10 Tips for Sign Colors

When it comes to color and signage, it’s all about simplicity. You want to use just enough color to get the job done and not overdo it and overwhelm your viewer with too much.

Just take a look at the signs you see all around you—most of them have pretty simple color schemes.  You can see the ones that have been ruined by poor color choices.

The digital age has made it easier to add more colors—and more shades, more fades, more outlines, more effects. Unless you’re a real master of color, all that can make a sign harder and slower to read.

Over the years, we’ve found a few guidelines that work when it comes to using color on signs. I hope you find them helpful, too.

1. Take a minimalist approach. 99% of the time, its best to start with one or two colors that fit the brand of the customer and the specifications of the job.  Often it’s black and red— or black and yellow. If the sign is going to be installed on a building, I’ll keep those colors in mind, however its very important that the sign is readable and with enough contrast to stand out.

2. Readability comes first. Although a sign can be beautiful, it isn’t a piece of fine art. The job of a sign is simple: to deliver a message. That’s not going to happen if it can’t be read easily. It takes discipline to keep that in mind, and color must be used only to improve readability.

3. Use color to help prioritize the message. Color is just as important a tool as letter size and weight when it comes to organizing the message for the reader. Color can soften the impact of certain copy, or it can help it shout.

4. Make sure there is plenty of contrast. Most signs need to be read in a hurry. A strong contrast between the letter color and background makes the lettering easier to read. Take advantage of that contrast on the sign’s primary message.

5. Add impact with color. Impact doesn’t mean in-your-face or busy or shocking or colorful. It means power and legibility. That gets hard to achieve as you introduce more colors into a layout.

6. Use black and white. On many signs we like to use white letters—yes, WHITE! That sounds rather blah at first, but check out the example shown above. These signs are very colorful and eye-catching—and the primary copy is white! We also often use some black or a very dark color somewhere on the sign. It adds contrast and impact, even in small doses.

7. Watch the effects. A little of this goes a long way. I rarely use them at all. They are so overused nowadays that much of their appeal has worn off, and they can really hurt the readability of the message.

Yes color is an important component of sign design, but its important to be sure that the color is being used to make the sign easy to read quickly, enhance your brand, and highlight the appropriate components.

Call us if you’d like to talk signs!