neon signs, click here.

Popular uses for neon and LED neon signs

Below, we present some ideas that might inspire you to create your own neon or LED neon business signage or wall art to put on display at home.

Bar, beer and cocktails signs

Bars are one location in which you’re almost guaranteed to see some form of neon or LED neon sign!

Bar signs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colours and designs and can be customised to match the theme of the establishment and give the place a truly amazing and unique touch.

Coffee shops and café signs

More and more coffee shops and cafes are recognising the benefits of neon and faux neon (LED neon) in grabbing customers’ attention. Whether it’s lettering in a subtle white or a more visually striking colour, neon signs are sure to have people flocking to your establishment.

Restaurant signs

Restaurants are great for neon, particularly those that like to lower the lights for ambience. The vivid glow of neon and LED neon has a wonderful impact in such soft lighting conditions.

Signs as art to display in the home

As interior design trends become more adventurous, an increasing number of people are turning to neon as a form of art to use as statement pieces in the home.

LED neon gives people a great opportunity to get that unique glow going without the safety and breakability issues that come with traditional neon.

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