Airport markings are a really big help for the pilot, they provide information during taxi, takeoff and landing and enhance safety. These signs should be uniform around all airports in the world. Certain standards are created for these airport markings and sign systems and every airport operator should comply to these.
The pilot must familiarize him/herself with these markings and they can be found in the relevant documentation (AIP). Every country has their own regulations based on ICAO documentation, such as Annex 14, Volume I (Aerodrome Design and Operations) and the Aerodrome Design Manual, Part 4 (Visual Aids).
This information is standardized and the presentation will be the same on every airport around the world, due to the influence of ICAO. You should know these signs by heart and as such are able to find your way around the airport without taking off from the wrong runway or taxiway.
Having intimate knowledge of run- and taxiway markings can make life so much easier for the pilot when visiting other airports than those you are normally accustomed used too. Trying to find the airport authority to pay the landing fees or close the flight plan can be a challenge if the signs can not be understood correctly.
Precision, non precision and visual runways have their own distinct markings, ranging from threshold, designation, centerline, touchdown zone and aiming markers. The image to the right shows a precision runway you might encounter when flying into controlled airports.
Smaller airports usually have no full instrument approach, aircraft fly IFR to a certain altitude and distance and then complete the flight under VFR rules closing the flightplan at that time. These runways have different markings as shown to the left, bottom image.
Runways can have different markings depending on the fact if there is a precision or non precision approach. Image left top and right above shows these markings.
The runways shown here have 20 (two zero) as designation, the numbering is aligned with magnetic north. And this should be cross checked with the magnetic compass by the pilot before takeoff from that runway (runway heading checked).
Obstacles in the approach path sometimes makes it necessary to displace the runway threshold marking, you can see that to the right. There are three possibilities to indicate such situations: displaced threshold, taxiway aligned with runway and blast pad or stop- or clearway marked with chevrons.
Chevrons indicate an area which is unusable for aircraft landing, taking off and taxi. Their color is yellow and aircraft should not go there at all times except when used in emergencies.
That area at the beginning of the runway marked with a large arrow can be used for takeoff but not for landing. This saves time and gets you in the air sooner and have a better obstacle clearance.
Runway threshold stripes indicate the width of the runway: 4 stripes is 60 feet (18 m), 8 stripes is 100 feet (30 m) and 12 stripes is 150 feet (45 m).
You will see that taxiways have at least a centerline and runway holding markings as a bare minimum. Whenever the taxiway is not separated from other pavement there will be an edge marker. The centerline is a continuous yellow line and the taxiway edge lines can be a double continuous or dashed line. Where the dashed line indicates that there might be a need for aircraft to enter that particular area, e.g. an apron or such.
Aircraft may be instructed to hold at a certain point before entering or crossing an active runway. This is marked by a double dashed and continuous yellow line. If there is an ILS approach to that runway there is an extra double yellow line with vertical connecting lines, you need to hold at that position when instructed to do so.
The area beyond this line is called the ILS critical area and any object here may disturb the ILS radio signals causing navigational problems for aircraft on the final approach path.
Airports have six different types of signs: mandatory, location, direction, destination, information and runway remaining signs. Mandatory and runway holding signs are in red, location signs are predominantly black and yellow text.
Direction signs are yellow with black text, sometimes an arrow is added to indicate a direction.
For a complete overview of new and any revised signs please check the latest issue of the FAR and AIM online or any other country specific AIP documentation. ICAO defines recommendations each country should follow so thats always a good place to start.