So you need to bring attention to something, whether it be on your lease, inside your plant, or in your office. You have a new field, or you need sales people to actually make an appointment. Maybe auditors swept through and found a deficiency.

With a whole bunch of options out there, you might be wondering if you should be buying a sign or a decal.  

Let us help you decide!

What’s the difference?

Let us help you figure out everything you need to know before you spend even more precious time googling!

A sign is a hard metal or plastic product, most commonly signs are aluminum. The rigid surface of the sign offers flexibility in how and where it is installed.

You’ll want to use a sign if:

  • The old sign is cracked, damaged or has bullet holes in it (trust us, this happens).
  • Anything over 144 sq inches should be a sign; trying to lay down a 2ft x 2ft decal is tricky even for the pros!
  • The entire pre-existing sign is faded beyond recognition.
  • You want to mount your indicator on a post, fence, stand or rough wall (any surface a decal won’t adhere to).
  • If the existing sign is COVERED in so many different layers of decals, it looks like a Picasso painting.
  • If the surface is going to be subjected to heavy winds or rain; the sign is less likely to fail.
  • If the weather is rainy, snowy, or below 5 degrees Celsius. A decal will fall right off the sign days or even minutes after installation when applied in these conditions.
  • You need a quick application.
  • If your branding guidelines are strict, a new sign is the best way to present a clean aesthetic.
  • There is no pre-existing signage; for example, a brand new drill on a lease.
  • If the pre-existing sign is 5 years or older, time to replace that puppy! No one likes a shiny new decal on a fading sign.


A decal is a flexible vinyl with an adhesive backing; basically it’s a super strong sticker! Decals tend to be the more cost efficient option between the two. They do need to be applied to a clean, dry and warm surface for the adhesive to be effective. When decaling a sign in below 5 degree Celsius weather, the sign must be brought inside and warmed up prior to installation, so keep that in mind when you consider the total cost of a project!

You’ll want to use a decal if:

  • You are covering a pre-existing sign for the first time.
    • There is a caveat here! You are only covering a small portion of a pre-existing sign; large areas can lead to uneven applications and air bubbles.
    • You want to wrap around a curve; for example piping, or a vehicle door.
    • The surface you are applying these on is smooth and solid; like a wall, a door, a petrochemical container, or a tank.
    • If you are looking for a short term solution and know the sign will be swapped out in the near future, then this is your best option.
    • Budget constraints; but remember! It’s cheaper now, but in the long run, you’ll probably spend more in effort and eventually have to replace the sign anyways.

This doesn’t even begin to touch the many other material options available. For metal alternatives, there are magnets, plastic placards, lamacoids, engraved metals and more. For decals alternatives, there are many levels of adhesion not to mention levels of opaqueness! There’s clear vinyl, matte vinyl, gloss vinyl, blockout vinyl, reflective vinyl, void vinyl, security vinyl. I bet just reading that gave you a headache!


IDENT is the oilfield signage expert in your field. If you have been making your decisions based on whether oil is above or below $50 a barrel, or by flipping a coin, call us, and we’ll walk you through the best choice. Reach out, we’re happy to chat!