Colour is a key element of any organisation’s identity. Our research shows that patients and the public strongly associate the NHS with the colours blue and white. 87% of people spontaneously recall these two colours when asked about the NHS Identity.
Therefore, NHS Blue and white are the dominant colours in the NHS colour palette. They help signpost people to NHS organisations and services, by ensuring that materials are instantly recognisable as originating from the NHS. They also ensure that communications maximise the strong value of the NHS Identity and the positive attributes that patients, the public and stakeholders attach to the NHS.
It is important to note that the NHS colour palette applies to the design of NHS communications including graphics and illustrations. For illustrations, we recognise that the palette does not include colours for skin tones. Please use the colours you require for that purpose. The colour palette does not apply to portrait/subject photography. Colour photography usually contains a multitude of colours and does not need to reflect the NHS colour palette or the colour emphasis shown below. However, abstract images do need to follow the NHS colour palette as the images are being used as graphics.
Core NHS colours
The core NHS Blue and white are supported by four other groups of colours in the NHS colour palette, to provide NHS organisations with the flexibility to differentiate their communications from each other, but not from the NHS.
The colours in the NHS colour palette all offer at least an AA accessibility rating, with many offering the maximum AAA rating when used with sufficient contrasts on appropriate backgrounds.
Level 1: NHS blues
This is the top level palette that reinforces people’s association with blue and white. There are a number of hues to support the main NHS Blue colour to give lighter and darker alternatives to add tonal variety.
NHS Dark BluePantone: 287
NHS BluePantone: 300
NHS Bright BluePantone: 285
NHS Light BluePantone: 298
NHS Aqua BluePantone: 312
Level 2: NHS neutrals
These colours help to support the top level blues. Black and dark grey can be used for type, depending on the background and application. The lighter greys can be used as backgrounds when they are appropriate and are useful online colours. White is, of course, the most important neutral base. These colours will support the overall blue and white look if they are used with the proper emphasis.
NHS BlackPantone: Black 6
NHS Dark GreyPantone: 7545
NHS Mid GreyPantone: 7544
NHS Pale greyPantone: 7541
Level 3: NHS support greens
Green is close to blue in the colour spectrum and gives a feel of being in the same colour family. Therefore, when they are used moderately and in a secondary support role, they will not compromise the strong associations people have with blue and white. However, if it becomes too dominant it will impact on people’s ability to instantly recognise the NHS as being the source of the information.
NHS Dark GreenPantone: 342
NHS GreenPantone: 355
NHS Light GreenPantone: 368
NHS Aqua GreenPantone: 3272
Level 4: NHS highlights
Highlights are very useful for drawing attention to details, helping to warm up the blue look and providing accent colours to enable NHS organisations, partnerships and services to differentiate themselves from each other. However, they should not be used too heavily otherwise they change the overall look dramatically and people will not associate your communication with the NHS. Therefore, use minimally and do not use large blocks of these highlight colours.
The highlight colour ‘Emergency Services Red’ is not exclusively for use in relation to emergency and urgent care services. However, because of its strong association and use in this area, you should carefully consider how you use it for other purposes.
Euro Ambulance Yellow is a colour reference to be used for ambulance livery only.
NHS PurplePantone: 2685
Dark PinkPantone: 683
NHS PinkPantone: 675
NHS Dark RedPantone: 1955
Emergency Services RedPantone: 485
RAL 3020 Traffic Red
NHS OrangePantone: 144
NHS Warm YellowPantone: 1235
NHS YellowPantone: Process Yellow
Euro Ambulance YellowRAL 1016 Sulphur Yellow
Follow this guide to get the overall colour emphasis right. NHS Blue and white must always be the dominant colours. They can be supported by the other colours in the NHS colour palette as long as they are used in decreasing levels of emphasis, as shown in the chart below. This ensures that materials are instantly recognisable as originating from the NHS.
What does this mean in practice?
Here is an example of how the colour emphasis works in practice. This has:
- plenty of white
- prominent use of NHS Blue
- minimal use of highlights.
Tints are percentage values of the colours which look like this:
The top bar in each case shows the solid (100%) value of the colour and the bars below show decreasing values from 80% to 20%. It is acceptable to use tints of the colours. Any % value is accepted as long as it is visible, clear and accessible.
However, three important factors need to be considered when using tints:
- type and NHS logos should always be reproduced in 100% solid colour, never in a tint
- the NHS logo should never be reversed out of a tint, only out of 100% solid NHS Blue
- 100% solid NHS Blue should always be the dominant colour over any tints
- tints should never endanger the legibility or accessibility of any communication
- the colour emphasis should always be adhered to when using tints, as shown below.
Emphasis of tint use
100% solid NHS Blue and white must always be the dominant colours used. They can be supported by tints of the other colours in the NHS colour palette as long as they are used in decreasing levels of emphasis, as shown in the chart below.