Determining Reflectivity

How do I determine the best retroreflective sheeting for my signs?

Many traffic signs, parking signs, and safety signs have the option of reflective aluminum as a sign material. Reflective aluminum, like coated aluminum, will not chip, crack, or rust, and also adds increased visibility at night and in low light situations.

Retroreflectivity describes the efficiency of a material to redirect light back to its source, which when applied to signs, makes seeing the message easier. All regulatory traffic, traffic warning, guide signs, and object markers are required by the Federal Highway Administration to be retroreflective.

With the benefit of increased visibility, it’s good to know about the different types of retroreflective sheeting that offers on our signs before selecting one for your needs.

There are three types of retroreflective sheeting that uses: engineering grade, high intensity prismatic, and diamond grade. Each type of sheeting provides a different level of reflectivity and durability.

Engineering grade retroreflective sheeting is the standard sheeting that you might find on property and parking signs. Engineering grade, or EG, sheeting can be seen from about 500 feet away.

High intensity prismatic retroreflective sheeting (HIP sheeting), is commonly used on official traffic signs, just like the ones in your own neighborhood. HIP sheeting offers three times the reflectivity that EG does, and can be seen from about 1000 feet away.

The most reflective sheeting is diamond grade retroreflective. Diamond grade sheeting is the best choice for roadways, as it offers the highest visibility from the furthest distances. Diamond grade retroreflective sheeting also lasts the longest, making it the best investment long-term.

Signs with diamond grade sheeting can generally be seen from as far as 1500 feet away and are 10 times as bright as standard EG sheeting. Diamond grade sheeting’s high visibility makes it a great fit for potentially hazardous intersections, high traffic areas, and large signs that need to be seen from a distance.

Below is a simple chart that shows the benefits of each type of retroreflective sheeting:

  • Sheeting ATSM D4956 Type Brightness Visibility at Night Ideal Uses
    Engineering Grade Type I 1x 500ft parking lots and private drives
    High Intensity Prismatic Type IV 3x 1000ft low traffic roadways
    Diamond Grade Type IX 10x 1500ft moderate to heavy traffic roadways

For more information about identifying retroreflective sheeting, visit the Federal Highway Administration’s guide on traffic sign retroreflective sheeting.

For more about sheeting designations and minimum maintained retroreflectivity levels, see this section of the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. does not recommend or specify the use of a specific safety sign because it does not have knowledge of the hazard(s) our customers are identifying. It is the customer’s sole responsibility to identify the hazard(s) that may be present and select one or more signs (stock or custom) that accurately identify their specific hazard(s) and complies with any applicable federal, state or local laws or regulations, any worksite specific rules or regulations and/or any applicable safety standards (including, without limitation, ANSI and/or OSHA standards). disclaims any and all liability (excluding liability for our Product Warranty contained in our Terms and Conditions) for any sign selected by a customer and shall not be responsible for any personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of signs purchased from it or for the independent interpretation made of any applicable federal, state or local laws or regulations, any worksite specific rules or regulations, and/or any applicable safety standards (including, without limitation, ANSI and/or OSHA standards). Customer shall indemnify and hold and its corporate parent and its officers, directors and affiliates harmless from and against any and all claims, loss or expense (including attorneys’ fees) arising from or related to the purchase and use by customer or any third party of any sign purchased by customer from

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