Are Hex Plates Illegal in The UK?

At Bespoke Plates, we want to give our customers (and anyone interested in personalising their number plate) peace of mind before deciding to make the investment. We are often asked what the difference between 3D and 4D plates is.

In this article, we will be addressing just that, along with the legalities and other solutions we offer to questions you may have or services you may need.

What are 3D and 4D plates?

4D Acrylic Plate
Are HEX Number Plates Legal?
3D Gel Plate

At Bespoke Plates, we offer the option of 3D plates and 4D plates. These are also known as gel plates.

In a nutshell, a gel plate refers to a number plate which has its characters altered to achieve a distinct 3-dimensional raised appearance on the words and numbers on the registration plate. This is achieved by applying industrial-strength long-lasting resin on top of the 3D characters.

The outlay of the gel characters provides a modern easily readable finish, along with a durable top layer of resin which ensures that the characters are durable as well as readable.

It’s important to mention that as of September 2021 new rules have been implemented to number plating in Great Britain as a result of Brexit. Here are the new rulings directly from the UK Government. We know that seems worrying especially if you’re considering personalising your number plate, however, at Bespoke Plates, we thoroughly advise you on what plates can be put on your car legally.

3D and 4D plates, although similar, have distinct differences, which we will explain below.

The difference between 3D and 4D plates

The key difference between these plates is in their production and aesthetic. 3D plates are easier and faster to make than 4D plates, which also makes them cheaper. Both plates are made by hand using alignment bars.

The physical difference between 3D and 4D plates is in how raised the letters are and how they look. 4D characters are more raised and rectangular. 3D characters are less raised and more rounded for an understated look.

3D plates

  • Characters placed by hand
  • Acrylic plate – polyurethane letters
  • Rounded-raised characters with a wet, gel-like look

3D plates are made from acrylic with individual raised letters. The raised letters are manufactured from polyurethane and get ‘stuck’ to the acrylic plate by hand. An aligner bar is used to guarantee perfect spacing.

The rounded and shiny gel-like appearance of 3D plates makes them a great choice if you want to add understated personalisation to your vehicle.

4D plates

  • Characters placed by hand
  • Acrylic plate – acrylic letters (laser cut)
  • Rectangular and deep-raised characters

4D plates are also made from acrylic but instead of polyurethane characters, they use professionally laser-cut characters made from acrylic sheets. This allows the characters to be thicker and more rectangular for a more eye-catching look.

You can also get 4D gel characters which have a ‘wet look’. These are made in the same way as 3D letters but have a thicker profile.

In terms of cost, 4D plates carry a premium over 3D plates by up to 20%. The reason 4D plates cost more is that the individual characters are laser cut, or they are of the thicker gel variety. In the case of laser-cut, the characters are also made to order in-house.

The 3D and 4D plates we offer are available in several styles:


  • 4D 3mm
  • 4D 5mm
  • 4D Gel
  • 4D Glitter Gel
  • Carbon 4D Gel
  • Krystal 4D
  • Krystal Gel


  • Black
  • Carbon Brickwork
  • Carbon Galaxy
  • Glitter Gel

It’s important to note that with all these different styles, the only thing that changes is the texture and appearance of the characters.

Want to see what we mean rather than read an explanation? head over to our website so you can visualize what your plate could look like. Do you like what you see? We have same-day collections and fittings available.

Want more information on the 3D vs 4D plates? Check out our blog for more answers.

Are 3D and 4D plates legal?


Yes, they are perfectly legal, however, you must be within the guidelines set by the government. Our team will also guide you when creating your plate regarding what is legal to drive on the road. The conditions that your number plate must meet are:

  • be made from a reflective material – for the purpose of road safety
  • black display characters on a white background (front plate)
  • black display characters on a yellow background (rear plate)
  • not have a background pattern – so as not to distort the readability of your plate
  • be marked to show who supplied the number plate – to assist with thefts and sourcing queries
  • be marked with a British Standard number – this is ‘BS AU 145e’ for plates fitted after 1 September 2021
  • The characters must not be removable or reflective. If your number plates were fitted after 1 September 2021, they must also be a single shade of black.

Your personalised number plates can also:

When it comes to 3D and 4D plates being illegal to drive on the road, it is only in the instance of a show plate being used.

What is a show plate?

A show plate is a number plate made for display purposes with mild to extreme modifications on characters, spacing and more. The plate owner has complete freedom when designing a show plate.

Show plates offer a variety of uses and functions including:

  • Being a thoughtful gift for a car enthusiast.
  • Can be used as a prop for a film of any production value.
  • A unique and personal decoration for a home, bedroom or office.
  • A deterrent for thieves, replacing your plate with a show plate (When on private property) can deter thieves from taking your vehicle, as the likelihood of them getting stopped whilst in the car with show plates on is very high.
  • It can be a perfect compliment to a car you or someone you know have put a lot of time into customising.

Show plates are illegal to use on public roads. Using a show plate on any public road could lead to a fine of £1000 and can also get points added to your licence.

Using a show plate on private property is perfectly legal. We make mention of this with every purchase and/or installation of show plates.

The reason it is illegal to use whilst driving on a public road is due to some designs being harder to read for other road users, whilst alternative backgrounds, spacings and character raising can make technologies such as speed cameras and ANPRs struggle to recognise the plate.

Driving a vehicle from public to private land with show plates on is also illegal.

Show plates generally do not fall in the ‘BS AU 145D’ structure making the vehicle’s origin and owner harder to establish, which will put other road users at risk.

Click here to read the ruling on licence plating in the UK. Our blog site offers insight into show plates and their rules. If you’re considering buying a show plate for yourself or someone else, browse our website for the style you want.

Our service for your brand-new plate

At Bespoke Plates our process is very straightforward and is as follows

  1. Head to our website, and choose between 3D or 4D plates under the ‘build your plate tab
  2. Enter your registration for a preview of the plate
  3. Specify whether or not this will be a show plate
  4. Choose your style
  5. Select whether your plate will be for the front and back of your car or just one of them
  6. Select your size
  7. Select additional customizable options
  8. Have it delivered to your home

Alternatively, we can also install your plates for you, if you know what you want, and when you are able to have it installed, get in contact and see how we can help you today.

As a legally recognised supplier and installer of custom plates, we can guarantee your plates will abide by the specifications of the law and will advise you if your design falls outside of the specifications.

Here for all of your plating needs

We hope for anyone still wondering ‘about the difference between 3D and 4D Plates’’ that we provided all the right answers and options for all of your plate modification needs. We at Bespoke Plates have all the options you can ask for, as an approved licence 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:

  • Email –
  • Phone – 0333 006 7878
  • Visit in-store

36A Broughton Street,
M8 8NN

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