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 so you can more easily find what you’re looking for?

Since there are many colors in Google Maps, it can be difficult to know what each color means. In this article, you’ll learn 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 user experience.

One of its lesser-known features is Google Color Coding for Maps, designed to help users find things instantly without looking for them themselves. Google has actually based the color coding of its maps on several 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 highways and main streets in a city. They are difficult to identify because the main roads are slightly less colorful and look more yellow, while the highways are marked with a deeper shade of yellow, giving them an orange appearance. In the example below, you can see how each color looks on highways and major roads.

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

Striped white: This type of color will be used for parking lots. Not all car parks will be identified with this colour, 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 area, such as a park. Don’t let the color green fool you; if you find one next to a freeway or a main road in a city, that doesn’t mean it’s a greenway. It will probably only be a concrete footpath.

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 rail and underground road.


Solid gray: 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 grey, 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 locations, 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 grey.

Screenshot showing an airport in Google Maps

It’s important to note that while universities appear dark gray on maps, if you zoom in enough to see all 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 US). In the example below, you can see the separation between the US Naval Base San Diego and the civilian housing area on the right.

It is only different if you are 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 institutions or hospitals, care centers and sometimes nursing homes. Hospitals are only shown in red if you zoom out; when you zoom in, every building in the hospital will be beige or gray. During this time, the background remains red. The idea behind making a hospital red is that you can identify it immediately.

Light tan: This color symbolizes commercial areas and commercial buildings. If you select a city in the world in Google Maps, the city will be divided into two colors: gray and tan. The yellow-brown areas represent the city’s commercial centers, 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 this 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 denotes 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 marked. Officially, Google Maps calls this the natural sand/bush 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.

The 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 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 chosen 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 possibility. This means that the roads are clear and there is little or no traffic.

The theory behind color coding

Google has thought a lot about 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 distinguish the most important things from 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 additional 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 Google’s thinking, 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 that helps you quickly find what you’re looking for without spending minutes trying to scan a map.

In the future, if you don’t know what the colors mean in Google Maps, you can refer to this article as many times as you want.

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