Reflective vinyl can be a very effective product for sign makers to use, however sometimes it can be quite confusing which type of reflective sheeting is required. To make an informed choice when purchasing your reflective vinyl you need to know a few key elements:

1 - Prismatic or Retro-Reflective 

[caption id="attachment_990" align="alignnone" width="200"]Prismatic Grade Reflective vinyl Prismatic Grade Reflective[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_991" align="alignnone" width="200"]retroreflective beaded vinyl retroreflective beaded vinyl[/caption]

As a rule of thumb there are 2 main types of reflective vinyl, retro-reflective and prismatic. These variations correspond to how the material is manufactured. Retro-reflective vinyl is comprised of glass beads embedded onto a sheet. The glass beads reflect the light back towards the viewer. This type of vinyl can be known as beaded reflective. Retro-reflective vinyl tends to be the cheaper option out of the 2 and often looks uniform in colour, these materials are suitable for cutting with a 60° Blade on a standard plotter.

Prismatic vinyl uses multiple layers pf micro-prisms laminated together to reflect the light back towards the viewer. The prisms are much more effective at reflecting light and have a much wider angle of reflection. Prismatic vinyl, also known as micro-prismatic vinyl is much thicker and not suitable for standard plotter cutting. This type of vinyl is used for chapter 8 regulated vehicle markings, road signs and emergency vehicles where it is necessary to have the greatest reflective properties

2- What grade reflective do you need?

Manufacturers often add to the confusion of ordering reflective sign vinyl by adding "grades" into their product titles. Terms such as commercial, engineering, flexible engineering and utility grade are all names manufacturers have added into the mix. But the best way to choose your vinyl is to look whether it is prismatic or beaded, the life span and also the flexibility of the top-coat.

Reflective vinyls are not as forgiving when it comes to conforming to vehicle curves, it is important to check if the intended vinyl is going to be suitable for your application. The top coat and metallised reflective films make reflective vinyl quite brittle.

3 - UK Reflective Regulations

The next element to take into consideration is UK regulations on reflective vehicle markings. If you are applying reflective vinyl to works vehicles, emergency vehicles or HGVs you must ensure you follow Chapter 8 and ECE104 regulations....Sounds a bit daunting a first but it is very easy to understand.

Chapter 8 Regs

The Chapter 8 part 2 is a piece of legislation put into practice to improve the safety of workman that have to stop at the side of high speed roads. The Legislation requires all of these vehicles to have high-visibility rear markings. Permitted markings include alternative chevron striping of fluorescent orange-red prismatic reflective and fluorescent yellow non-reflective material. (see image below: chapter 8 explained

Chapter 8 approved prismatic vinyl is available from multiple manufacturers, of which we stock 3:

Aura 143 - 150mm Stripe

Avery T6500 - 150mm Stripe

Oralite VC612 - 150mm Stripe

How to apply chevrons to Chapter 8 regulation:
Chevrons must be no less than 150mm wide
Chevrons must be inclined at 45-60°
Chevrons must be pointing upwards
Red reflective tape must also be fitted to rear facing edges of doors when open, guardrails and lockers that are displayed to other road users at the rear of the vehicle.
The orange-red retro-reflective chevrons must be Class RA2 or micro-prismatic reflective materials.

ECE104 Regs


From July 2011, all newly registered HGVs weighing over 7.5 tonnes and trailers weighing over 3.5 tonnes must have reflective conspicuity markings that clearly outline the rear and the sides of the vehicle to make it visible for up to 1000 metres at night. ECE104 specifies the standard for the reflective materials used, and where and how it must be positioned on the vehicle or trailer.

Why is ECE 104 important?
Over a 10-year study, large goods vehicles and trailers were found to be 30 times less likely to be in an accident when correctly marked to ECE 104 standards. This finding has directly saved lives on the roads, down time of vehicles and lawsuits resulting from traffic incidents.

How to apply the tape to ECE104 regulation:

Rear of the vehicle:
Must be outlined with a complete box (contour) that is as close to the edge as practical. This must be at least 80% of the overall width (Red or Yellow only).

Side markings:
You have two options for the side - complete box contour or partial contour line (top corner markings).
The marking tape must equate to 80% of the total length of the Trailer/Lorry (excluding cabs and draw bars).
If only doing a partial contour, the top corners must be at least 25cm long in each direction.
Only Yellow or White tape is permitted in the UK.

Our ECE104 stock comprises of:

Oralite VC104+ 50mm Tape

Avery V6700 50mm Tape

3m 983 Diamond Grade 50mm Tape