3D Trade Show Signs

At trade shows, you only have a few seconds to grab the attention of attendees. You need to get noticed and stand out from the crowd. 3D signs ensure that exhibitors make a big impact thanks to shapes, shadows, and lighting.
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Custom 3D Trade Show Signage

When attendees first walk into a trade show hall, as they take in the big picture, the first elements that grab attention are the 3D signs. Attendees use these impressive signposts to locate specific displays and as landmarks to navigate the show floor. That’s because attendees can easily and immediately spot them, and they make a big impression.

Another reason for their striking impact is that 3D signs allow brands to get highly creative with their signage. Brands really let their personalities shine, and potential consumers immediately understand a company from a distance.

While there are limitless design possibilities, there are two general styles for 3D signs. The first is what most people picture when they think of 3D signage: a flat background with raised letters, logos, and images. The second style is known as profile cutting. There is no backdrop for this style. Instead, letters and shapes are cut from metal or formed from another material. However, a profile cut sign can also use negative space, with letters and shapes cut out of a material, to create a 3D effect.  

TRADE SHOW ROI GUIDE Exclusive insights and equations for measuring your Trade Show ROI

Backlighting 3D signage

A remarkable aspect of 3D branded signage is the various effects from light and shadow. It is possible to control and enhance this effect by backlighting the sign.

Almost all 3D signs can be lit from behind, which creates a halo effect on the surface behind the sign. To backlight 3D signs, designers insert small, high-quality, low-voltage LED modules into the backs of letters, logos, etc. The light makes the signage pop, gives it even more depth and emphasizes the 3D nature of the sign.

Backlit signs have several benefits. Backlighting:

  • Increases visibility from a distance.
  • Creates a striking appearance in any environment.
  • Improves readability.
  • Makes the sign pop in a dark area.

3D signs add an elegant, striking look to a trade show display. Here are some options for including a 3D sign in your exhibit.

Material options for 3D signs

Materials used in 3D signs are incredibly durable. They won’t chip, crack, fade, or break, and you can count on their strength and sturdiness.

Profile cutmetal signs

Metal 3D signs give your display a classic, professional look.

There are many metal options, including:

  • Aluminum –Aluminum is sturdy and relatively inexpensive, making it a popular material for signs. Also, paint easily adheres to aluminum, so matching your brand’s colors and adding fun shading effects is relatively effortless.
  • Brass / Bronze – These metals are associated with tradition and quality. They deliver an air of sophistication and experience to your display.
  • Copper – Signs made from this material have a distinctive metallic sheen, but maintaining it requires regular polishing. Another option is allowing the metal to oxidize and develop a green hue (like the Statue of Liberty’s color).
  • Stainless Steel – Because stainless steel is corrosion resistant and provides a high-tech feel, tech industry companies often use this material for their headquarters’ signs.

Metal signs are finished in many ways, including brushed, painted, polished, or even allowed to rust (or oxidize if the sign is copper). The style depends on the feeling you are trying to convey. For example, a rusted or oxidized sign projects a laidback vibe, while a brushed or polished sign feels professional, and a bright paint job is entertaining and friendly.

Metal signs are naturally durable and long-lasting, but they are also one of the more expensive options. So, if you intend to use your sign for several years, metal is a good option.

TRADE SHOW ROI GUIDE Exclusive insights and equations for measuring your Trade Show ROI

Metal laminate

Metal laminate is a lower-cost alternative that’s virtually indistinguishable from profile cut metal signs. They are primarily composed of plastic polymer polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A thin layer of metal (usually around .025-inch thick) is attached to the shaped PVC. Typically, the PVC is painted to match the metal; however, it could be any color (for example, shading the metal in one brand color and the PVC in another).

While still providing the grandeur of an all-metal sign, metal laminate signs are not as durable. So, these signs are often single-use or used for a few trade shows.

High density urethane (HDU) foam

HDU signs are a common choice for in-booth graphics because the material is cost-effective and ideal for custom shapes. These 3D signs often look like they’re carved and can be textured to resemble wood. However, it is more durable and lighter than wood. HDU is also environmentally friendly.

HDU signs are usually painted, but they are also used for metal laminate or finished with a coat of hard plastic acrylic.


Acrylic is a highly versatile material for 3D signs. Their texture can be smooth, polished, bevel-edged, sandblasted, or engraved. Acrylic signs can be dyed any color (or colors) or allowed to remain transparent.


Acrylic is not the only plastic used to create 3D signs. A process known as injection molding, where liquefied plastic is inserted into molds, uses many different plastic compounds to form letters, logos, and 3D shapes. Like acrylics, these plastics can be dyed any color and completed with different finishes.


Wood delivers a pastoral feeling to your display. Creating dimensional signage is possible with almost any type of wood. Wood signs are typically painted or stained. However, sandblasting is another option to highlight the wood’s natural grain and retain its natural rustic beauty.

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At The Trade Group, we are signage experts. We understand what it takes to create an eye-catching trade show design, and we perform all manufacturing in-house. So, there is no need to worry about third-party vendors or shipping delays.

For more information about our custom-built 3D signs or any custom trade show display, give The Trade Group a call at 972-734-8585 or contact us here.

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