How to Choose the Right Metal Nameplate for Your Application

Metal nameplates are used in many diverse applications to display information clearly. As a highly customizable product, there are numerous factors to consider when developing a nameplate for any given application. This blog post will discuss the types of nameplates, their production processes, and other key design considerations.

Things to Consider When Selecting a Metal Nameplate

When selecting a metal nameplate for a product or piece of equipment, there are several design considerations to keep in mind. One important factor is the type of metal to be used, as different metals have different properties that may be more or less suitable for the intended application. Other important factors to consider include the size, shape, and thickness of the nameplate, as well as the type of printing or engraving to be used to create the markings on the nameplate.


Screen printing, digital printing, and engraving are all suitable processes for metal substrates. However, they vary in how the printing is performed, the colors that can be used, and how well the results will perform in various environments.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a cost-effective method of placing graphics and colored logos or images onto equipment. It is a multi-step process that involves covering a metal surface with a mesh screen and then using an applicator to apply ink or epoxy. Screen-printed nameplates use spot colors, which is a printing technique for producing line art, logos, and text with clean edges and excellent color control. While the inks used today do withstand wear, sometimes a final coating is necessary to further seal the nameplate. This is particularly useful for nameplates that will be exposed to chemicals and wear.

Digital Printing

Widely regarded as the best option for producing nameplates with unique colors, gradient colors, or halftones, digital printing offers nearly endless opportunities for customization. It is also well suited to a variety of fabrication styles, enabling further customizations such as rounded corners, holes, and adhesives.


The engraving process is highly suitable for both metal and plastic nameplates. During this process, a rotating tool gently cuts into the nameplate’s material at the desired depth, following a computer-generated design pattern. Engraving creates a permanent design with less risk of wear compared to ink-printed designs.

Nameplate Materials

The best material depends on the nameplate’s intended use and the environment to which it will be exposed. For example, nameplates that will be used outdoors require a material able to withstand the elements. An anti-corrosive option like stainless steel is generally suitable for these applications. If the nameplate will be used indoors, malleability and color can be prioritized over durability.

Common Nameplate Materials

The most commonly used types of metal for nameplates include:

  • Stainless steel: Incredibly long-lasting, stainless steel is corrosion-resistant and able to withstand other environmental challenges, such as moisture and wear. It also features an attractive, clean finish, delivering a stylish appearance in addition to its high-performance capabilities.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum is a cost-effective alternative to other alloys and pure metals. It is malleable, making it ideal for custom printing, intricate designs, and shaping work. As a lightweight material, it is well-suited to pressure-sensitive adhesives. Its coloration naturally enhances digital and screen-printed graphics.
  • Brass: A popular choice for plaques, mounted nameplates, and awards, brass is a luxurious material. It is a more decorative choice than other metals due to its distinct coloration. Brass has a copper and zinc-alloy base which provides durability and malleability when heated. The higher the zinc content, the stronger the nameplate will be.
  • Cold-rolled Steel: Also known as cold-formed steel, this material is shaped using low temperatures. For nameplates, it provides a canvas suitable for painting, plating, and powder coating. Its durability and maintenance-friendly nature make it suitable for a variety of uses.


The final shape, height, length, and thickness of a nameplate help determine which type of metal will be most suitable. It also determines how much detail can be included in the printed designs and what type of edges the finished product could have.


Certain applications require protective coatings to increase the nameplate’s durability. In other applications, a finish to enhance its visual effect might be more suitable to help the final product stand out.

Environmental Conditions

The wear the nameplate will experience in its ultimate environment influences which material, printing process, and finish it requires. Possible exposure to water, oil, chemicals, and even air are other environmental considerations.

Indoor or Outdoor

Determining whether the nameplate will be used in an indoor or outdoor environment can help you make other decisions regarding its materials and production.

  • Indoor: If the nameplate is for indoor use and won’t be exposed to abrasives, vinyl decal designs may work well. In more demanding applications, polycarbonate or polyester nameplates may be a more suitable choice.
  • Outdoor: Outdoor usage typically requires a high degree of durability and weather resistance. Stainless steel and aluminum are most suitable for withstanding humidity, high temperatures, water, oils, and chemicals.

Adhesives or Fasteners

How your metal nameplate will be mounted onto its final location is another important consideration. Holes can be added to the nameplate design for wall fasteners if the dimensions allow it, or an adhesive backing can be used.

Metal Nameplates from Specialty Printing & Processing

Nameplates are an effective method of identifying products and conveying information. If you need a custom nameplate, Specialty Printing & Processing has been creating high-quality solutions since 1961. We offer a wide selection of processes to meet your needs and can help you develop the perfect nameplate for your application. To get started, contact us today.

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