— Frequently Asked Questions about Our Custom Front License Plates
Can you print just a single tag for me?
- Our minimum order quantity starts at 25 auto
tags at the low end, and ranges from 100 to 125 plates for
other plates depending on production method, so we do not print single
plates. Why the minimum order quantity? Two reasons: First, we utilize
either screen-printing or official state-license-plate-grade production
technology. These are the most durable and long-lasting methods of outdoor-grade
printing available. Plus, regardless of plate type, we offer bona-fide
custom plate design rather than quick-and-dirty fill-in-the-bla
templates. Both of these factors require some up-front time before your
job is ready to print, which we need to recover via the minimum order quantity.
So do you have a setup charge, then?
- No, tag design and press make-ready are both included, except in rare
cases — less than 1 in 10 — when art is complex.
Do you have a brochure or info packet you can send
me by email or postal mail?
- We used to when our product line was narrower. Since it has been expanding,
however, we’ve decided to keep our efforts focused on the website
for efficiency’s sake, as we run a lean operation.
Do you sell tag bla
nks, fra mes, or cov
- We specialize in printing of license plates only. Selling fra
mes and cov ers is
outside our primary interest in producing an item with an emphasis on
unique custom design. Offering tag bla
nks would be a different business than screen-printing. (Requires
an aluminum manufacturing or finishing plant, and/or warehousing operation.)
Do your front license plates have embossed (raised)
letters like state-issued car tags?
- Yes, some of them do (see our price/
features comparison chart). Embossed plates take longer to
(excepting rush orders at added cost). Our flat aluminum plates cost
less and can be turned around faster. The tradeoff is up to
you. (See the price/ features comparison chart
linked to just above for current turnaround times.) Embossed aluminmum
plates do enhance the looks when viewed up close, however keep in mind
that beyond about 10–15 feet,
embossing is not as noticeable. There are several factors
that determine how nice your license plates will look, the most important
of which, we feel, is their graphic design, which we specialize in. Whether
embossed or not, all of our aluminum plates are screen-printed or resin-printed,
and all our plates printed on aluminum use glossy inks on a high-gloss,
durable stock. It is a rare customer who finds the appearance anything
less than first-rate or is less than pleased, regardless of plate type.
See our testimonials
page for customer comments.
So how long will your license tags last?
- It depends on the type of plate material and inks used. See our handy price
and features comparison chart for an easy-to-scan bird’s-eye
view of the life expectancies of the different plates we offer.
- About non-fade ink life, ink adhesion, and plate
bla nk durability. In general, there are three factors that determine
the overall usable lifetime: the non-fade rating
of the ink used, how well it adheres to the substrate and stands up to
weathering outdoors, and the durability of the plate material itself.
(Fading is caused by the ultraviolet — or “UV” — rays in sunlight.) We sell several
different types of license plates with different cost/
- Screen-printed spot-color polyethylene plastic (#40235 and #40255)
- Screen-printed spot-color flat aluminum (#40124)
and embossed aluminum (#40031 and #40033)
- Full-color commercial UV-cured inkjet on polyethylene plastic (#40257)
- Atlas Duraplates full-color industrial-resin-printed aluminum (#40066)
- Here’s how they stack up:
spot-color polyethylene plastic. With these plates the fade-resistance
of the outdoor-grade screen inks, at 5 years,
about matches the durability of the plate material, which has a maximum
life expectancy of about 5 years in serviceable condition. Important
note: The cheapest type of plastic plates, polystyrene, which we
don’t sell, have a life expectancy in decent condition of probably
only about a year or two under real-world conditions. The most notable
situation where polystyrene tags are used is with auto dealerships where
the plates are put on cars sitting on the lot as well as being test-driven.
Often the period of use lasts just until purchase, after which many customers
- While polystyrene can be fine in this type of situation,
unless you have a similar short-term need, you may be disappointed. This
is why we carry polyethylene plastic instead for longer-term
name identification and promotion. Even for auto dealers, polyethylene
is still a good value since it doesn’t yellow or crack like polystyrene
(which can sometimes happen in a matter of months), and the cost difference
between the two is minimal these days to boot. For more details on polyethylene
vs. polystyrene, see our Aluminum
vs. Plastic article.
spot-color aluminum. Here, the underlying aluminum plate
will hold up in good condition for some years after any ink fading begins
to occur. Aluminum plates will easily outlast the 5 to 7-year non-fade
screen ink life. (A 5 to 7-year fade-resistance
rating is the best promise any printer can legitimately make — this
is the maximum that will be guaranteed by manufacturers of screen inks,
which have long been the de facto “gold standard”
for printing durability outdoors.) We have seen some of our screen-printed
aluminum plates on the road in good condition after 10 years. Even after
screen inks begin to fade a bit, which may not be too noticeable, ink adhesion
remains good. The overall ink lifetime is therefore significantly longer
if you don’t mind a modest degree of fading after 5 to 7 years.
- Full-color commercial UV-cured inkjet
on polyethylene plastic. UV-cured commercial
inkjet marries the high-resolution of full-color inkjet printing used
in consumer-grade or office printers with more durable inks suitable for
outdoor use. Plate life is the same 5 years as our spot-color
screen-printed polyethylene tags mentioned above. UV-cured
less fade-resistant than screen-printing, however, with a 3-year
non-fade rating. What comes with that tradeoff, though (which may not
be a big issue for many), is very competitive pricing for
full-color higher-resolution plate printing. This hasn’t been available
until recently except on more premium-grade tags such as our Atlas Duraplates
(below), or else plates printed by dye-sublimation (which we do not offer)
that have a poor reputation for fade-resistance.
- Atlas Duraplates
full-color industrial-resin-printed aluminum. These are printed
on a state license plate production line and use industrial resin inks,
which have been superseding screen-printing inks for state license plate
manufacture because they enable digital printing. (Industrial resin printing
is also an industry standard in highway road sign manufacturing.) Industrial
resin equals or exceeds the fade-resistance and weatherability of screen-printing.
- These plates will outlast any other volume-priced plates on the
market, including our screen-printed plates, for two reasons, which
have to do with the plate construction and materials both. The debossed
rim (depressed flange) around the perimeter stiffens the plate to a level
that resists bending from accidental bumps and impacts better than other
aluminum plates. (Even better than the added rigidity of our embossed
plates with their embossed outer border.) Also, the tough
highway-grade clear overlaminate applied after printing (same as specified
by state transportation departments) protects against small stone-chipping
to maintain the artwork’s
first-class appearance against wear and tear longer.
- For the above reasons, Atlas
Duraplates are the premier plate on the market for road weatherability,
impact-resistance, and fade-resistance, for which we are the exclusive
distributor to the consumer
market through special arrangement with the manufacturer.
What’s the difference between screen-printing
inks and industrial resin inks? Is one better than the other?
- Screen-printing and industrial resin inks have approximately the same
durability in terms of fade-resistance (5 to 7 years — longer than
any others commonly used outdoors) and superior long-term wear-resistance
to the elements. Aside from the chemical differences, which we won’t
get into, the main practical difference is in the cost and the applications
each is used for. Screen-printing is least expensive and can be printed
on pre-cut license plate bla nks. Industrial resin inks are printed digitally
and used with continuous roll-fed printers and materials — in our
case, with reflective license plate sheeting as used on state-license-plate-grade
tags, which are more deluxe plates overall.
Can you print more than one plate design or color scheme for the same plate order?
- With two of our Atlas Duraplates-brand plates (items #40063 and #40066),
yes. With all other plate types, each order must consist of the same design
and color scheme for all plates in a run. Atlas Duraplates are manufactured
on a state license plate production line that is able to handle semi-automated
ganged production at a reasonable extra cost. (For additional order amount,
see the specific product pages.) This is how we can offer EMS and fire
department plates with individualized officer/
member titles that need to be custom-fitted to the available space.
Also, Atlas Duraplates can be printed with what is called “variable
such as serial numbers or other unique lettering imprinted in the same
font, size, and location on each plate (item #40067).
Can we use front license
plates in our state?
- Here are the states allowing front bumper auto
tags: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia,
Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico,
North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, West
Virginia. U.S. territories: Guam, Puerto
Rico, Virgin Islands. Canadian provinces: Alberta,
Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island,
Quebec, Yukon Territory.
We’re ready to get started and would like
you to design our plates. What do we need to do for you to begin?
- Just email or fax us a rough layout or sketch, and/or
- send us your logo, symbol, or other artwork, plus
- the info you want on your license plates,
- and we’ll do the rest.
- Once we have everything we need from you, in three days we’ll
have your design posted to a web page for your review, and will email you
How long till my order ships?
- Standard turnaround varies depending on plate type from 1 or 2 to 3 to 5 weeks (counting from
the date payment is received), plus
the UPS Ground delivery transit time. (See our price/features
comparison chart for an overview of production times.) Delivery
time usually ranges from 2–4 days depending on which state
you’re located in, but may be shorter or longer in some cases.
What about rush orders?
- In a few cases — limited to customers who are prompt in supplying
us with any needed artwork in usable form, and reply to communications
quickly when feedback is needed — we may be able to accommodate
rush orders. Keep in mind this is on a case-by-case basis, limited to any
extra capacity that might be available at the time, and involves rush charges. Note: Rush
orders require payment by credit or debit card.
- If we are more than “normally busy,” rush work isn’t
always feasible, so we advise planning ahead.
If we reorder at a later date, will the artwork
created for our original order still be around to use?
- Yes, you bet. All artwork for every order (whether created by us or
supplied by you) is kept on file permanently, so reorders are a breeze.
You also receive a discount for repeat orders that use the same exact artwork.
See main pricing page for the discount
Can colored backgrounds be printed full-bleed to
extend all the way to the edge of the tag like white backgrounds?
- For plastic plates: Yes. Our
polyethylene plastic plates are die-cut after printing, and full-bleeds
are not a problem. This applies to both our screen-printed and digital
full-color polyethylene tags.
- For screen-printed aluminum: No, not
quite. Printing takes place on pre-fabricated bla nks, and colored backgrounds
(printed on white plates using ink) are surrounded by a narrow white margin
of 3/16” for flat aluminum plates, and 1/4” for embossed aluminum. This minimum distance must be allowed for between
the edge of the license plate and printed areas to accommodate the silk-screen
squeegee stroke and/or handling plates during the stacking process when curing/ drying plates.
See our pages of license
plate designs for examples.
- For Atlas Duraplates state-license-plate-grade
tags: Yes, with a slight qualification. With our state-license-plate-grade
printing process, artwork is first printed onto roll-fed, adhesive-backed,
white reflective sheeting, then automatically laminated onto roll-fed
aluminum through a conveyor/ applicator before
stamping out the plate. This process requires that the reflective sheeting
be slightly narrower than the full width of the aluminum, after application,
so that the adhesive-backed sheeting doesn't gum things up moving through
the conveyor apparatus.
“Full-bleed” printing in this case will be completely full-bleed
on the top and bottom of the plate, and it will also cover the full width
of the sheeting as well. However, there will be a 1/16” margin of
silver-colored aluminum on the left and right plate edges adjacent to the
- In practice, this isn't particularly noticeable or worthy of comment,
especially since the debossed rim inside the outer perimeter of the tag
defines the perceived edge of the plate artwork more strongly when viewed
close up. This is actually exactly how official state license plates are
produced if you look closely (although some states may not deboss the rim).
There is no other way to print and successfully laminate roll-fed reflective
sheeting onto aluminum economically with an automated method at high speed.
If you have any concern at all here, just ask for your free
sample for evaluation which we’re happy to provide.
Can you match the color of our organization’s
- For spot-color screen-printed plates: Yes.
But see the additional explanation two paragraphs below about how closely
colors can reasonably be matched. Also remember that if the color is not
within the range of standard colors offered for a given plate type,
you need to specify a Pantone Matching System (PMS) number or furnish a
physical sample for us to match. (Go to the individual
product page for the plate type you’re ordering, starting from
our main plate listing page, to check
for standard colors offered and PMS color-matching info.)
- If you do need a color-match, it will be reasonably
close, but we cannot guarantee an absolutely perfect match. Please
understand that this is a situation you’ll face with any company
printing license plates, due to the inherent nature of the pigments used
for outdoor inks. For those of you used to specifying Pantone/
PMS colors for commercial offset printing on paper, keep in mind
that silk-screen inks used for printing on aluminum or plastic are different
from regular inks that follow the Pantone system. Outdoor screen inks
are formulated for durability and fade-resistance as
primary concerns, so they utilize different pigments than those for regular
commercial offset printing.
- Screen inks consequently have different mixing characteristics so that
standard Pantone ink-mixing formulas and ratios do not apply. Because of
this, matching Pantone colors with outdoor silk-screen inks is inexact
to some degree. While some colors can be matched very closely (though perhaps
not perfectly), others may be less accurate, though still at least “reasonably
close.” (For the same reasons, color can also vary a slight amount
from one production run to another, should you reorder in the future.)
- That being said, if you have a Pantone swatch book available, you can
rely on the PMS number equivalents listed in our standard color charts
as being very close. Though they may not be perfect matches, the Pantone
swatch numbers listed in the chart were chosen as the closest PMS equivalents
based on side-by-side comparisons with actual printed license plate colors.
Where there is no “best”
equivalent, we note the two PMS numbers the color falls between in the chart.
- If you aren’t familiar with the Pantone system and have concerns
about how your plates’ ink color(s) will look, we
can send a paper inkjet proof ahead of time. This will give you
a better idea of what the color will look like than computer monitors. (Note: Be
sure to allow for the extra few days required in your overall time frame
to receive and review the proof.) Computer displays vary in color
depiction, sometimes widely, and shouldn’t
be relied on for color verification decisions.
- For full-color tags: Colors
can be matched to a degree, but remember that process-color photographic
(CMYK) printing is inexact compared to Pantone color-matching. That said,
we will do our best to see that the color is reasonably close, though as
any printer will tell you, process-color printing by its nature frequently
does not permit close color-matching. (Usually this is due to colors which
are impacted by CMYK’s limited ability to reproduce extremely bright, saturated
hues.) If you have concerns about how your plates’ ink
color(s) will look, as noted with spot-color plates just above, we can
mail a hard-copy inkjet printout to you on proofing paper prior to the
production run for your review first.
My car doesn’t have a bracket for mounting
an auto tag on the front bumper. How do I attach the tag?
- In many cases there are holes already in place (sometimes hidden behind
plastic caps) for mounting front license plates, where all you need are
mounting bolts. However, some vehicles will require a special license plate
mounting bracket, which can be purchased from an auto dealership. Alternatively,
universal brackets may be available from auto supply stores to fit your
vehicle in the $2–5 range.