Differences Between Standard, Brushed and Reflective Aluminum Signs

Differences Between Standard, Brushed and Reflective Aluminum Signs

The sign world is vast. Multiple materials can be used to create versatile and durable signs that look stunning wherever you place it.

Differences Between Standard, Brushed and Reflective Aluminum Signs

The sign world is vast. Multiple materials can be used to create versatile and durable signs that look stunning wherever you place it. Aluminum is one of the favorite metals used to make signs. You might like aluminum if you want a professional looking sign that is highly durable and customizable. But which kind of aluminum do you want?

That’s right! There is more than one kind of aluminum we can use to fashion up a sign for you. The existing types of aluminum include standard, brushed, and reflective. Knowing the differences between these kinds of aluminum can help you choose the best material for your needs.

Today, we’re going to introduce to you standard, brushed, and reflective aluminum, along with some pros and cons of each. Ready?

About Standard Aluminum

Is saving money your main priority when selecting signage? Then you should immediately turn to standard aluminum. A regular aluminum sign is known for simplicity in design and durability in construction. Standard aluminum signs sometimes have a semi-glossy finish (like road signs), but matte is often used in printing.

Matte is achieved by coating both sides of the sign with white paint. Then, images are printed directly onto the surface of the metal. This gives you flexibility to figure out which color and design works best for your needs. That said, the best applications for standard aluminum would be directional signage, retail, businesses, and real estate.


  • Can be printed on both sides
  • Versatile
  • Weather-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Affordable


  • Basic

Standard aluminum signs are constructed with a dibond of light plastic (polyethylene) core that is between 0.008 inch sheets of pure aluminum. Because of this, the sign is usually 2mm thick.

About Brushed Aluminum

Looking for a more attractive option compared to standard aluminum? Then consider brushed aluminum the ideal upgrade. Brushed aluminum is much more elegant than a standard aluminum sign. To create the brushed look, there is no pre-painting required. Instead, the aluminum sheet is brushed with white prior to applying the design. The best places to use this kind of signage would be in hotel lobbies, reception areas, and for directories.


  • Appears more expensive than it really
  • Ideal for business applications
  • Decorative
  • Weather-resistant


  • 1-side printing only
  • Can only be used indoors
  • Prone to scratches

Similar to standard aluminum construction, a brushed aluminum sign usually contains a dibond between a plastic core and two aluminum sheets. However, the brushed coating adds another 1mm of thickness to the sign. When properly cared for, a brushed aluminum sign will last 5 years or longer.

About Reflective Aluminum

You won’t see a lot of reflective signs used indoors, because the surface of these signs is meant to add visibility in the dark. Although the construction of reflective aluminum is similar to standard and brushed variants, this kind of sign will have a reflective vinyl overlay that sticks to the top layer of aluminum. Due to this unique construction, reflective aluminum signage is usually placed around parking lots and garages, used as safety signs or directional signage. These are the best choice for outdoor signage, especially if you have customers who arrive when the sun goes down.


  • Great for attracting attention/notice
  • Reflects light
  • Ideal for outdoor use
  • Available in 3 finishes: Matte, Smooth, and Reflective


  • 1-side printing only
  • Has limited applications due to surface type

Standard vs. Brushed

Having trouble deciding if you need regular aluminum or a brushed sign? Consider the following:

  • Do you need a single side printed or both sides? Remember, brushed aluminum only allows for a single side to be printed. It’s great for wall-mounted designs, but if you need to direct traffic or promote something from two different directions, a brushed aluminum sign is going to be less effective than a standard aluminum sign.
  • Do you need more durability? Standard aluminum doesn’t scratch as easily as brushed aluminum.
  • Fade-resistance? In that case, either standard or brushed aluminum would work for you.

Standard vs. Reflective

Let’s say you need signage for outside of your business. The main difference between standard and reflective would be the vinyl coating. Standard aluminum doesn’t have a reflective surface. Consider where the sign is going to be located then ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of the sign? If you want to place the sign in a parking lot, a reflective aluminum sign will be better than standard aluminum. Construction sites will also benefit from reflective aluminum.
  • Which sign is more durable? Both last about 5 years or longer if you keep up with maintenance.
  • One side or two? Similar to standard and brushed, only standard can have two sides printed. Reflective signs can only have a single side printed, but you can also have that printed side laminated to help protect the graphics.

Brushed vs. Reflective

You rarely have to decide between reflective aluminum and brushed aluminum signs. The applications are entirely different. Brushed aluminum signs are excellent for wall-mounted signage with professional designs. You won’t see them outside.

Brushed aluminum signage adds character to interior design. The attractive coating looks sleek. Many companies prefer the brushed aluminum look to both standard and reflective signage when it comes to placing signage indoors.

However, if there are dark places in a building where higher visibility would be beneficial, like basements and unlit exits, garages, and so on, you might want to forego the brushed look and use reflective aluminum instead.


When it comes to choosing between brushed, reflective, and standard aluminum, rely on the application of the sign. Regular aluminum can be used in multiple places and is highly versatile. Meanwhile, brushed and reflective options are vastly different from one another. One works better inside a business while the other is found almost always outside.

Still having trouble choosing between the three kinds of aluminum? Let us know! Fill out the contact form and get more information about signage delivered right to your inbox.