4.1 – Traffic Signs: Shapes and Colors

Traffic signs have specific shapes and colors that denote specific meaning. These shapes and colors allow you to quickly determine whether you are being presented with:

  • Regulation
  • Warning
  • Information or guidance


img37The octagon-shaped sign is used exclusively for stop signs.




An equilateral triangle shaped sign pointed down means YIELD to other vehicles and pedestrians.


img_01The shape of a circle is used for railroad advance warnings and civil defense evacuation route markers. This sign is most commonly used in California for advance warning that means there is a railroad crossing ahead.



This shape of a crossbuck is used exclusively to warn of a railroad crossing.



img_03This shape is used exclusively to indicate a school zone or a school crossing. A driver should be able to immediately recognize that a sign in the shape of a pentagon means that you should watch for children in or around the roadway.


img_04The shape of a diamond sign is used exclusively for warning signs (e.g., cross road ahead, end/begin divided road, merging traffic, curves and construction warning signs). This sign indicates that there is a potentially dangerous situation ahead or some change in roadway conditions ahead.


img_05This sideways, elongated triangle is used as a warning sign. This sign may also have the words NO PASSING inside the triangle. When a driver sees this yellow and black sign, he or she should not attempt to pass (the lines on the road will also indicate a no-passing area).

img_06The shape of a vertical rectangle is used for regulatory (e.g., speed limit, no parking, carpool, and keep right) and sometimes warning (e.g., slow- children at play) signs.



img_07The square shape sign is used for regulatory (e.g., do not enter, no U turn, no parking, no pedestrian crossing), warning (e.g., advisory speed limit and construction) and guide (camping and airport) signs.

img_08The shape of horizontal rectangle is used for regulatory (e.g., road closed and carpool), warning (e.g., signal or stop ahead) and guide (e.g., rest area ahead and construction) signs.


colorsBLACK is used as background for ONE WAY, night speed limit (in other states) and truck regulatory signs. It is also used as a legend color on signs with white, orange and fluorescent yellow-green backgrounds.

RED is used exclusively for:

  • redSTOP and YIELD signs
  • Multi-way supplemental plates (e.g., 4-way stop)
  • DO NOT ENTER and WRONG WAY signs
  • For legend or symbols on certain regulatory signs
  • Part of Interstate and certain State route Markers

img_10A red circle with a red line through it is also used to denote that something is not permitted. The picture inside the circle img_09shows what you cannot do.


img_11WHITE is used as background for route markers, guide signs and certain regulatory signs. It also used as a legend color on img_12img_13signs with brown, green, blue, black and red backgrounds.



img_14ORANGE is used as background color for construction and maintenance signs.img_15


img_16YELLOW is used as background color for warning signs (except construction and maintenance signs), and some school signs.img_17



img18BROWN is used as background color for guide and information signs related to points of recreational or cultural interest and on some street name signs.


img_19GREEN is used as background color for guide signs, mileposts and street name signs. It is also used a as legend colorimg_20

on permissive regulation and parking signs.



img_21img_22BLUE is used as background color for traveler services information signs, Civil Defense Evacuation Route Markers and some street name signs.img_23




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