FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions about Our Custom Front License Plates

Can you print just a single tag or pair of tags for me?

  • Our minimum order quantity starts at 15 auto tags for our Atlas Duraplates™, with a minimum of 100 or 125 for most other plate types, so we do not print single plates.

    Why the minimum order quantity? Two reasons: First, we utilize either screen-printing, digital industrial inkjet, or official state-license-plate-grade production technology. These are the most durable and long-lasting methods of outdoor-grade printing available. Second, regardless of plate type, we offer bona-fide custom plate design rather than quick-and-dirty fill-in-the-bla nk 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 in the pricing. Except in rare cases — less than 1 in 10 — when art is complex, there are no added charges for artwork setup or creation.

    Aside from that, the only other potentially significant added charge of note is when you need to use an ink color outside the standard color list for screen-printed spot-color license plates, for which there is often a color-matching fee. See individual product pages for spot-color items where color-match charges might apply, and what the charge is. (Spot-color means printing with single individual colors rather than the full color spectrum, and is the least expensive volume-printing method.)

Do you sell tag bla nks, fra mes, or cov ers?

  • Not currently, but we are looking into offering frames in the future, both plastic and metal. Bla nks and cov ers are not on the agenda.

Can you re-create anti que state license plates for my vin tage vehicle or clas sic car?

  • No, this is outside our capabilities. Also, printing just one or two plates, which is what most people inquiring about anti que license plates are asking for, is below our minimum order quantity. We sell plates in volume only. See first question above.

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 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 produce, though (excepting rush orders at added cost). Our flat aluminum and plastic 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 aluminum plates do enhance the looks when viewed up close, however keep in mind that beyond about 15–20 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 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. 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/ performance tradeoffs:
  • Screen-printed spot-color polyethylene plastic
  • Screen-printed spot-color flat aluminum and embossed aluminum
  • Full-color industrial UV-cured inkjet on polyethylene plastic or aluminum
  • Atlas Duraplates™ full-color industrial-resin-printed reflective-sheeted aluminum
  • Here’s how they stack up:
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  • Screen-printed spot-color polyethylene plastic. For medium-duty .055-gauge polyethylene, the fade-resistance of the outdoor-grade screen inks, at approximately 5 years, matches the durability of the plate material, which has a maximum life expectancy of about 5 years in serviceable condition. (Roughly 2 to 3 years in the case of .035-gauge.)

    Important note: The cheapest type of plastic plates, polystyrene (also sometimes simply called “styrene”), which we don’t sell, have a life expectancy in decent condition of probably only about a year or two at best under real-world conditions. Not infrequently, they may begin to degrade noticeably (yellowing and/or curling) much sooner than that. 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. Here the period of use may last just until purchase, after which many customers discard them.
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  • While polystyrene can certainly be of use in this type of situation, unless you have a very 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, curl, or crack like polystyrene can (projecting neglect or a less than professional image, if/when it occurs), and the cost difference between the two has lessened over time to boot. Also, the polyethylene plates we sell have a high-gloss finish which projects a more professional appearance. Dealers concerned about that or who have experienced problems with polystyrene are typically the ones interested in knowing about the above differences. For more details on polyethylene vs. polystyrene, see our Aluminum vs. Plastic article.
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  • Screen-printed 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-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 years or so.
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  • Full-color industrial UV-cured inkjet on polyethylene or aluminum. UV-cured industrial 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. UV-cured inkjet is less fade-resistant than screen-printing, however, with a roughly 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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 data” output, 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 and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon Territory.

    Note: We offer half-size plates that mount above or below full-size plates, which are used by fire depts. and EMS crews in states that mandate full-size official registration plates on both the front and back of vehicles.

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 the link.

How long till my order ships?

  • Standard turnaround varies depending on plate type from 2 or 3 weeks to 4 to 6 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 business 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.
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  • 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 overview page for the discount amount.

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.
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  • For flat aluminum: No. On flat aluminum plates, 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.
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  • For embossed aluminum: Yes. Here, die-cutting of the plate and mounting holes takes place after printing, and in some cases full-bleed printing is possible, depending on the specific item number. Check the individual product detail pages for our embossed license plate line to see if the plate type you’re interested in can be printed full-bleed. In most cases an extra charge is involved, and depends on the artwork — call for a custom quote.
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  • 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 printed sheeting.
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  • In practice, on white-background plates 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. (On plates with dark or black backgrounds, the narrow strip of silver-colored aluminum on the left/right edges of the plate is more visible, due to the color contrast next to the dark color.) 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 logo?

  • 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.)
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  • 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.
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  • 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.)
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.