Gel Plates vs Acrylic Plates

Gel Plates and Acrylic plates, also known as 3D and 4D plates respectively, are a sought after customisation options that have a subtle yet eye-catching aesthetic. But which one is the best?

This blog will tell you everything you need to know about gel plates vs acrylic plates…

Bespoke Plates is a renowned and legally certified registration platemaker and installer, with options of 3D Plates, 4D Plates, Show Plates, regular / Electric Vehicle Plates and more. We are the one-stop shop for all things registration plates!

Whether it’s a Private Plate, Gel Plate, Standard Registration Plate or plating accessories, we have you covered.

As a certified and experienced team of plate fitters and makers, our plates are installed to the specification of UK law, provided alongside the appropriate paperwork you require. (The only exception to this is show plates.)

Is number plate customisation legal?

Is number plate customisation legal?

Yes. Number plates can be customised and still remain legal, within reason. There are strict standards that have been created and enforced by the DVLA. Anything beyond those stipulations will result in your plate being identified as a show plate.

A show plate is not for road use. It is strictly for display purposes. Some show plates can look convincingly like a legal number plate, but can be easily recognised through ANPR. With that in mind, here are some of the legal requirements if you choose to customise your number plate.

  • Established standards: Your customised plate must comply with BS AU 145e, which is the latest standards regarding plating, enacted in 2022. These standards highlight specific details such as character size, font, reflectivity and background colours.

Further to this point, backgrounds must be yellow for the rear plate, and white for the front plate. In addition, the characters of the plate must be black. There is no allowance for patterns on a number plate.

  • Using the right materials: Most baseplates for number plates are acrylic, which is the standard. That being said, current regulations don’t specify which material should be used. However, any customisations must be in alignment with the aforementioned BS AU 145e standards.
  • Certification: For regular plate customisation, like getting a 3D or 4D plate, you don’t need direct approval from the DVLA beforehand. However, you must ensure that you buy from a legally recognised and certified supplier in order for a legally compliant plate.

In order to avoid legal implications, remember to avoid the following traps for your customisation. You should avoid…

  • Irregular font or spacing of the plate characters.
  • Obscured characters, or ones that are too large or too small.
  • Patterns, designs, or flags/markings that are not legally recognised.
  • Intentionally confusing lettering. For example, making a ‘0’ look like the letter O, or vice versa.

What happens if I use an illegal number plate?

If you are caught using an illegal number plate, you can expect one or more of the following consequences.

And depending on the situation, it has been caught in…

  • Points on your licence.
  • Confiscation of the vehicle.

Are private plates legal?

Yes. Although the characters on private plates can vary significantly, these plates are legally pre-approved before creation or purchase. And any handling between people, whether they are buying or selling, includes paperwork that certifies the plate’s legality.

There is an option to customise a private plate to a 3D or 4D design, however you would require all the relevant paperwork that proves your ownership before the customisation is authorised.

Gel Plates vs Acrylic plates

Gel Plates vs Acrylic plates

When it comes to deciding between gel plates or acrylic plates, you’re actually deciding between a 3D or a 4D number plate, respectively. The aforementioned materials are not the whole constitution of the plate, rather, they are the materials used to create the characters for either a 3D or 4D plate.

Both options are made on an acrylic base. So what is the difference between the two options? Let’s break it down.

Gel plates (3D number plate)

  • The lettering is made from a polyurethane gel resin, which is applied over printed characters.
  • The final result is a smooth look for the plate’s characters. It has a glossy finish, and the characters look rounded, creating a 3D effect.
  • The benefits of a 3D gel plate is that they offer a unique style, and has the potential to be cheaper than a 4D plate depending on your provider.
  • The drawbacks of this particular style is that it can be more prone to scratching compared to a 4D plate. There is also a chance the gel may discolour over time.

Acrylic plates (4D number plate)

  • For 4D plates, its letterings are made from laser-cut acrylic pieces, shaped to the character in question, and attached to the baseplate.
  • This results in a bold, defined 3D look, it stands apart from 3D plates. This can be seen through the thicker profile for the lettering, and the sharper edges on them too.
  • This option is more durable and scratch resistant as opposed to its 3D counterpart. And if you are creating a 4D show plate, there is an option of additional colours for the characters.
  • Due to the labour costs, and the additional, precise work required to create these plates, they are generally more expensive than a 3D plate.

Which plate is better?

When it comes to deciding between these plates, there is very little separating them. So with that in mind, the most important factor is which you prefer. Of course, 4D Plates come at a higher cost in most places, with the additional benefit of durability. Whereas 3D plates can be cheaper, but more prone to damage.

If you’re struggling to decide between the two, our website has a live plate viewer. Which means you can view how your plate will look with either the 3D or 4D option, before you even make an order!

Where to buy acrylic/ gel number plates

Whether it is a private plate, a standard plate, or a gel plate, getting your own bespoke custom number plate is relatively simple. In most cases, you can even do it from the comfort of your own home! If you opt to use Bespoke Plates, you can order a custom number plate directly from our website.

Let us walk you through the process of choosing your plate through us.

  1. Head to the Bespoke Plates website
  2. Select the plate style you want under the “Build Your Plate” tab. Alternatively, you can follow this link.
  3. Enter your registration (You can press ‘preview’ to see your registration with all the modification options you have selected.)
  4. When selecting your chosen plate, you can opt for 3D/4D options, a Hex plate, and whether you want a legal plate or a show plate.
  5. Select preferred optional accessories.
  6. Decide if you are collecting with installation, or if you want it to be delivered.
  7. Confirm your order!

Installing through Bespoke Plates ensures the best service & secure installation for your number plate, along with guidance for any questions you may have.

Invest in gel/acrylic number plates today

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In this blog, we have highlighted our plate options and the information you need to obtain our stylish customisation options for your vehicle. We aim to have confidently shown you the key differences between gel plates vs acrylic plates.

We hope that we have provided all the right answers and options for all of your plate modification needs.

Bespoke Plates has all the options you can ask for, as an approved registration vendor we can guarantee your modification abides by the DVLA rules whilst offering same-day collections and full fitting service.

To get in touch and discuss the full fitting service we offer with our plates, you can talk to one of the members of our team by:


Phone 0333 006 7878

Visit in-store

36A Broughton Street,


M8 8NN

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