Using Color Effectively in Signage

Your No. 1 mission is to create signage that communicates a message, an idea, a feeling, an event, or a brand – with impact. And when you are creating a permanent fixture with channel lettering, showcasing a company name, the stakes are higher. Ensuring there is no misjudgment of size, lighting, color, graphics or font when scoping out a project is important not only for your customer but also your business and referrals.  

Visibility is the name of the game when it comes to outdoor signage. The lettering and graphics need to be seen and understood easily and quickly from a distance. Color is one of the biggest opportunities – and challenges – when it comes to the effectiveness of your design.

Obviously, you have a fixed variable to start with: the background. If your building side is dark, choose a light color; if the building is light, choose a dark color. Your permit may also restrict certain colors requirements. Next, the business may already have an established brand color – which may or may not necessarily be optimal for signage readability.

Beyond these factors, it’s critical to consider the science and psychology of color and contrast. The color combination should be an extension of the message. Choose colors that reflect the company’s business or service. Orange, yellow and red are usually deemed to be high energy colors; blues, greens and violets tend to be associated with natural and relaxing themes. Look at Color Wheel to understand the relationships between primary, secondary and complimentary colors, to create color schemes that aren’t jarring to the eye or psyche.

A high color-contrast improves visibility. Here are the best color combinations, ranked in order of legibility from a distance.


color combinations


Color Examples and Meaning

Black: associated with power, elegance and formality

Letters tend to stand out more against a black background, than with other colored backgrounds, provided the lettering isn’t too small. White and yellow on black are excellent combinations.

Recommended usage: airports, offices, hotels and against visually busy environments

White: associated with light, goodness, innocence and purity

A white background surface obviously has the most versatility, but can absorb its environment, so be thoughtful against light backgrounds.

Recommended usage: museums, offices, retail, hospitals

Red: associated with energy, strength, power, determination and passion, or warning and danger

Red is very powerful color that stands out in a visually busy environment that works well with black, white and yellow lettering.

Recommended usage: warning signs, public spaces, restaurants, gyms

Yellow: associated with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy

A yellow background also works well in areas that are visually crowded. Yellow is a nice contrast with almost all strong colors but will get lost when combined with white.

Recommended usage: airports, road signs, public spaces

Blue: associated with relaxation, trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith and truth.

Blue is naturally a favorite color, and blue with white is globally recognized as informational. Blue contrasts well with most colors, except black.

Recommended usage: Transportation, hotels, retail signage, public spaces


In consideration of visibility from a distance, our team at Direct Wholesale Signage can always advise on the Top Signage Color Combinations, and we offer many colors in Acrylic, Returns, Trim Caps and Vinyl.


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