Appearance and Durability: What Materials Is Best Suited for Nameplates?

For anyone who is in the market for nameplates, the first obstacle that needs to be overcome is the astonishing variety of choices that need to be made. This is primarily due to the countless ways nameplates today are used. Gone are the old days when the only option available was the self-stick “Hello! My Name Is…” standby. Today’s nameplates are made from a massive selection of sizes, shapes, designs, processes, and, most of all, materials. 

Even when the choice is reduced to metals, there are still decisions to make, such as which metal to use. Fortunately, custom metal nameplates still have many durable, attractive, and economical options. What follows will take you through the primary metal choices: aluminum, stainless steel, polycarbonate, and brass.


Of all the all-around useful materials, aluminum is probably considered number one. Since it is highly durable and lightweight, it has been used to make everything from soda cans to aircraft parts.

Fortunately, these same attributes make it an excellent choice for custom nameplates as well. 

Aluminum allows for many choices in terms of color, size, and thickness. It’s also easy to print on providing a beautiful appearance for its many uses.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is another name plate option that will stand up to virtually everything you can throw at it. It’s tough enough to withstand almost anything from rough handling to the most extreme weather. Compared to aluminum, stainless steel is more substantial, which adds to the weight, but it is also more durable.

There are several choices for printing on stainless steel, primarily chemical deep etching with added baked enamel paint.  


Need a nameplate material that is great for both indoor and outdoor use? Polycarbonate is probably the right choice. Polycarbonate provides excellent durability from the elements, so it is close to lasting forever. Not only that but because of the image being printed on the underside of a transparent material, any image transferred to it will be visible as long as the label.  This also makes it an excellent choice when a reverse image is needed.


Brass has an excellent reputation for both its attractive appearance as well as durability. It is also a natural at resisting chemicals, abrasion, heat, and salt-spray. Images placed on brass are most often either laser or chemically etched, then filled with baked enamel.

When most people are faced with making a decision on what material to make custom nameplates, most believe their options are limited to only stainless steel or aluminum.

However, when all of the options are examined, it comes down to not a matter of what, but which. 

So, what’s the best choice for your custom nameplates?

Selecting the best material from which to create your custom nameplates boils down to personal preference, requirements, usage, and environment.

What will the tags be used for?

What are the conditions the tags will have to hold up under?

What personal preferences/requirements do you have?

In short, there is no best “all-around material” from which to make custom nameplates. Just as is the case with practically anything else, there is good and bad to nearly any choice. The best choice boils down to what is wanted and under what conditions it will be used. Once these decisions are made, the best alternative will usually emerge, and in more cases than not, the choice selected will turn out to be the best one.