What do all the colors on Google Maps mean?

What do all the colors on Google Maps mean?

Google Maps is a great way to find the best route to a given location. And did you know that Google Maps is color coded to help you find what you’re looking for more easily?

Since there are many colors in Google Maps, it can be difficult to know what each color means. In this article, you’ll find out how each color can help you find different things in Google Maps.

What is the meaning of each color?

Whether it’s new navigation features or improved security features, Google is always looking to improve the experience of its users.

One of its lesser-known features is Google Color Coding for Maps, designed to help users find things instantly without even looking for them. Google has actually based the color coding of its maps on numerous studies and research. The idea is to take a minimalist approach and create a more detailed representation of the world on the maps.

Let’s start with the basic colors:


Yellow : These are the highways and main streets of a city. They are difficult to identify because the main roads are a little less colorful and look more yellow, while the highways are marked with a deeper shade of yellow, giving them an orange look. In the example below, you can see what each color looks like on highways and major roads.

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

Striped white: This type of coloring will be used for parking areas. Not all car parks will be identified with this color, but some will be, such as airport car parks.

Dark green lines: They mean that there is a route for pedestrians or cyclists, and they can be in a city or in a green space, such as a park. Don’t let the color green fool you; if you find one next to a highway or a main road in a city, it does not mean that it is a green road. It will probably be a concrete pedestrian road only.

Dark gray lines: If they are thick, they represent a fallow road, and if they are very thin, they represent a railway line.

Screenshot from Google Maps showing the differences between railway and underground road.


Solid Grey: This color represents non-commercial areas (mostly residential). There are two types of gray: dark gray and light gray.

Ordinary residential areas are shown in light gray, but if you zoom in there will be a distinction between buildings. Residential buildings will be depicted in dark gray on a light gray background.

Dark gray is also used to symbolize unique sites, such as airports and certain industrial areas, as well as even larger university campuses. Below you will see an example of an airport highlighted in dark gray.

Screenshot showing an airport in Google Maps

It is important to note that while universities appear dark gray on maps, if you zoom in enough to see all of the different buildings in the institution, some will be tan and some gray.

Military bases will also be identified in dark gray (but only in certain countries, including the United States). In the example below, you can see the separation between US Naval Base San Diego and the civilian residential area on the right.

It’s only different if you’re far away; if you zoom in, both areas will look the same except for the roads. Military base roads are dark gray.

Military and civilian areas in Google Maps from a screenshot of San Diego.

Red : This color symbolizes medical establishments or hospitals, care centers, and sometimes retirement homes. Hospitals will only appear in red if you zoom out; once you zoom in, each building in the hospital will be beige or gray. During this time, the background will remain red. The idea behind turning a hospital red is that you can identify it instantly.

Light tan: This color symbolizes commercial areas and commercial buildings. If you select any city in the world in Google Maps, the city will be divided into two colors: gray and tan. The tawny areas represent the commercial centers of the city, which generally include the city center and the historic old town.

Screenshot of color coded commercial and residential areas on Google Maps.

If you were to download a map to view it offline, all of that data and color coding would remain as detailed as if you were viewing the map online.


Dark Tan: This color is used for public beaches where people can go to laze and enjoy the sun.

Blue : This color signifies water and rivers.

Brown : Google Maps uses many shades of brown, which can represent anything from a desert to a national park to a mountain range. Depending on the location, they will usually be labelled. Officially, Google Maps calls this the natural sand/shrub color.

Green : Google Maps also uses different shades of green to represent parks, sidewalk trees, trails, and other natural areas. There are actually two main types of green: natural vegetation green and nature reserve/tundra green.

The example below shows an area around Las Vegas, Nevada. In this example, you can clearly see all the different shades of green and brown used in Google Maps to identify natural features.

Nature depicted on Google Maps in an example in Las Vegas showing deserts and green areas.


Green : If your maps have the traffic layer, this color means that there should be no traffic delay.

Orange : If your maps have the traffic layer or are selected Directionsthis color means there is traffic and it will affect your route.

Red : There are two types of red: normal red and dark red. If your maps have the traffic layer or if you have selected DirectionsRed on the street means heavy traffic and can mean an accident or construction. Dark red means very heavy traffic.

Blue : The blue color only appears on the roads when you select the function Directions option. This means the roads are clear and there is little or no traffic.

The theory behind color coding

Google has put a lot of thought into its color code. Originally, when Google Maps appeared in 2005, it was used to get you from point A to point B. There was hardly any detail in the key features, making it difficult to tell the key things apart terrain (urban and natural) and text.

Then there were too many colors, so the Google team had to scale down and find the perfect fit to properly distinguish all the essential aspects of a map while still being able to navigate it without being overwhelmed. . This approach was then supplemented with further detail and granularity from Google Maps.

Interestingly, the solution turned out to be simplicity rather than complexity; the simplicity has allowed users and designers to navigate Google Maps and fully understand what they find there. And believe it or not, the appearance is not the same all over the world, because the Google team has taken into account the cultural aspects of the perception of nature.

Google Maps: More than meets the eye

As part of the Google mindset, Google Maps will continue to be updated to meet our needs and better help us in our daily lives. Color coding is just one of the latest examples of ingenuity to help you quickly find what you’re looking for without taking minutes trying to scan a map.

If in the future you do not know what the colors mean in Google Maps, you can refer to this article as many times as you want.