Carved and routed signs are signs that are CNC milled from HDU sign foam. They are great options for exterior signs due to the endless customization options, are typically 1.5” or 2” thick, and can be both single and double sided. HDU sign foam contains more solid urethane and less air than traditional foam products, making it much stronger, waterproof and able to withstand the elements. The standard mounting method for carved and routed signs is between two 4×4” posts. This is referred to as a post and panel mounting method. The sign is secured between two posts using custom brackets that are screwed into the sign, and then into the posts.

(Sign pictured above features a v-carved border and lettering that were gold leafed)


These are two methods of CNC routing information into the sign panel. V-carving refers to the method of cutting INTO the material in a “V” shape using a 120 degree router bit. This gives the sign more depth and allows the letters to be painted a separate color from the body of the sign. We’ll get into how that works later when we talk about paint masking. Hatched down refers to the method of cutting out the sign to leave the letters exposed. This allows the background of the letters to be painted a different color, and the letters appear to be dimensional almost standing off the sign. The main difference is whether or not the letters are recessed into the panel or if the panel is cut away to reveal the letters. Both options lend themselves to the letters standing out from the rest of the sign, and allow them to be painted a separate color, typically white or gold. 

(Top piece is hatched down lettering while bottom represent v-carved)


Gold leafing is a process that can only be done on V-carved letters, as the gold flakes are placed into the grooves to create the desired look. While you may think that gold paint will do the trick, you can’t match the shiny finish that gold leafing gives. The process involves using sheets of real gold flakes that are pressed into the letters and adhere to the foam. Typically the surface is painted yellow before placing down the gold to ensure a better adhesion to the material. This gives a truly one of a kind look that cannot be replicated with paint. While more expensive, the end product is sure to catch attention.

(White Pillars sign above features V-carved lettering that is gold leafed)


The secret to an amazing carved and routed sign is all in the painting process. With multi color sign panels, the outside shape will be routed on the CNC table and sent to the paint booth. There, it will be sanded, primed, and painted the base color. Once the base layer is painted, we will apply a paint mask over the entire sign before it is routed again. When it goes back to the CNC router to have lettering either v-carved or hatched down into it, the paint mask will stay on the entire time. This allows the lettering to be cut from the mask, and easily painted a separate color, typically white or gold leafed. If the paint mask was not in place before routing, you would need to carefully cut out each lettering outline and place a mask down after the fact, a huge time waste and not effective. This method allows the letters to quickly be sanded, primed and painted.

(two 2×8′ sign panels fresh out of the paint room)


A carved and routed sign is a great option for any exterior sign solution. The limitless customization options offer a solution for every application. Whether it’s gold leaf or painted lettering, or a painted border with painted posts, a carved and routed sign can be designed to fit every project. The typical mounting method between two posts offers a quick and straightforward installation method that can be done in almost any ground surface. Two holes are dug 3 feet into the ground, and the sign is then placed in and filled with either a fast post anchor or packed in dirt. The best signs have the most dimensional aspects, with V-carved lettering and a raised dimensional logo. The more dimensions, the better! 

Check out the “Our Work” section on our website under outdoor signage to see some of the coolest carved and routed signs we have done! If you see something you like, give us a shout and let’s work on creating something special for you.