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First Surface/Second Surface terminology

Discussion in 'General Signmaking Topics' started by PNH Jake, Nov 20, 2020.

What do you call images mounted to clear substrate to be viewed through the substrate?

  1. Second surface

  2. Second surface mount

  3. Reverse print/cut, second surface mount

  4. Face mount

  5. Reverse print/reverse cut

  6. other...

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  1. PNH Jake

    PNH Jake Member

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    Aug 22, 2009
    New Hampshire, USA
    The person who does quoting here told me today that she's going to move to using "first surface" and "second surface" when referring to how things are mounted/printed on clear material (acrylic, windows, etc...) and it got me thinking. Since I've come back to Signs101, I figure I'd ask you all

    What was the old terminology you might be asking yourself?
    "outside facing out" and "inside facing out"
    (I've always felt that these two terms imply other options like "inside facing in" and "outside facing in", but those have never actually come up.)

    When I started working here, outside/out and inside/out were the go-to terms and I've had to adopt them over the years. The thought is that customers and sales people don't know what "first surface" and "second surface" mean and explaining to them wasn't worth the effort I guess.

    I definitely feel like there is some sort of split between people who started in the vinyl and paint days of sign making and the newer people who began in the direct digital print days. I began in the industry in 2001, so I feel like I have a foot in both worlds. I've worked at three different sign/graphic shops and by far the most common terms and the one I was trained with is 1st/2nd surface. I was trained at a company that did a lot of second surface print mounting to acrylic, and I've also had terms like "face mount" thrown around during my career. Making the switch to direct printing images onto acrylic has confused my terminology slightly since the old "second surface" prints were printed non-reversed and mounted using optically clear adhesive, while the images for back printing acrylic need to be reversed before printing. Oh look...and then there's that..."face print" and "back print"...oh man...

    What do you use for terms normally?
    Do you feel like you have to explain your terminology frequently to customers?
    How often do you say things like "reverse cut, second surface mount" or do you think it always should be assumed that "2nd surface" = "reverse"?
    When you print on acrylic, do you still use 1st/2nd surface as terms, or are you more likely to say something else?
     
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  2. WYLDGFI

    WYLDGFI Merchant Member

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    Oct 27, 2006
    Linden, NJ
    We do our printing as first and second surface. Second Surface meaning reverse facing out is correct for the terminology. Basically you need to train your clients or give them Your terminology and educate them as you go along if you are able.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. PNH Jake

    PNH Jake Member

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    Aug 22, 2009
    New Hampshire, USA
    Do you use the exact same terminology if you were going to do something like a cut vinyl logo/hours on an interior door inside of a building? (Just you personally, not like "does one use the term")
     
  4. unclebun

    unclebun Very Active Member

    We have never used any terminology but first surface/second surface. But we don't use that terminology with the customer. It's only internal or for reference to a supplier. With the customer we specify that the lettering is going on the outside of the door/window or on the inside. They don't need to know any of the specifics of color layering or printing process. They only want to know whether the vinyl is vulnerable to vandalism or not. Or if we're explaining to them why it's a bad idea to put lettering on the inside of their 80% bronze tinted windows if they expect anyone to even notice it.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. WYLDGFI

    WYLDGFI Merchant Member

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    Oct 27, 2006
    Linden, NJ
    Yup...we use it internally as well as with clients. Our clients are like yourself of unclebun above and already have the need for 1st or 2nd surface worked out. This way everyone is on the same page. Internally....first surface, isn't used much as its the "standard" of our printing and such. 2nd Surface is always highlighted so we mirror prints and/or files as necessary to complete the job correctly for you (our clients). When printing on acrylic for example, the CMYK has to lay down before the white ink backup.
     
  6. Billct2

    Billct2 Major Contributor

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    Mar 12, 2005
    New England
    When hand lettering I'm pretty sure we always called it reverse lettering. Since digital took over it
    its first/second surface. To the clients it's always been inside or outside
     
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