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Glossary of Terms



Paint: The general term for pigmented coatings that are applied to an object or surface while in a liquid state and then allowed to dry into a coloured, protective finish.
Painted wall sign:  A sign that is painted directly onto an exterior wall of a building.
Pan channel letter: A dimensional letter that is constructed with integrated face, back and sidewalls so as to make the letter appear as a single solid unit.
Pan face: A plastic sign face that has had three dimensional lettering or graphical elements molded into its surface. (Also called embossed plastic face sign.)
Panel: Any visible surface of a sign on which copy can be applied. Large signs can be made of one or more panels.
Parapet: A low wall built along the edge of a building's roof.
Parapet sign: A sign mounted on the parapet of a building.
Patina: A colour or texture finish applied or achieved by age to a metal surface.  A thin layer of colour, corrosion or texture that develops on a metal surface as a result of natural (exposure to the elements over time) or artificial (chemical treatment) oxidization. The colour of patina on bronze is typically brown and the patina on copper is typically green.
Pattern: A full-scale design layout of a sign or its components such as the neon tubing or lettering used to position the components on the substrate. (See also pounce pattern)
Pavement graphics: Graphics and markings applied to roadways and parking areas to guide and manage traffic and to supplement other traffic signs.
Pegged out: A term describing letters mounted using pegs or pins such that they stand off from the substrate to which they are attached. (Also called pinned out.)
Pennant: A triangular flag. (See also banner and flag.)
Perforated Vinyl:  Vinyl film with a grid of small holes used on vehicle glass surfaces to permit an image to be seen from the outside yet allow the vehicle occupants to see through the image.  Perforated vinyl is typically supplied with a 50:50 or 70:30 ratio of solid material to holes.   (See also wrap.)
Permanent sign: Any sign that is installed or affixed to a building or structure so as to give it the support necessary to resist environmental loads over time and to preclude easy removal.
Permit: A license granted by the municipal government that gives official permission to erect a sign. 
Phosphor: A chemical substance that becomes excited and emits visible light when struck by electrons from another source such as an ultraviolet light. Phosphors continue to emit light for a time even after the energizing source is removed. Phosphorous coatings are used on the inside of fluorescent lamps.
Phosphorescent sign: A sign that uses inks, paints or dyes containing phosphors.
Photopolymer: A type of plastic having a photosensitive coating which can be masked and photo-etched to create tactile graphics. It is commonly used for signage that requires Braille lettering.
Pictogram: A pictorial representation or graphic symbols that are commonly found in environmental graphics (restrooms and directionals) and regulatory (traffic) signs. Pictograms are useful to bridge language barriers, such as in airports.
Pinch roller: A wheeled holder, usually tensioned by springs, that clamps vinyl or other materials between it and a grit wheel for transporting the material through a friction-feed plotter or large format digital printer.   The position of pinch rollers can be adjusted to accommodate materials of different widths.
Pinned out: A term describing letters mounted using pins or pegs such that they stand off from the substrate to which they are attached. (Also called pegged out.)
Plaque: An inscribed, commemorative plate or tablet, usually of metal, placed on a building, monument or similar location.
Plasma screen: A type of flat-screen digital image display which is uniformly flat, less than five inches deep and uses gas plasma technology.
Plastic: A generic term for a wide range of synthetic materials which consist of long chains of polymers that soften and are moldable when heated. Many plastics used in the sign industry are of the thermoplastic variety, which means they can melt and solidify repeatedly.
Plastic faced letters: Channel letters in which the front of the channel is covered by a translucent plastic face, diffusing the lighting within.
Plexiglas: The trade name for a brand of acrylic sheeting, which is often mistakenly used as a generic term.
Plotter: A computer-controlled output device that is used to either print or cut letters and graphics from vinyl material. (See also large format printer)
Plywood: A common type of wood product sold in 4' x 8' sheets. Plywood is made of a number of thin sheets of wood laminated together with the grain of the adjacent layers perpendicular.
PMS (Pantone Matching System®): The most commonly used standardized colour scheme used in the printing and sign industries to allow the exact duplication of colours and to ensure consistency of colour from design to final print.  This system is owned by Pantone Inc.
Pole sign: A freestanding sign, usually double-faced, mounted on a round pole, square tube, or other fabricated member without any type of secondary support.
Polycarbonate: A specific thermosetting resin characterized by its durability, flexibility and endurance under UV exposure. Lexan® is a well-known commercial brand of the material.
Polyester: A synthetic fiber used for its strength and resistance to ultraviolet deterioration. It does not have the stretch and elasticity of nylon and, as a result, will often last longer.
POP (point of purchase) sign: In-store advertising designed to stimulate impulse purchases by shoppers inside a store. The term applies to a store's internal sign system, as well as special displays and dispensers created by and for specific product manufacturers.
Porcelain sign: A traditional process to coat metal with a ceramic slip which is fired at extremely high heat to create a durable, glasslike surface that is impervious to the environment.
Portable sign: A freestanding, on-premise sign, not designed to be permanently affixed in place. These could include free-standing signs or notices as well as point-of-purchase signs.
Portrait format: Proportion of a sign in which height is appreciably longer than width. (See also landscape format.)
Positive space: The copy and art on a sign face. It is the he opposite of negative space.
Post and panel sign: A sign panel with one or more posts.
Poster: A sign typically printed on paper and intended for indoor use.
Pounce pattern: A full-scale design layout of a sign or its components such as the neon tubing or lettering used to position the component on the substrate. (See also pattern.)
Poured in place: Refers to concrete footings for signs. Wet concrete is delivered or mixed on site and poured into a form, creating desired shape. Normal curing and finishing techniques are applied as necessary.
Powder coating: A specific process for applying paint to a surface that creates a very durable protective surface.
PPI (pixels per inch): The number of pixels in a raster image that will occur in one line in the span of one inch. The higher the PPI, the greater the resolution and the less distinguishable each pixel becomes.
Precinct sign: A sign marking the entrance to a town, neighborhood, development, park or other public area. (Also called gateway sign.)
Primary colours: The three colours from which all other colours can be created. In paint pigments, the primary colours are yellow, red and blue. In four-colour process printing, all colours are mixed from yellow, magenta, cyan and black. In light, the primary colours are red, green and blue. (See also RGB display, additive colours.)
Primary wiring: Electrical wiring that directly connects a transformer to the electrical source.
Process colour: A printing process that uses the four essential ink colours of cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) to create a full range of colours on a printed surface. (Also called four-colour process.)
Projecting sign: A sign that is attached to a building but extends beyond the building structure usually at a right angle to the building itself and is almost always double faced. (Also called blade sign.)
Prototype: Usually a full-sized sample that uses final materials, methods of construction, fasteners and finishes to test assembly, design, construction and appearance issues. Also used approve the "first sample" in a long production run.
PS (Postscript):  Graphics software that is also used for proportional scaling of images. It is what makes most scalable type and artwork possible for Windows- and Macintosh-based graphics software.
Public path: A heavily used route, including corridors and public elevators that connect public destinations.
Push-through: A letter or graphic which is cut out then pushed through a corresponding space that has been removed from a sign substrate. The push-through is typically different colour and/or material than the rest of the sign. Typically used with an opaque sign cabinet and internal lighting. "Push-through letters" are most often translucent acrylic letters that are pushed through a sign face panel to be flush or over-flush with the front surface of the sign face.
Pylon sign: A freestanding sign that is not a pole or ground sign.