The Best Materials for Outdoor Business Signs

cady's falls wooden sign

Spring is certainly in the air in Vermont, and with that comes an increase in outdoor activity from sun-deprived Vermonters itching to get some fresh air and go on an adventure. It’s no surprise that an increase in foot traffic leads to greater visibility for local businesses and, as summer 2021 approaches swiftly, this is not an advertising opportunity you want to miss! You can do all the social media marketing and other forms of promotion you wish, but at the end of the day nothing beats an exquisite outdoor sign for your business. With great signs comes great responsibility when it comes to picking the right material, and that’s where Great Big Graphics comes in.

The first thing you’ll need to know, is that the standards of building materials for outdoor signs have evolved significantly as new technologies continue to develop and environmental safety requirements become more restrictive. The primary source of wooden signs has shifted. Cedar, being the main material for painted signs 20 years ago, has phased out and been replaced with lumber from second-growth forests full of younger trees. This, in combination with strict regulations on the finish (no more high VOC latex and oil exterior house paints), means that these beautiful signs are only able to hold up for 2-4 years before serious retouching is needed. And of course this degrading process certainly accelerates during harsh New England winters.

To put this all into perspective, in 2012: we sold over 300 painted wooden signs. In 2020: one. There is no denying the shift in outdoor sign materials, so we’re here to help guide you through this vital transition. Great Big Graphics has found modern sign materials as attractive alternatives to offer you. These signs are guaranteed to last longer, and customers are here for it.

Here are the best materials for outdoor business signs:

dCipherIT outdoor sign


Solid aluminum has been the most popular sign material in the USA for decades, but it is certainly not cheap. Both aluminum’s high expense and high demand has prompted multiple manufacturers to come up with high-quality lower-cost alternatives. Aluminum Composite Material, or ACM, is a PVC core sandwiched between two thin aluminum faces. This combination allows for the weather resistance and overall appeal of aluminum to remain, while reducing the weight and cost significantly. ACM can be purchased in any thickness ranging between 3mm and 10mm, with either solid or corrugated PVC cores - Dibond is a popular brand. To top it all off, ACM is available in a wide variety of colors, making it a versatile and appealing option for business owners.


Polyvinyl-Chloride, or PVC, is a synthetic plastic polymer material that makes for excellent signs. PVC is used all over the world in a variety of industries - Komatex is a popular brand. For signs, PVC comes in both expanded foam sheets and boards, and requires little if any upkeep. PVC signs range from 1/8″ to 1″ thick, and are available in a variety of dyed colors - perfect for your business. When painted, PVC looks virtually identical to painted wood, which makes PVC a fantastic wood-alternative for both hanging and post-mounted outdoor signs. Worry no longer about the New England winters damaging your wood-aesthetic business sign!

Vermont Liquor Store 802 Spirits sign on building


High Density Urethane, or HDU is a faux wood material designed specifically to replace wood in carved applications. HDU is on the softer side, and in terms of its carvability it is comparable to Basswood. HDU is unique as it does not have grain, so there’s no need to worry about your business’ sign splintering or chipping over time. The smooth material carves cleanly, sands like wood and takes opaque paints well. It’s like taking only the good aspects from wooden signs, and leaving out the downfalls - it’s *chef’s kiss* for outdoor signs. While standard sheets of HDU are available up to 3’’ thick, they can easily be glued onto thicker blocks for sculptural carving. Signfoam is a popular brand for quality HDU, and if you are interested in learning more, we’re happy to help.

King Plastics

King Plastics is the last but certainly not least of the quality man-made outdoor sign materials we recommend for your business. ColorCore by King Plastics is a versatile, engravable polyethylene sheet available in multiple colors. ColorCore can be easily carved, and is brilliant for outdoor business signs for businesses who want to catch the eyes of potential customers through fantastic color and engraving. The material is easy to work with, allowing your vision to fully come to life - which is one of the main reasons why we love it so much. If you think King Plastics ColorCore is right for your business, get in touch today!

The time is ripe to upgrade your business signs and flourish this season. At Great Big Graphics, we are ready to help your business reach its full potential by working with you to create the perfect outdoor signs that will not only thrive this summer, but last in excellent condition for years to come. So, what are you waiting for? We can’t wait to work together.