Reflective Tape - How It Works and Where to Get It

reflective tape
There are a large variety of reflective tapes on the market, however, they all reflect light in one of two ways. The first way is via glass beads (pictures below) and the second way is through micro prisms (pictures above).


reflective tape
Glass bead tapes are the oldest and most common retro reflective tape. These tapes reflect light via thousands upon thousands of small glass beads embedded into the tape. Each glass bead reflects light back to the source. Hence the name retro reflective tape. In this glass bead class of tape there are two main varieties, engineer and high intensity.

Engineer grade reflective tape has no pattern on top and is simply a solid color to the naked eye. When light strikes the tape it is reflected back to the source and the tape appears to light up. Engineer grade tapes typically reflect at a rate of about 75 candlepower. There is a picture of this tape below. This is the type of material you would see on a fire truck, police car or stop sign. Also, your cars tag is the same technology. Within the engineer class of glass bead tapes there are two types. Standard engineer for signs and flexible engineer for vehicles. We carry the flexible version because it can be used for any purpose. It will stretch making it perfect for any application.

The second class of glass bead tape is known as high intensity reflective tape. It is characterized by a honeycomb pattern which is also referred to as encapsulated lens tape. Within each honeycomb there are concentrations of glass beads. Many more per square centimeter than engineer grade tape. This concentration of glass beads creates a much brighter tape. High Intensity tapes give off around 250 candlepower. Traffic cones and road barrels use this material as well as many brighter street signs.


reflective tape
As stated before, the second way that reflective tapes reflect light is through small microprisms built into the tape. A company called "Reflexite" invented this type of tape several decades ago. These tapes are called "Prismatic Tapes". They are also know as Diamond Grade or Crystal Grade depending on the manufacturer. They are the brightest of all the tapes. These films utilize small prisms that reflect light back to the source in higher concentrations than glass beads.

Because the tape uses man made micro prisms, the angle of reflectivity can be adjusted depending on the tapes intended use. For example, "SOLAS Tape", which is the brightest of all the prismatic tapes, reflects most of its light back to the source. This makes the tape brighter but is is not as visible at sharp angles. "DOT Tape" is also prismatic but it reflects light back at greater angles thus making itself seen at sharper angles. Some other examples of prismatic tape are "School Bus Reflective Tape" and "Rail Car Reflective Tape".

Click Here for Prismatic Diamond Grade Type Tape

Click Here for Engineer and High Intensity Glass Bead Type Reflective Tapes

To visit our main safety products site Click Here. If you have any questions about which tape is right for your application or need samples feel free to email me at

Steve Cole - Owner

reflective tape
reflective tape