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Best color combinations for CUSTOM signs


Long ago, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA – MUTCD) established the colors to be used on traffic, road, regulatory and parking signs.  For custom signs, however, the color selection is often based upon personal taste, to match a company’s colors or logo and other reasons.

The MOST NOTICEABLE color combinations:

Yellow and Black:  #1

  • Studies have shown that this color combination is

                        a) more noticeable,

b) captures more attention and

c) is easier to read than any other color combination,

which is why danger / warning signs (such as “Curve Ahead” arrow signs) are made using these 2 colors.  Very noticable color combination, but may be a bit too stark for some applications.

Other good, high contrast combinations

  • Black and White, of course, offers the greatest contrast of any 2 color combination.  Speed limit and other regulatory information signs use these colors for maximum contrast.
  • Red and White, the colors of “Stop” signs, does not have as much contrast, but the red color stands out and commands attention.  It is also used for “Prohibitive Parking” signs such as “No Parking”, “Loading Zone Only” etc.
  • Green and White, Blue and White, Brown and White and Orange and Black:  All of these combinations are highly noticeable, are relatively easy to read and offer good to fair contrast, which is why they are used for highway exit signs, handicapped parking signs, park and recreation signs and for temporary highway construction signs.

Poor color combinations

  • Red and Black is usually also a poor color combination for signs because they too are difficult to read.
  • Yellow and White have the least contrast, followed closely by Orange and White, making them poor choices for sign colors because they are difficult to read



  • Except for signs where Black is one of the colors*, studies have also shown that if the LIGHTER of the two colors is used to form the LEGEND (text, symbol etc) and the DARKER color is used for the BACKGROUND, it is easier to read than signs made the other way around.
  • It is also easier for the eye to distinguish the legend at greater distances if this light color on dark background method is used.
  • This method also makes the sign appear larger and is useful if space does not permit the use of a larger sign.
  • Examples include the
    • white (light color) “STOP” text on a red (darker corlor) background for “Stop” signs and
    • white (light color) text on a green (darker color) background for highway exit signs. 
    • These signs are made this way because they can be seen and understood at greater distances than if made the opposite way.
  • * Exception: Black – although signs using black as the background color would be very noticeable during daylight hours, at night they would be very difficult to read and not very reflective overall.



  • White, of course, is the most reflective of all reflective sheeting colors
  • Yellow is next
  • Red, Green, Blue and Orange are in the middle
  • Brown is the least reflective
  • Black is not reflective


Hope that helps.

ARA Signs, Inc.

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