Perforated window vinyl, or “see-through” vinyl is used to make signs that are solid, bright, and opaque when viewed from the outside, but are transparent from the inside. When I hear about something like this, I have to know how it works to believe it. So–how does it work?
Perforated vinyl is exactly what the name says, a sheet of vinyl material with a pattern of tiny holes cut through it. There are so many of these holes that a significant amount of the material is removed. The amount of vinyl removed usually ranges from 30 to 50%. For example, 60/40 vinyl, is 60% vinyl and 40% holes.
Light-colored perforated vinyl signs are opaque when seen from outside a window because our eyes naturally focus on a bright, well-lit surface rather than on the holes and the relative darkness of whatever is behind the surface. The inner side of perforated vinyl, however, is dark colored. Here the eye naturally focuses through the dark vinyl to the light and motion outside the window. Because of this, people inside a store, home or automobile see through the back of the sign to the world outside.
Designing for Perforated Signs
A good understanding of how perforated vinyl works will help you design better one-way vinyl signs. Because the printed surface of the perforated vinyl must be brighter than the space behind the sign, it is best to avoid large areas of black, blue, purple or dark brown in the design. Lettering and small areas of a design can be dark, but use light or bright colors–whites, pastels, red, yellow, orange, light blues and greens– for the large areas of your design.
As you design, remember also that a large fraction of the sign surface is missing. Avoid intricate detail and small fonts. Design instead with broad brush-strokes and fonts of 30-point or larger.
Like filmy curtains, perforated vinyl signs are opaque when seen from the outside during daylight, but transparent from the inside. Like filmy curtains, however, these sign becomes transparent at night when viewed from the outside into a lighted space. When you plan to use the perforated vinyl inside, pay attention to the lighting on both sides of the sign.
One-way vinyl signs offer a lot of intriguing advantages. Next time you’re thinking about a sign for your car, store or home, make it big, make it bright, and perforate it.