The Pros and Cons of using Sign Frames


What are the Pros and Cons of using Sign Frames v. Self-Adhesive Graphics?

You may be just starting out or a seasoned graphics, a sign or a marketing pro, so if you have any questions, please post them in the comments below.

First, the basics.

Outside bus and transit advertising is generally divided into one of two types:
Self-adhesive graphics printed on vinyl or printed signs on rigid panels in a sign frame.

Whoa- aren’t sign panels and frames from the 1960s?

If Ad Frames are so “60s” why would anyone want to use sign frames?

Yes, metal sign frames have been a low-tech solution used on city buses and trolleys since the 1960s- that’s over a half century ago. 

Full-wrap graphics plus a changeable frame in combination

Here are the pros and cons of these two ad systems.

Self-adhesive graphics:

Usually printed cast or calendared vinyl with a removable adhesive backing, sometimes with a lamination added.

Pro: May be applied to almost any smooth and clean non-porous surface

Surfaces must be non-porous and smooth because the adhesive needs to fully contact the surface in order to cling without failing.

Pro: May be used to “wrap” a bus entirely, sides, top and back.

Pro: May be purchased perforated to go over windows.

Con: Must be installed and removed by a trained graphics or sign person 

Con: Surface must be cleaned and detailed prior to installing graphic.

Con: Installation must be carefully measured and applied by a trained graphic/sign person.

Con: Vinyl is easily damaged, stretched and scratched. Larger panels are hard to align.

Printed Panels and frames:

Frames generally are push-up, drop down (PUDD) or snap-open styles (the snap-open style have quickly overtaken the old fashioned PUDD style, as the snap-open frames are considered more secure at highway speeds).

Pro: Sign panels can be changed out and replaced within an average of ten minutes per frame, by a person with a basic skill set.

Pro: Sign frames can now be made in almost any size.

Pro: Sign inserts may be printed both sides so a simple “flip” of the sign reuses the panel, which means less waste and ultimately less landfill.

Con: Available advertising insert size dictates the size of the sign frames useable.

Con: Some care must be taken to maintain or repair frame if it becomes damaged.

So to say this another way, it’s cheaper labor-wise to use frames?

That’s true. It’s much cheaper to use frames and printed panel because a trainee can be shown how to quickly replace a sign insert, while the self-adhesive vinyls must be professionally installed and replaced.

An average installation of vinyl graphics, including removing the existing graphic, proper preparation of the surface (cleaning, prepping) and alignment and application of a new graphic averages 2 or more hours per graphic at Sign Company or Graphics person time at an average hourly rate of $45 per hour. That’s $90 or more to change out the average graphic up to 120″ x 36″.

The average installation and replacement time for a snap-open or old-style PUDD frame is 10 minutes per sign or less, for an average $2-$3 per sign by a current staff person, mechanic, driver or administration person.

Different frame “profiles” available at this manufacturer

See also: Single-use self-adhesive vinyl stickers


What’s your point of view?

2 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of using Sign Frames

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