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First Surface vs. Second Surface

Interior Sign
Acrylic signs Louisville kentucky lobby signage

Sprucing up for your reception area with acrylic signage? One of the best things to remember when designing your signs are that acrylic signage can be printed first surface or second surface – but what does that mean?

Properties of Acrylic:

Acrylic signage is unlike any other material we use at Signarama Louisville East. Acrylic can come in clear, white or color and is similar to Plexiglas material. It is light-weight which makes hanging it a breeze, especially with standoffs (see our article Let’s Get Hanging for information regarding standoff applications).

Uses of Acrylic:

The acrylic can be used as lobby signage, directional signage and architectural signage. It’s the perfect substitution for traditional glass because it is safer and much more affordable. Acrylic can be cut to any shape you desire, making it a great choice for statement walls in your office, or as custom directional signage. We rout all of our acrylic in-house to meet each of our customers specific needs.

First Surface Prints:

First surface acrylic puts the ink on the front of the acrylic piece. This causes the image to have a matte finish. You can feel the ink if you were to run your fingers across the face of the acrylic. Printing the acrylic standard surface is also less expensive than printing the acrylic with a second surface print because second surface printing takes more production resources and time. First surface printing also has its drawbacks. Since the print is on the front of the material, it no longer has a clear look to it.  Also, the ink is on the front of the material, so it’s more prone to damage, such as scratching.

Second Surface Prints:

On second surface acrylic prints, the ink is printed on the back of the acrylic. This allows you to look through the clear material itself and onto the print. This gives the overall look a glossy finish! Since the print is on the back of the acrylic, it gives it more protection from both the elements and vandalism. A cool feature with the second surface prints are that the first surface can then be used as a whiteboard with Expo dry-erase markers. Some common downfalls of the print being on the back is that it can cause glare and can be hard to see in direct sunlight. It also is prone to showing fingerprints because of its glossy finish.

Check out more acrylic examples in our gallery at


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