The Ultimate Guide to Neon Signs

So you’re interested in Neon Signs?  Our team at Neon Icons have been geeking out for years about the history of Neon Signs and how they have captivated our attention since their invention in the early 1900s. Their visual appeal and hypnotic glow have ensured their dominance in the signage world for over a hundred years.  But what are Neon Signs and how are they made?  How can we understand the technology behind the signs?  Strap in and let us take you through our Ultimate Guide to Neon Signs.

 

The History of Neon Signs

Let’s first start off with the incredible history of Neon! Did you know that Neon was discovered before the age of electricity? It was first discovered by a French astronomer, Jean Picard, in 1675. While observing a mercury barometer tube, he noticed a faint glow in it. When the tube was shaken, a glow called barometric light occurred, but the cause of the light (static electricity) was not fully understood at that time. Even though it was not yet understood, it triggered a flood of interest from the scientific community that was just emerging at that time.  Pretty illuminating, right?
When electricity was discovered, scientists were able to move forward towards the invention of many forms of lighting. Back in 1855, Heinrich Geissler, a German glassblower and physicist, invented the Geissler tube. Thanks to the invention of electrical generators, many pioneers began conducting experiments with Geissler tubes, electric power and various gases. When a Geissler tube is placed under lower pressure and an electrical voltage was applied, the glass would glow.
Later on, Neon gas was discovered by Willian Ramsey and M.W. Travers in 1898 in London. The word neon came from a Greek word, “neos”, meaning “the new gas”. Neon is a rare gas element present in the atmosphere to the extent of 1 part in 65,000 of air.
But the person who first applied an electrical discharge to a sealed tube of neon gas to create a lamp was Georges Claude, a French engineer, chemist, and an inventor. He set out the first neon lamp to the public on December 11, 1910, in Paris. In 1923, Claude and his French company, Claude Neon, introduced neon gas signages to the United States. The first neon sign ever sold back in the 20th century was a 7-letter word for a private company which cost a whopping $12,000!
Since then, Neon lighting quickly became a popular fixture in outdoor advertising. Because it is visible even in the daylight, people would stop and stare at the first neon signs dubbed “liquid fire”.  It’s around this time that Neon Signs quickly spread around the world to illuminate our streets and grab humanity’s attention as one of the trendiest (and some would say sexiest) forms of advertising, marketing and communications.

 

How Traditional Neon Signs Are Made

With the invention of Neon signs, businesses and enthusiasts suddenly had a customised method to be seen in a highly visual way.  Neon signs are custom made glass tubes that are generally blown and bent into an array of designs, letters or shapes.  Once they are crafted into the desired design, they are filled with inert gas chosen for their unique colours. Lastly, these neon signs are fitted with electrodes in the tubes which are powered by an electric current.  The electricity causes electrons to flow through the Neon gas giving them their hypnotic and famous glow.  Sign makers will determine the colour of the light by selecting the right gas into the tubes.
To shape the tubes, sign makers have to painstakingly hand-make their designs using an ancient glass-blowing technique.  Generally, sign-makers create a pattern on a fire-resistant sheet used to mark the tubes prior to shaping them.  Then at super high temperatures, the glassblowers heat each spot on the glass tubing with a device called a ribbon burner.  Ribbon burners create pinpointed heat at 650° C or 1200° F which allows the glass tube to bend and be moulded to the designs on the marking sheet. By heating the tube point for approximately 30 seconds, the glass becomes malleable and the neon sign maker can gently bend the tube while also blowing air into the opened end of the tube to maintain the original tube diameter.  The sign maker must ensure that the glass tube maintains its shape and inner diameter otherwise the tube is destroyed and the sign must be started again.
As you can tell, the creation process of Neon Signs is notoriously difficult and labour intensive!

 

How Do Neon Signs get their colour?

The beautiful colours of Neon Signs come from the type of gas that is filled in the tubes.  For example, the traditional neon gas produces red light.  Argon gas gives off a steel blue light (or as Zoolander would say blue steel).  These colours are generally based in clear glass tubes and create the foundations of all the other colours you see with neon signs.  Using red and blue, neon sign makers use a range of fluorescent powders to colour the glass tubes.  Combining a range of fluoro pigments, you can use argon gas (blue steel) in a yellow tube to create a fluorescent green light.

 

Neon Gas vs. Neon LED

Ever since neon lights hit the market, there has been a debate on which one is better, neon gas or neon LED? Here are some of the main differences between neon gas and neon LED lights.
  • Light Effect and Luminance 
    • Traditionally, neon lights produce a super bright sparkling lighting effect. The colours have a high CRI or Colour Rendering Index but the luminosity is not very high. This is true for Neon Gas, the phosphor changes the colour of the light but dims its brightness at the same time. Neon LED lights, on the other hand, produce a seamless stretch of light with no dots or shadows in between. This makes the neon lights look less striking even though these lights offer high luminosity than neon gas.
  • Power Consumption
    • Neon gas lights can only produce light at a certain energy rate. This is because the electrons in the neon gas require a high jolt of electricity to separate. Therefore, glass neon light fixtures require a large amount of power to work. LED neon light strips are not dependent on a particular power supply to work. They require very little energy to turn on. Their lack of high power consumptions is one of the factors that makes them less expensive than gas neon lights.
  • Installation
    • Since gas neon lights are installed in a glass tube, you need to be careful while installing and using them to make sure the glass does not crack or break. This needs to be installed in a safe place where glass is protected from environmental and human factors at all times. Even a small crack may render the light useless. In case of breakage, gas neon lights need to be disposed of properly so as it’ll not harm any person or the environment.
    • On the other hand, LED neon lights are super flexible, bendable and easy to install. You can install them indoors, outdoors, overhead, underhead, in tight spaces, and around corners. They don’t have any harmful gasses so you don’t have to be scared in handling them.
  • Maintenance 
    • Neon gas lights require regular maintenance. It needs to be replaced regularly for the lights to work effectively. You also need to make sure that the glass is clean and the phosphor covering is intact. Neon LED light strips are one-and-one lighting solution meaning they don’t need much care or maintenance. Its LEDs are protected by silicone or aluminium covering that protects them from any harmful factors. You don’t need to replace LEDs other than when they completely malfunction which is not that common.

Benefits of Neon Signs to Businesses

After a hundred years of being used, you’d think that neon signs would have worn off by now, right?  Well, obviously not as they’re still as effective and commonly used as ever! For over a century now, businesses have been using neon signs to stand out. Here are 8 undeniable benefits that neon signs have offered business owners since the dawning of the twentieth century. 

 

Neon Signs Have High visibility

Hello Gorgeous  Neon signs are an incredibly luminous, eye-catching addition to any business front.  Since they capture attention so well, they can help make a big difference for your brand awareness and visibility.  Since our eyes are naturally drawn to colour in the dark, installing a neon sign will instantly boost your impressions, even in a crowded place filled with fierce competitors. Neon signages are particularly useful for small businesses trying to break out in their respective industry.

 

Design Freedom

Body Outline Neon Sign by Neon Icons   

One of the biggest benefits of neon signage is its potential for customization. This medium gives you awesome logo design options. Here at Neon Icons, you can design every aspect of your own neon sign. Whether that’s size, colour, and of course, actual design!

 

Nighttime Functionality

Street Cred Neon Sign by Neon Icons    Neon signs can make it possible for your businesses to operate at night! It’ll definitely increase your sales from 15% to 150%.

 

Safe and Energy Efficient

Zeus_x Hello Gorgeous  Neon signs are created using Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) which means they are strung closely together so that the light they emit overlaps and creates a  steady source of light. LED signs are usually lighter and more protected than neon lights as LEDs are often wrapped in their own polymer jacket to protect and more protect each diode from external damage. LEDs use much less power than neon light, it needs only 24 volts. 

 

Wide Operating Ranges

Bad Decisions Great Memories Neon Sign by Neon IconsAside from being very durable, neon signs are a wide operating range, which means they will be safe in cases where line voltage is subject to brownouts and surges.

 

Long Lifespan

The Creation Of Adam Neon Sign By Neon Icons Neon artworks average lifespan is 50,000 hours or over 5 years of continuous use. This blows the 2-year lifespan for traditional glass-tube neon signs out of the water. 

 

Easy Setup

It Was All A Dream Neon Sign by Neon Icons Neon signs can be set up in no time at all! Which means you can start to reap the benefits of neon right away.  Our neon art pieces are designed to be simple to install and come with a plug-and-play wiring solution. Meanwhile, glass is incredibly fragile and difficult to install, it would definitely require professional help to avoid damages. 

 

Attractive

Dripping Lips Neon Sign by Neon Icons   Dripping Lips Neon Sign by Neon Icons    This can be a way of increasing traffic to your store! Thanks to an eye-catching design feature, everything can be seen from outside. Effective signage outside is another way of advertising who you are, and where you are. Attracting more customers to look at your business means a larger chance of increasing sales!
As for our homes, a light source is a decor element. Any design made of neon will not only decorate a shelf or wall but will also allow you to fill the room with soft light, perfectly enhance the interior. Neon lights also add a personal touch, it can reflect your personalities such as by displaying your favourite lyric or quote.

 

Neon Icons ™

Neon icons aim to immortalise the most iconic individuals and brands of all time through unique & handcrafted neon artwork. Our goal is to allow everyone the opportunity to express their creative passions and illuminate their home with custom, handmade neon artworks.

Handmade. Unique. Iconic Neon Art. 

Each design is handcrafted & made-to-order by one of our skilled neon artisans. Visit our website at www.neonicons.com to choose and design your own Neon Signs. Receive $25 OFF when you subscribe to our monthly newsletter and be entered into our $12,000 giveaway!

Click Here some of our unique and handcrafted neon artwork.

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