Need help picking colours?

Modified on Tue, 19 Mar 2024 at 03:49 PM

Need help picking colours?

Polycarbonate and acrylic sheets from are some of the most versatile and cost effective materials on the market today. Period. How can we make such a statement? Well, let’s take a quick look at some of the ways acrylic and polycarbonate sheets can be utilized:

  • To create display cases.
  • To frame photos and artwork.
  • As motorcycle windshields.
  • As storm windows.
  • As sound barriers in the office.
  • As medical face masks.
  • As bus shelters.
  • As table tops.
  • Photographers use them for light boxes.
  • They’re great for shelving.
  • They’re used for restaurant menus.
  • They make ideal sneeze guards for food.
  • Most food containers are acrylic.
  • They make excellent splashbacks.
  • Use them on the deck to block the wind.
  • Museums use them to display art.
  • Use them as windows instead of glass.
  • Polycarbonate is used in bullet-proofing.
  • As instrument covers in cars.
  • For kitchen cabinet faces.
  • Doors are made of acrylic.
  • It’s on the inside and outside of your refrigerator.
  • It’s perfect for commercial signage.

And that’s only a partial list. The one item we’d like to draw your attention to though is the last one. Acrylic and polycarbonate plastic sheets are perfect for creating commercial signage regardless of how small or large or how complex.

Picking the Right Colour Acrylic or Polycarbonate Sheet

When creating a sign using acrylic or polycarbonate however there’s one issue that dominates above all others: colour. If you have an established colour scheme that’s identified with your company or product then you’re all set. If you don’t however, or if you’re trying to set a certain mood, make a particular statement or really grab attention, you’ll either have to start from scratch or de-emphasize the company colours in favour of a different colour scheme. But how do you know which colour acrylic or polycarbonate sheet to choose?

Before you can select the right colour for your sign (or any other commercial purpose for that matter) you need to understand something about colour. Colour, after all, is a science and unless you understand a bit about the science of colour your sign won’t make any sense. So let’s take a look at how colours interact with each other and which colours are used in different circumstances to create different effects.

Understanding Colour

Maybe like a lot of folks you used high school art class as break time. While the teacher was busy trying to explain the concept of colour value you were catching a few Z’s or daydreaming about how sweet summer vacation was going to be. Well, it’s time for a refresher course in colour and we’re going to start with primary, secondary and tertiary colours.

Primary Colours

Primary colours are the colours all other colours are made of (except black and white). There are 3 primary colours: red, yellow and blue. That’s it. All other colours come from some combination of these 3 colours (plus various amounts of black and/or white).

Secondary Colours

Secondary colours are those that are created by mixing 2 primary colours. As such there are 3 secondary colours: green, purple and orange. Green is created by mixing yellow and blue, purple is created by mixing blue and red and orange is created by mixing red and yellow.

Tertiary Colours

Once you get into tertiaries things get a bit more complex. In a nutshell tertiaries are created by mixing a primary and a secondary colour. Tertiary colours are those that occupy the space between a primary and a secondary on the colour wheel. For instance between the primary colour red and the secondary colour orange is the tertiary colour vermilion (sometimes called simply red-orange).

Colour Value

The value of a colour is determined by the amount of white or black added to the colour. You’ve likely heard of “pastel” colours. Well, pastel colours (or “tints” as they’re sometimes called) are colours that have had varying degrees of white added to them to mute their visual impact. On the other end of the spectrum colours that have had a lot of black added to them are typically called “shades”. These can become so dark that the base colour is almost unrecognizable. So both tints and shades are “values” of colour with tints being light values and shades being dark values.


If you design for print publications or the Internet you’ll need to familiarize yourself with CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black) and RGB (Red, Green and Blue) colour models. Each is an exhaustive subject in and of itself but since they don’t apply directly to the subject of acrylic and polycarbonate sheets we’re going to skip on them and stick with basic colour theory.

Working With Colour

Now that you have some idea about colour basics we’ll delve a bit into how to work with this knowledge to determine the right colour plastic sheet for your project.

As much as we love to support the efforts of budding artists the fact is that if you look at the paintings of novices there’s usually something “off” about them. We don’t want to say they’re bad, but there’s something about them that just doesn’t click. Well, 9 times out of 10 that something is the colour choices. The painter has chosen their colours randomly rather than choosing colours that “work” with each other. As a result the internal, visual logic of the painting falls apart. The same often applies to signs made by amateurs. They chose the colours they liked rather than colours that created the emotional reaction they were after. So, how can you avoid this type of problem?

The Emotional Impact of Colour

Few things are better at triggering emotional reactions than colour. All of the primary and secondary colours are known to trigger specific emotional responses in people. Some of those responses are:

  • Black - Sophistication, Mystery, Power
  • Grey - Stability, Security, Maturity
  • White - Hope, Purity, Simplicity
  • Red - Danger, Passion, Urgency
  • Blue - Peace, Confidence, Integrity
  • Yellow - Friendliness, Intellect, Caution
  • Green - Healing, Relaxation, Growth
  • Purple - Luxury, Wisdom, Vision
  • Orange - Warmth, Playfulness, Vibrance

And so forth. So before choosing a purple acrylic sheet for your sign you should ask yourself if luxury, wisdom and vision are the qualities you’re trying to communicate with your sign. If not, move on to a colour that better suits your purpose.

Now that we have an idea about the emotional impact of colour let's look at a few ways we can build an effective colour scheme.

Complementary Colours

Every primary colour has what’s called a “complement”. The good news is when it comes to complementary colours there’s nothing new to learn. The complement of a primary is the colour that is exactly opposite it on the colour wheel and that opposite colour is a secondary colour. So the complement of yellow is purple, the complement of red is green and the complement of blue is orange. Placing complements into the same composition whether it’s a painting or a sign creates a balance or harmony that our brains pick up on. Complements also have the effect of making each other seem more intense. So if you want the greens in your sign to really pop place a bit of red in the sign as well. If you want your purple to stick out its chest, place some yellow nearby and so on. This is the simplest kind of colour scheming and it’s used today in nearly every commercial, print ad, movie and work of art you see (now that you know what to look for).

Analogous Colours

Analogous colours schemes are created by using a primary or secondary colour in concert with the colours on either side of it on the colour wheel. Analogous colour schemes can be extended outward to include 5 colours but the purpose of the analogous scheme doesn’t change. That purpose is to create a sense of calm and a more comprehensive mood than can be achieved by just juxtaposing complements.

Monochrome Colours

A monochromatic colour scheme lacks contrast and doesn’t project the kind of comprehensive mood you’ll get with analogous colours. You create a monochrome colour scheme by simply employing different values of the same colour. A monochromatic scheme doesn’t shout at the viewer. Instead it quietly engages them with its sophisticated colour modulations. The blue Facebook icon is a good example of a monochromatic colour scheme at work. It utilizes several values of blue (which as we’ve seen indicates things like peace and integrity) to make a simple statement.


Always keep up front what it is you want your sign to achieve. If you want it to exude friendliness and catch the eye you might want to use a complementary scheme with yellow and a bit of purple to make the yellow pop. On the other hand if you are creating a sign for a law firm you may want to create a monochromatic colour scheme based on blue to indicate integrity and sophistication.

Whatever your need have the colour of acrylic or polycarbonate sheets you’ll need to bring it all together. If you are still having difficulty deciding exactly which colour plastic sheets to buy for your sign project give us a call on 01903 389024.

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