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Metal Sign FAQs:
Your Ultimate Guide to Frequently Asked Questions

Custom metal signs for a business are a great way to display your brand in a beautiful modern sustainable way.  Create a welcoming atmosphere for your employees and a memorable eye catching brand symbol for your customers.  Your metal sign makes a great backdrop in your company media displays and captures your unique brand in your social media posts. 


Custom metal signs are also a versatile and stylish way to add a personal touch to your home and cabin. Make your home stand out from the neighbors or create the family forever heirloom special to your clan. 


SirMetalman is an expert in designing, fabricating, powder coating and installing custom metal signs.  We’ve created this GOTO Metal Sign FAQs page for all your metal sign questions.

Contact us if you have a metal sign question not listed here – we’d be happy send you the answer and add it to our list.

The most common materials used are

  • Steel 
  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steel
  • Weathering steel (Corten steel)

They each reasons why you would prefer one over the other.

Steel, aluminum and stainless steel look similar but have a few big differences which, depending on your desired project will dictate the better choice.  Steel usually costs a bit less than aluminum and a lot less than stainless steel.


A big difference to consider is weight – aluminum per square area is 1/3 less the weight of steel.  So if you want a very large sign or very thick material, aluminum might help keep the weight down for load bearing at installation or if you need to ship the sign.

Another big factor is rust. Aluminum does not rust like steel.  If your sign will be in the outside elements and you do not want rust, aluminum might be a good choice.  Steel with powder coat prevents rust also though. 

Sometimes you may want a rust look to give an artistic flavor to your project.  You may want weathering steel or the old brand name Corten Steel.  This is not just steel that rusts but a different “recipe” of steel that creates a protective layer of rust.  A great choice for outdoor art and wall panels.

Stainless steel is another material used in signs.  It’s a beautiful material, similar to regular or carbon steel but the disadvantage is it can cost 3-5x more than regular (carbon) steel.

So it all depends on what your  situation is to find the optimum material for your job.  Talk with our designers at SirMetalman about your sign vision and we can help with recommendations.

That is what is so great about a custom sign – it can be ANY size.

But, that said, we can give guidance. 

If the sign is going inside, before you get the sign designed, think about where your sign is going.  Will the sign / metal art be a focal point of the wall and room? If so, how big can you go to really make a statement (See the picture below of the large family metal magnetic map that is 8’ x 3’ and the anniversary sign above the couch that is 2′).  If the sign is going in a room above the couch or in an entry way 2-4’ is a great size for visibility without overpowering the room.

If you are looking for an outside sign or an inside sign that will be read at a distance, make sure your text is big enough. (See Table below)

Once text size is established, for best viewing legibility (while traveling) the ratio of blank space to text area should be at least 60% negative space to 40% text space.

Data from United States Sign Council Foundation


Sign letter visibility per distance

good sign size letter chart
custom metal map unique family memoriesfamily sign above couch
Large Metal Map 8′ LongFamily Sign-part of picture wall 18-24″

Metal cut signs have so much design flexibility.

It helps if we are talking the same language though. 

You can decide what you want cut out and what if cut out leaves the negative space of the desired shape. 

  • See the below image of the mountain shape of metal.  Next to that see the negative space left by the cut out – also leaving a mountain shape. 
  • You can see the concept of design made from metal versus design cut from metal on real signs on the below 2 custom metal signs.  The TRUEN GROUP Logo symbol and text are the actual metal.  These were mounted to stand off the entrance wall – giving a modern earthy welcoming sign for their customers.The “MAN CAVE” sign is an example showing letters cut out of the metal – leaving the shape of the letters as readable negative space.
  • Next, check out the metal cut out letters
  • Then see what’s cut and the space left with the “TRAIL” letters
  • Next, see an actual sign with cut out letters and logo

It takes experienced designers to create the best layout to be not only readable but visually creative – luckily, we have them at SirMetalman!


metal sign faqs by sirmetalman showing what gets cut for metal sign negative positive metal space

See image on left is the metal cut in a mountain shape.

The image on the right is where the mountain has been cut and leaving the negative space shape of the mountain.  This also shows the shape of the mountain with a back metal piece of brushed steel.

Letters are the metal in the custom metal sign

Letters are the metal as well as the logo symbol

letters cut out of metal for metal sign

Letters are the negative space left by the cut

random metal cut letters by plasma cutter

Metal cut letters

Metal cut letters

Letters that have been cut out of steel with a plasma cutter.  Here, we see the letters in steel

Versatility of metal cutting design

The letters “TRAIL” have been cut. Image shows the remaining steel negative space in the shape of letters and the steel cut letters below.

In signs, depending on the look you want, either can be utilized.

The brain is amazing, your brain will fill in empty spaces with recognizable shapes from your learned memory so you can identify what is being shown – even with some data missing.

metal sign faqs by sirmetalman showing metal letters separate cut out

Letters cut from the metal

St Croix Trailblazers barn sign stillwater mn, showing cut out letters

St Croix Trailblazers barn sign Stillwater, MN. Shows cut out letters

Letters cut out of metal sign

This sign specifically, was for St Croix Trailblazers – an amazing non-profit horse therapy organization in Stillwater, MN.  Their large barn sign has the letters cut out and artistically the horse shape has also been cut (or lines giving the impression of a horse).  The piece was then sanded smooth and powder coated black for a beautiful, long lasting metal sign.

Cutting signs or art in metal takes some clever thinking.

letter on a tshirt

Letter printed on a T-shirt

Printed letters not the same as Cut letters

We tend to first think of printed format when we think of creating shapes.

But screen print on a T-Shirt is way different than cutting a shape out of metal!
Here’s our example T-shirt with a “A” letter printed in blue.

letter A with cut line around

The red lines outlines the cut line around the letter “A”

metal letter bridging tshirt cut fall out

The red area shows after “Cut” all the section that will fall through.

metal sign faqs by sirmetalman showing letter bridging metal design

Bridging necessary when cutting out of metal

When printing on something, the design is just transferred on-no alteration necessary.

1st column shows cutting from metal if we DO NOT BRIDGE. The shape or letter will simply fall out along the outer edge -and it’s hard to read.

2nd column shows our design magic. By adding design metal bridging, we create bridges between the necessary shapes that get cut and what stays. The brain fills in the gaps, and often, you may not even notice the bridging. The metal shape stays and is legible.

Gauge or gage is a confusing term….kind of like fiction (not real) and non-fiction (not not real)….hmmm it’s something that seems opposite from it’s definition.

Let SirMetalman explain in easy language.

Gauge in our sign situation refers to the thickness of sheet metal.

We often think of it as a measurement like length- the bigger the number, the longer the distance.  But this is misleading.

Instead think of it as a density!

See examples of the circles in a box.

Only 8 of the larger circles fit in the box where as 18 of the smaller circles fit in the box.

metal gauge 8 examplemetal gauge 8 example

Example of 8 circles in a box

Pretend gauge is like the number of circles in the box. We have 8 circles so the gauge is 8.

Example of 18 circles in a box

Pretend gauge is like the number of circles in the box. We have 18 circles so the gauge is 18.Observe how the 8 gauge metal is thicker than the 18 gauge metal.

Observe how the 8 gauge metal is thicker than the 18 gauge metal.

8 gauge sheet metal is thicker than 18 gauge18 gauge sheet metal is thinner than 8 gauge

Example of 8 gauge metal

See how the smaller number gauge “8” is thicker than the higher gauge number

Example of 18 gauge metal

See how the higher number gauge “18” is thinner than the lower gauge number

metal sign faqs by sirmetalman showing metal sign gauge conversion chart Metal sign gauge conversion chart

Metal Sign Most Common Sizes Gauge Conversion Chart

These are the thickness sizes for common logo business and home metal signs.

What gauge used depends on many factors:

  • Placement of sign
  • Total Size of sign
  • Number of panels used on custom sign
  • Installation area

    SirMetalman is an expert in custom metal signs and will find the best gauge for your custom made sign.

The weight of a metal sign depends on various factors, including its size, thickness, and the type of metal used.


The chart below shows 3 common sign sizes with 2 different thicknesses and contrasting steel and aluminum weights for each.


You can use this chart for sign weight as an approximation.  A sign most likely will have some sections cut out which would decrease the weight.  the sign may also use multiple metal panels which also need to be taken into account for sign weight.


As sign designers, SirMetalman can advise on a material usage depending on your sign environment and area size and desired thickness all for visual appeal and manufacturability of the sign.  Material and sign size also effect sign material price as aluminum typically costs more than steel and the thicker the piece the more expensive.

metal sign faqs by sirmetalman showing chart showing metal sign weight of steel and aluminum in different sizes

Common Metal Sign Weights by size

Chart showing metal sign weight
Comparing steel and aluminum
Contrasting different thickness and area


We’ve covered metal sign FAQs but what about the other work done to create the actual sign – the design.


Whether you want a custom sign to showcase your business brand or a forever sign for friends and family, a custom metal sign can be made just for you!


We want to make this truly your special piece. How do we start custom metal designs?

If you have a specific brand image or logo, you can send us the file.


Sometimes people show us a photograph that we artistically select and highlight the main features. At times people have seen something at a friend’s home or on the web that spoke to them.  We recreate the idea of the piece. We’ve had people draw on paper and take a photo with their phone.


Once we have an idea of what you want, our designers create an image and we communicate with the you on specifics like size, spacing, colors, standoffs, lighting… that’s right, many variables so you get a truly custom piece.

Do you have a question we have not answered yet?
Contact us and we'll email you the answer
PLUS add it to our metal sign FAQs.

Ready to have your
brand stand out?