I see most people use a black and white academic CV. Will it be any problem
if I use a color CV like this template, which is mostly monochrome but uses blue in some places.

(I am applying for Graduate admission)

  • 44
    If you do use a color CV make sure it still looks good when printed monochrome! Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 20:19
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    @NoahSnyder this should be an answer.
    – user7112
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 20:28
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    I agree with @NoahSnyder. Chances are, if the CV is printed out, it will be printed out in black and white.
    – Yasha
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 20:57
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    Whatever you do, dont use coloured paper!
    – Spacedman
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 8:24
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    @Ooker, quite likely at the shortlist stage, so the interviewers have it to refer to.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:33

7 Answers 7


The general advice is that CVs should be outstanding because of their content while their form should be relatively dull-to-boring.

The example you link to has very subtle use of color (a dark blue for headings) and is tolerable. However, you still run the risk running into faculty with the perception that:

  1. your over-designed CV is either hiding things (i.e., lack of content)
  2. your over-designed CV is just a dressed up resume and that you don't understand academia at all

For those reasons, it's safest to go with a boring CV style and work on building content instead. This is generic advice for both graduate admissions as well as academic job searches.

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    I disagree about making it boring for the reasons you list. Design is a game of psychology with remarkable power. If you can convey the information in a more impactful way, then do it! Also, I think this must be field dependent because there are many top HCI researchers with extremely nice CVs with a lot of embellishments and images throughout. Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 21:03
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    Conversely, the bigger your name, the more latitude you have to make your cv more beautiful.
    – RoboKaren
    Commented Jan 7, 2016 at 21:05
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    @AustinHenley A quick google search for cv in HCI reveals to me that they are still in simple format.
    – Ooker
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 3:01
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    @Ooker Ok, I'll be more specific: Many CVs in HCI do not follow the typical boring format. Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 4:44
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    A basic implementation of the moderncv package is hardly a case of over-design. Really, all it means is that the applicant preferred to write their CV in LaTeX rather than Word, which is a pretty common situation in STEM subjects.
    – Moriarty
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 13:40

If you do use a color CV make sure it still looks good when printed monochrome! Some people on the committee will prefer to read hard copies, and in all likelihood they will be printed in monochrome.

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    It's a good general rule in academic writing to fall back gracefully when printed in monochrome -- most journals make it a (soft) requirement as well.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jan 8, 2016 at 9:35
  • also often photocopied in b&w
    – JamesRyan
    Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 16:18
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    (+1) That's true for every electronically created file that is destined for reading. Think how it would look on printed page... the even stronger test is "think how it would look after being faxed" (still around, these old timers). Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 18:31

The content is the most important thing on a CV.

Those reading your CV will be reading many others, and you want to do everything possible to make your CV easily readable, but you also want to make it stand out.

If you can use color in a professional way that makes important stuff stand out and enhances readability, it is my opinion that you should go for it! Just make sure your colors do not stand out too much against the rest of the text. (Bright red and black on white paper doesn't look good, but black and a gray-blue theme could go well.) Some color palettes are better than others, and different palettes might go better with different fonts or layouts.

Make your design simple (so as to not distract from your accomplishments), easy-to-read (to make the document easier to skim), and visually attractive (to make it stand out from all the other CVs). Choose a color that enhances these qualities.

I would also caution against using more than one color, unless you really know what you're doing and/or graphic design is part of the job you are applying for.

If you choose to use color, you may want to consider how different colors may be perceived by your reader, e.g. "Colors That Give Good First Impressions".

I strongly advise against using color for the background of your CV (again, unless you really know what you're doing). This is probably too unconventional for most people and that may be seen as undesirable to your intended audience.

I suppose you could choose a color palette that reflects your current institution's color palette and you could include your institution's logo/seal/etc. However, this is probably a bad idea. Your CV, like a resume, is meant to advertise you, not your institution. You should not show "brand loyalty" if you are looking to leave that institution.

As mentioned in another answer to this question, if you do use color, make sure it can print well.

Finally, if you must use more than one color, make sure it's colorblind-friendly. "Coloring for Colorblindness" by David Nichols is a good resource for choosing good colors. If you have a different color scheme, you can use the Color Blindness Simulator to help you evaluate your colors.


The moderncv class is the left-justified Times New Roman of CVs in LaTeX. It looks good, uses color reasonably, and has well-engineered defaults, so don't worry about issues when printing in black or white. It is a very popular package; for sure, everyone who has ever had to scan an academic CV in a scientific field has already seen a CV formatted to look exactly like yours. This isn't a bad thing in my view: it is unlikely to attract negative attention. As for attracting positive attention, generally you want to do that with the content of your CV, not with its unusual formatting. :)


In my point if view, a CV with colors is for digital viewing purposes. For instance, I usually color links in my CV for a person who views it in a PDF viewer to be able to click on the links.

However, if darker colors are chosen (such as navy blue or brick red), it would not cause any problems when printed grayscale. However, if one chooses to use colors like bright green, then the links (or references) will be printed obscure.


I agree with most of the replies given above. Most of the PIs use hard copies of applications while doing a video or phone interview with you and that is when they will look for specific points to frame a question for you. As such having a CV with black font is better. You can always use differences in font sizes for topics, sub-topics and text such that it becomes easily readable.


My thoughts:

  1. Body text should always be black. At small sizes on normal printers black text will be far sharper than any other color.
  2. Background should always be white.
  3. Larger text doesn't have to be pure black but shuold be in dark colors that will stand up well to black and white printing and/or photocopying.

Overall the template you show doesn't look too bad but a darker blue would reduce the risk of bad copies.

  • I agree. The big header of each section in the CV could be in dark blue color. The detailed text inside each section should be black. Overall, don't make your CV look like a children's color book. :-) Commented Jun 24, 2021 at 18:01

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