What Do All the Colors on Google Maps Mean?

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What Do All the Colors on Google Maps Mean?

Google Maps is an excellent tool for determining the best route to a destination. And did you know that Google Maps is color-coded to make it simpler to locate what you’re searching for? If you didn’t, keep reading to see how each hue might assist you in finding various items on Google Maps.

What Does Each Color Mean?

Google is always working to improve its user experience, from new navigation capabilities to enhanced safety measures.

One of its lesser-known features is its Google color codes for maps, which are intended to help users discover items quickly without having to seek for them. Google really based the color coding of their maps on extensive research and study. The goal is to generate a more detailed depiction of the globe on maps using a minimalist approach.

Let’s start with the basic ones:


Yellow: These are the highways and key streets of a city. These are difficult to distinguish since primary roads are less colored and seem more yellow, while highways are marked in a stringer shade of yellow, making them appear orange. The examples below show how each hue appears on highways and major roads.

White: White is used for roads and regular city streets.

Striped White: This color will be utilized in parking lots. This hue will not be used to identify all parking lots, although some will, such as airport parking lots.

Dark Green Lines: These indicate the presence of a pedestrian or cycling path inside a city or a green space, such as a park. Don’t be fooled by the color green; just because you see one of these next to a highway or major road in a city doesn’t indicate it’s a green road. It will most likely simply be a concrete pedestrian path.

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Dark Gray Lines: If they are thick, they depict an overgrown road, and if they are extremely thin, they symbolize a railway.


Solid Gray: This color is associated with non-commercial places (primarily residential).There are two kinds of gray: dark gray and light gray. Ordinary residential neighborhoods are shown in light gray, but zooming in reveals a contrast between structures. Residential structures will be shown in dark gray on a light gray backdrop. The dark gray color is also used to represent unusual locations such as airports and various industrial districts, as well as major university campuses.

While colleges look as dark gray on maps, if you zoom in close enough to view all of the individual buildings inside the school, some will be tan and others gray.

Military bases will be recognized in dark gray as well (but only in certain countries, the US being one).The distinction between the US Naval Base in San Diego and the civilian residential area to the right may be seen in the illustration below. This is only noticeable from a distance; if you zoom in, both locations seem identical, save for the roadways. Military base roads will be dark gray.

Red: This hue is associated with medical or hospitals, healthcare institutions, and sometimes senior retirement homes. When you zoom out, hospitals show in red; when you zoom in, each structure in the hospital may be tan or gray. In the meanwhile, the backdrop will stay red. The objective behind painting a hospital red is to make it easy to spot.

Light Tan: This hue represents business regions and structures. When you choose a city on Google Maps, it will be separated into gray and tan zones. Tan regions will reflect the city’s commercial hubs, which would often comprise the downtown and historical old town.

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If you download a map offline, all of the data and color coding will stay as detailed as if you were viewing the map online.


Dark Tan: This hue is often used on public beaches where people may relax and enjoy the sun.

Blue: This color means water and rivers.

Brown: Google Maps use a variety of brown hues to indicate anything from a desert to a national park or a mountain range. They are frequently branded depending on where they are. Google Maps describes it “natural sand/shrub hue.”

Green: Different hues of green will be used by Google Maps to indicate parks, trees on the sidewalk, trails, and other natural places. Green is classified into two types: natural vegetation green and natural reservations/tundra green.

The illustration below depicts the region around Las Vegas, Nevada. In this example, you can see all of the distinct green and brown tones utilized in Google Maps to identify natural features.


Green: If your maps feature a traffic layer, this hue indicates that there should be no traffic delays.

Orange: If you have the traffic layer or Directions enabled on your maps, this hue indicates that there is some traffic, which may alter your path.

Normal and dark red are the two varieties of red. If you have the traffic layer or Directions enabled on your maps, red on the street indicates high traffic and might indicate an accident or construction. Dark red indicates very heavy traffic.

Blue: When you pick the “Directions” option, the color blue displays solely on highways. It denotes that the roads are clear with little or no traffic.

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The Theory Behind Color Coding

Google paid close attention to color-coding. When Google Maps first appeared in 2005, it was used to transport you from point A to point B, and there was little information in essential characteristics, making it difficult to differentiate major components of topography (urban and natural) and text.

Then there were too many colors, so the Google team had to scale down and find the right fit to discern all key parts of a map while still being able to traverse it without being overwhelmed. This was then added to Google Maps with further data and granularity.

Surprisingly, simplicity rather than complexity proved to be the answer; simplicity offered scalability for users and designers alike to traverse Google Maps and completely comprehend what was in them. And, believe it or not, it does not appear the same everywhere over the globe, as Google’s team studied cultural characteristics of how people view nature.

Google Maps: More Than Meets the Eye

Google Maps will continue to be improved to meet our demands and better assist us in our daily lives as part of the Google philosophy. Color coding is just one of their newest displays of inventiveness in helping you discover what you’re searching for fast without having to spend minutes analyzing a map.

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