Understanding Different Types of Sign Substrates

There are a few important things to consider for signage you’re in the process of designing or ordering, one of these, in nearly all situations, is the substrate that’s being used. Referring to the underlying material that’s used to build the sign, the sign substrate is important to consider for several reasons, from sign durability to proper uses and more. 

At Spandex, we offer a huge range of sign and wrap materials and accessories, including substrate options like rigid sign substrates, flexible substrates and more. Here are some basics on the most common substrate materials and types, plus which might be best for your signage needs. 

Why Choosing Ideal Substrate Matters

Before we dig into the types of substrates offered, it’s important to understand why choosing an ideal substrate for your signage project is important. The right sign substrate choice can ensure durability, strength and longevity of a sign, as well as dependable performance in various environments or weather conditions. 

Additionally, proper substrate selection can help keep costs down, extend the life of your sign and ensure the correct materials are being used for custom installations and applications. 

Rigid Versus Flexible Substrates

We’ll get into specific materials for substrates in just a moment, but one category that’s important to understand is rigid versus flexible substrates. Rigid sign materials are typically comprised of solid material, such as plastics, metals or wood. These types of substrates often require specific mounting or installation hardware and can be easily mounted with screws and other hardware for a secure application. 

Flexible substrates, on the other hand, may include fabric banners, vinyl materials or thin plastic sheets. These substrates often require different mounting and installation techniques, such as grommets and eyelets for banners or pressure-sensitive adhesive for sticker materials. 

Each has its own set of benefits and possible drawbacks. Rigid substrates are often stronger and more durable, but may be more expensive than flexible choices. Flexible materials can provide a great look for indoor signage projects, though they may not last as long outdoors in harsh weather conditions. 

Our next few sections will go over the most common sign substrate materials. 


Within the rigid sign substrates, PVC is one of the most popular materials. It offers great performance in outdoor conditions and is very durable when faced with wind, rain or UV rays. Additionally, it’s a lightweight material that won’t add too much strain on your wallet. 

PVC signs work both indoors and outdoors, another great benefit. And best of all, it’s easy to work with and can be cut into any shape or size for a variety of creative signage projects. 


If you’re looking to go even more rigid than PVC, aluminum is a great option. It’s strong and lightweight, and it won’t break in extreme outdoor environments. Additionally, aluminum offers easy installation due to its strength. Plus, it can be powder-coated for added protection against rust and corrosion. 

If you do want to go with a material like aluminum, be sure to purchase a painted substrate. This will help ensure that your sign can withstand weather and other elements better than an unpainted aluminum sign. Shop aluminum blanks.

Corrugated Plastic

Another popular choice for rigid substrates is corrugated plastic. This material is lightweight yet durable, making it a great option for outdoor signage that needs to hold up against the elements. It’s also very cost-effective and can be printed on both sides for double-sided signs. 

Corrugated plastic is commonly used in yard signs as well as for electoral campaigns and other political signage. This material is also lightweight, making it easy to transport from one location to another. 

Foam Board 

Switching to flexible or semi-flexible signage substrates, foam board is a popular choice for short-term and indoor projects like trade shows and window displays. It provides great stiffness with a lightweight frame, allowing for easy transportation and installation. Plus, it’s very affordable thanks to its low cost of materials. 

≠Unfortunately, foam board is not ideal for long-term outdoor sign projects as it’s quite susceptible to moisture and other environmental elements. 

Fabric and Printable Banner

For large-scale indoor and outdoor projects, fabric and printable banner materials are a great option. They’re lightweight and very affordable, plus they can be easily hung with the proper hardware. Additionally, banner materials come in a variety of weights and finishes, and print well.

At Spandex, we provide a variety of sign substrates for your signage needs. From rigid materials like PVC and aluminum to flexible options, our team of experts can help you find the right substrate for your project. Contact us today to get started! 


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