What Color are Guide Signs?

What Color Are Guide Signs

The color of signs is important so they can quickly and accurately convey information to the viewer. This is why signs along the roads must conform to a standard set by the United States Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration (FHA), as published in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).

This standard ensures that the colorsm, as well as the shapes of the signs, are the same in all states and are therefore easily identifiable wherever you travel within the United States, improving the flow of traffic and helping to keep travelers safe.

What are Guide Signs?

Simply put, guide signs provide directional and mileage information to specific destinations for travelers in unfamiliar areas. They direct road users along streets and highways; often informing them of intersecting routes and guiding them to cities, rest stops, and many other destinations.

Guide indicators also identify nearby rivers and streams, parks, forests, and historical sites. In short, they give information to motorists that will help them find their way as easily as possible.

These indicators may be rectangular, square, or other shapes. Requirements include not only the color, shape, and size of the sig, but also the lettering and symbols present. If the placards are to be used at night, they need to either be illuminated or retroreflective, so that they can be easily read at night and in poor visibility conditions. Outdoor indicators must also be protected with a sealed outer surface to maintain the integrity and readability of the information they contain.

Types of Guide Signs

There are guide placards for freeways, expressways, and conventional roads. They mark federal interstates, state highways, and county or municipal roadways with their information, but there are many other types of guide signs as well:

Highway Guide Signs

Highway guide signs are green with white letters. These indicators provide most of the information travelers need to reach their destination. They are usually placed overhead but they can also be located on the side of a freeway.

Most highways and expressways are posted with multiple guide placards to give motorists plenty of warning. Due to the high speed and heavy traffic on highways, it can be easy to miss one single sign.

Notice of Highway Exit

Highway exit placards are posted at regular intervals to enable drivers to safely navigate to their exit. They can also be placed overhead as well as on the ground.

These signs convey important information such as the exit number, how far it is to the exit, and whether the exit is on the left or right side of the freeway, giving you time to prepare for a lane change if necessary.

Highway Mile Markers

Highway milepost markers are placed each mile along the side of the roadway from one end of the state to the other. Zero always begins at the south or west border where the route begins. Mile markers are smaller in size with a horizontal, rectangular shape.

What Colors Are Guide Signs Mile Marker

Exit Only

If there is a yellow panel with the message “EXIT ONLY” placed on a regular green freeway sign, the lane directly below the sign will not continue along the highway but will instead exit onto another road. If you intend to continue on the main freeway, you will have to change lanes to stay on it. Otherwise, you may remain in the Exit Only lane and exit the highway.

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Destination Distance

Destination distance guide indicators tell you how far away you are from your destination. They are usually rectangular but may also be square, depending upon the amount of information they have to convey.

U.S. Highway Route Marker

Highway route marker placards have a white shield on a black background, with the route number in black lettering inside the shield. These indicators are used on all U.S. routes and in connection with multiple route sign combinations on intersecting highways.

National Forest Route Markers

National forest route markers have a brown background with white lettering, and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

What Colors Are Guide Signs National Forest

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What Colors are Guide Signs?

The most common color on guide signs is green but also can include blue, and brown. You will also see signage with a black background and white lettering for U.S. route and state route markers, as noted above.


The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) states that “green shows permitted traffic movements or directional guidance.” Signs on streets and highways are required to have a white message and border on a green background. All messages, borders, and legends are also required to be retroreflective, and all backgrounds to be retroreflective or illuminated.

This is why you see them so frequently along the road, guiding you through interchanges, showing exits in advance, and distances to the next exit. Green guide indicators are also used in airports, guiding you to the proper terminal, and green is used on parking placards and other permissive regulation signage.

What Colors Are Guide Signs Green Sign


Blue primarily conveys information on traveler services, information for tourists, and emergency evacuation routes. Blue is also part of interstate markers as well as some state route markers.

Signs with the blue background can guide you to:

  • gas
  • food
  • lodging
  • hospitals
  • handicap accessible facility
  • tent camping
  • information services

What Colors Are Guide Signs Blue Sign


Brown placards are used to indicate sites of public recreation, as well as national forest locations and boundaries. They also provide guidance to areas, facilities, and services within public lands and forest areas, including:

  • trail heads
  • bathrooms
  • swimming area
  • motorhome facilities
  • picnic area
  • snowmobile trails
  • boat launch area

Keeping Guide Signs Uniform

The right signage anywhere is important, but staying within the MUTCD guidelines can be daunting. However, working with an experienced, expert signage company that understands your needs as well as what it takes to meet industry standards can make the process pain-free.

At Worksafe Traffic Control Industries we do that every day. We manufacture construction, commercial and highway indicators, as well as state of the art traffic control equipment and solutions. Whether your requirements are big or small, contact us to see how we can help.

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