Category Archives: How it is DONE

Here is where we show you some of our sign and plaque making techniques. If you pay attention, you might even figure out a couple of our little secrets.

Learn how Atlas Signs and Plaques adds the natural patina look making plaques appear to have been around for a while. See how to place and mount your plaque, and get the skinny on our innovative ideas and methods

How To Customize Your Sign

Metal American Flag

Always Made in USA

The Atlas Signs and Plaques website features over 300 complete, customizable sign options that are available to you at the push of a button.

Our website features many, many sign designs that are embedded in our database and ready to be customized. Each sign is like a burnable CD—the foundation (the CD disk, or sign) needs data (your custom text). Once those two requisites are met, smooth sailing ensues.

To help your shopping experience here are a handful of pointers and reminders.

Our Design Team Works Hard for You

I found the perfect sign on your webpage. How do I customize it?

This is very easily done. To make a sign yours simply find the sign you like and pull up the sign’s page. On this page you will find a box roughly halfway down that says: “Customize Text. UPPER & lower CaSe”. Enter your custom text here, paying SPECIAL attention to ensure all the text is exactly the way you want it. Once this is done, you can complete the order. Our designers will take care of the rest.


But what if I don’t find something I like on your website?

 A common question. If you want something else you can send us your custom idea. Simply email your ideas to us (janey@atlassignsandplaques (MAKE SURE to include: height, width, budget, text, icons, etc.)) or you can submit a custom request by following the orange text on the leftmost column of our homepage. This links you to a page asking for specific details. Fill that page out to the best of your ability and send it to us. Once we receive your request we will contact you via email and begin a correspondence.


What if my text will not fit the sign?

For 95% of our signs this is not a problem. For the rest, like memorial and phrase plaques, we ask that you use restraint when filling in your custom text. Say ONLY what needs to be said using your best spatial judgment. We will do our very best to format your sign and your text in as beautiful a manner as possible. If your text does not fit, we will contact you for edits.

Our Signs Can Handle a Lot of Text

How Do I Submit a Custom Graphic Design?

We accept images in: Adobe Illustrator (ai), EPS, or vectorized PDF. (Vectorized PDF means that the file was created in Illustrator and then saved as a PDF.) Some CAD/CAM formats (DWG or DXF) are usually ok. However, even these acceptable file formats are not without some conditions. All text must be converted to outlines. Artwork should be vectorized. Rasterized images (common to photo editing software) are not acceptable.  Caution should be used to assure that lines are joined (welded), and that there are not multiple overlaid lines. Embedded or linked files are equally unacceptable.

How Can I Support Atlas Signs and Plaques?

The best way to support us is to buy a sign. That’s not always feasible. Another real way to support us is to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Social media matters, and we are very grateful for every fan.

That about does it! If you have any questions please leave them in the comment space below.


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How Atlas Signs and Plaques Creates Your Personalized Plaque

How is This Made?

Here is how it is done

The process begins with the customer who selects from hundreds of Address Plaques, Privacy Plaques, Memorial Plaques, Welcome Signs, Name Plates, and Gift Ideas, etc.  To make it even easier, many customers individualize their plaque online prior to placing their order. It’s as easy as writing the desired text in a box.

Clients are able to choose from base metals including copper, bronze, pewter, brass, silver-nickel and iron. But wait, there’s more. Some of the base metals are available with additional finish choices that are a perfect fit when a more rustic effect is called for. Since artisans are engaged in every step, each sign and plaque has the added touch of being totally unique with slight variations in color and finish. Truly an artistic addition to your personal environment!

"Chuck" at Work

Once the design is complete it is transferred to the CNC router, nicknamed “Chuck”.  Chuck is the machine responsible for transforming HDU (a highly durable signboard that will never rot, or be eaten by insects) from plain board into the basis for the plaque itself. After Chuck has completed his chore, the signs are removed from the cutting table, hand-prepared for metal coating, and fitted with mounting hardware.


Janey Spraying Metal Coating

The signs are then hand-sprayed with a coating of real metal that forms a chemical bond with the signboard. Unlike paint, the chemical connection between the metal coating and the HDU substrate ensures that no matter how harsh the climate, the metal will not delaminate or corrode.

Patina Bath

Next it is bath time. The Plaques’ aging is carefully accelerated using a  natural aging process. Hand polishing brings color, contrast, luster and depth to the sign A clear coat finish is added as the final step which provides the sign with an extra level of protection against the elements as well as adding to overall luster.

All Packed Up and Ready to Go

Once the signs pass final inspection, they are carefully packed and whisked away by the UPS man. All in all this process, from idea to hand crafting to completion, takes about 2 weeks.

That’s it! From custom idea to custom sign. You choose how your sign looks and Atlas Signs and Plaques does the rest.

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Exactly the Same? Not Quite, but Here’s Why

“I want my sign exactly like the one in the picture.”


An Example of One of Our Signs

Just like this Sign.

This simple phrase can cause no end to frustration on both sides. Our pictures are a general representation of what our signs and ornaments look like, but every sign we make is unique. Even if the finish is the same, the signs will look different. Why? Well, there are quite a few reasons.

First, the weather will affect the signs. The ambient humidity varies here in Wisconsin from season to season and even from day to day. When it gets excessively humid, we try not to coat our signs because the process isn’t as fast. Conversely, when it gets extremely dry during the winter, we have to humidify the air.

Second, we hand make all of our signs. All of our artisans have slightly different styles and preferences. On top of that, patinas and colors are extremely hard to capture in a photograph. Metals shine with a brilliant luster, but capturing that shine is tricky. Too much light directly on the sign washes out the fine details and color. Too little light means that the sign looks much darker than it is. Too little background light can make the photograph take on a yellow tinge. Too much background light creates bloom off the sign.

Third, our lighting is different than your lighting. We try to take all of our pictures under the same lighting conditions, but that doesn’t necessarily give us the best possible picture. The pictures that we put online are selected from a large pool of photographs. In addition, what looks best on my computer screen may not look as good online. In fact, the picture that I’m looking at and the picture you’re looking at are different unless you’re using my computer. Each monitor has a slightly different display of colors and each computer will display those colors differently. Of course, because computers can’t show every color in the world, the photograph itself is necessarily different than the sign.

The lights around a picture affect how it looks. For example, go grab something plainly-colored and hold it up to different color backgrounds. You’ll find that it looks very different with different backgrounds. Compounding that, our lighting is potentially very dissimilar to your lighting. Maybe you have more natural light than we do.

For a quick example of how much an ornament or sign can change in look with small changes, check out these two pictures.

A Pistol Ornament PictureThe Same Pistol Ornament under a Different Light







This is the same ornament, with the same background in the same position. In fact, these two pictures were taken consecutively. But look at how different they look. In example 1, the background is much more red and the pistol ornament appears darker. In example 2, the sign is more evenly lit, but there isn’t as much variation across the ornament. That variation is the metallic luster, but some lighting won’t do it justice.

As much as we’d benefit being able to crank out idential signs time after time, we wouldn’t feel as proud of our work. Because all of our signs are unique, the challenges for each sign are different and that variation is fantastic. We think you’ll agree that a custom made sign should be unique to you.

All our signs and ornaments are made from American Materials and Labor, right here in Lake Mills, Wisconsin.

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How to Make a Sign Pt. 3

At this point in the sign’s production they all have received their metal coating and are cured to satisfaction, making them ready for the Luminore© finish. This finish is what gives the sign its metal appearance. Our most popular colors are bronze, brass, and silver-nickel; other favorites are iron, pewter, and Verde (like our whale-friends).

Whale Plaques

Wilfred and Willow, Love at First Sight

Just Takin' a Patina Bath

Now that the signs have their real-metal finish they need to be fine-tuned to secure maximum quality and luster. Because the “Aged” effect is highly desirable we give each sign a bath in patina-water, which ages the sign as well as furthers the coloring of the numbers and words.

After the patina is complete we hand polish each sign until the desired gleam is achieved. It is for this reason that no two Atlas Signs are created the same. Each and every one, whether it’s a mass-produced no solicitors sign or a rare whale sign, is unique.

Once hand polishing is finished we add the final ingredient to the sign—a clear coat. The clear coat further protects the sign from the elements (though it doesn’t really need it) as well as contributes to the sign’s already lustrous appearance.

Now the signs are all finished and ready to pack up and ship! Soon our signs will be out the door!


"Wilfred!" said Willow, "What have you done with your hair!"

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How to Make a Sign pt. II

Last week we showed you how we convert HDU board into signs. After Chuck completes his part, the plaques receive the mounting system specified by the customer. The signs are then sent to our spray department where Janey gives them their real metal coating using a high volume low-pressure spray gun.

Janey spraying HDU

Janey Giving HDU the Real Metal Coat

The metal coating is not paint, it is a patented cold sprayable metallizing process comprised of up to 75% real metal. The real metal heats slightly as it forms a chemical bond with the surface, which means that the metal essentially becomes part of the HDU. Unlike paint, which forms a mechanical bond with its substrate, the metal coat will not fade, peel, or flake a few years down the road.

This is the last step in our creation process that the signs will be collectively monochromatic as a batch. This means that soon they will receive their patina finish, and each sign will look unique and lustrous.

A batch of signs curing

Wilfred and Willow Basking

But for now the metal on the signs needs time to cure, or adapt to its new home on the HDU board.

Once the metal is cured to satisfaction, the signs receive their patinas. This is where the real fun begins.

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