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What makes reflective signs reflective?


Have you ever wondered what makes reflective signs reflective? How do reflective signs work?


Temporary reflective signs are created by printing ink on to the surface of class 1 or class 2 vinyl, the vinyl is then applied to the sign material (e.g., Correx or dibond). It is the area of the vinyl that is not printed that reflects the light.

Don’t get confused with Class 1 and Class 2 reflective…they’re very different and have different uses.

You may also come across descriptions of RA1 and RA2, these are the same as Class 1 & 2, so no problem there.

RA1 is a lower cheaper grade reflective material. Class 1 is commonly used for reflective signs and stickers for promotional or informative end uses, where it is used to illuminate a message in darkness. In some cases, it is used in the production of temporary road signs too.

Class 2 has a higher specification of ‘reflectivity’, it is easy to recognise as it has a honeycomb appearance. It is commonly used for temporary signage for roads, as well as safety and warning markings on emergency service vehicles.


How are reflective signs printed?

Reflective signs are printed by printing either transparent colour, or opaque black ink, printed onto a reflective material.

Most reflective signs are printed onto a white background, although yellow is commonly used for road signs.

If transparent colours of ink are printed onto a white reflective base, the light passes through the coloured ink, and bounces back off the underlying reflective surface, which lights up the colour, so you see illuminated coloured print.

If black artwork or text is printed onto either reflective white, or coloured reflective, no light passes through the opaque ink and so the print doesn’t illuminate, whereas all the surrounding background does.


What makes the signs reflect?

Class 2 reflective vinyl, used to create part of the sign image, is traditionally manufactured using glass beads, which reflect the light shone at them back out. The same standard can now be achieved using by moulding prisms, that reflect light, into the vinyl surface.


If you would like any prices, samples or further information about reflective signs and stickers, please speak to our team</> on 01347 823 230.