By the fifteenth century, most European maps were carefully colored. Profile drawings of mountains and hills were shown in brown, rivers and lakes in blue, vegetation in green, roads in yellow, and special information in red. A look at the legend of a modern map confirms that the use of colors has not changed much over the past several hundred years. To facilitate the identification of features on a map, the topographical and cultural information is usually printed in different colors. These colors may vary from map to map. On a standard large-scale topographic map, the colors used and the features each represent are:
a. Black. Indicates cultural (man-made) features such as buildings and roads, surveyed spot elevations, and all labels.
b. Red-Brown. The colors red and brown are combined to identify cultural features, all relief features, non-surveyed spot elevations, and elevation, such as contour lines on red-light readable maps.
c. Blue. Identifies hydrography or water features such as lakes, swamps, rivers, and drainage.
d. Green. Identifies vegetation with military significance, such as woods, orchards, and vineyards.
e. Brown. Identifies all relief features and elevation, such as contours on older edition maps, and cultivated land on red-light readable maps.
f. Red. Classifies cultural features, such as populated areas, main roads, and boundaries, on older maps.
g. Other. Occasionally other colors may be used to show special information. These are indicated in the marginal information as a rule.