Determining Sign Reflectivity

Retroreflective sheeting- How do I choose what type is best for my signs?

Many of the traffic signs, safety signs, and parking signs available on are available in reflective aluminum. Much like coated aluminum, reflective aluminum won’t rust, crack, or chip and helps increase visibility during the night, in low-light settings, and during times of inclement weather.

Not all reflective aluminum is created equally. When we describe how reflective something is, we talk about its reflectivity. Reflectivity is a simple concept and refers to how efficiently a material redirects light back to its original source. In other words, the reflectivity of a sign has great impact on how easily a sign can be read. Reflectivity is so crucial for visibility that the Federal Highway Administration mandates that all regulatory traffic, traffic warning, object markers, and guide signs must be reflective.

As mentioned above, not all materials have the same grade of reflectivity, and different kinds of reflective sheeting are better suited for different situations. Because of this, it’s helpful to learn a little more about the different reflectivity grades.

Diamond grade sheeting is the most reflective grade available. It is the top choice for use on roadways due to providing maximum visibility from the farthest viewing distances. Diamond grade sheeting is also the most durable, which makes these signs a worthwhile investment.

Signs made with diamond grade sheeting can often be seen from as far as 1,500 feet away. They are also 10 times brighter than standard engineering grade sheeting. This makes diamond grade sheeting the optimal choice for hazardous areas and high-traffic intersections.

High intensity prismatic retroreflective sheeting (HIP sheeting) isn’t as reflective as diamond grade sheeting. It is typically used on official traffic signs, like the ones you might see around your community. HIP sheeting is about three times more reflective than engineering grade sheeting. Signs made with HIP sheeting can be seen from about 1,000 feet away.

Engineering grade sheeting (EG sheeting) is most often used for parking and property signs. Signs that are made from EG sheeting can usually be seen from about 500 feet away.

See the chart below for a breakdown of the different kinds of retroreflective sheeting:

  • Type of Sheeting ATSM D4956 Type Brightness Visibility in Low-Light Conditions Ideal Use Case
    Engineering Grade (EG) Type I 1x 500 ft private driveways and parking lots
    High Intensity Prismatic (HIP) Type IV 3x 1,000 ft low traffic roadways
    Diamond Grade Type IX 10x 1,500 ft medium to heavy traffic roadways

To learn more about identifying different kinds of retroreflective sheeting, please visit the Federal Highway Administration’s traffic sign retroreflective sheeting identification guide.

For more information on retroreflective sheeting designations and minimum maintained retroreflectivity levels, see Section 2A.08 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, MUTCD 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, MUTCD standards). Customer shall identify 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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