Class members were delivered from English Electric in the new British Rail corporate blue livery with BR logos on each cab side below the 'D' number. Small variations of this existed following renumbering arising from the introduction of the BR Total Operations Processing System (TOPS). After the expiration of the leasing arrangement from English Electric, cab side logos were removed and a single BR logo was placed on the bodyside where the leasing plate had once been and where the nameplates would later be fitted. Following naming, the BR logos were moved from the bodyside to the right cab side with the TOPS number remaining under the left window. This variation was carried by all 50 class members.
Following the refurbishment of the seventh locomotive, 50023 Howe in 1980, the class were repainted in the striking British Rail large logo livery with wrap-around yellow ends, grey roof, full height BR logo and large TOPS numerals. This was applied to every subsequent Class 50 that was refurbished with 50013 Agincourt being the last to be repainted in 1984. However also in 1984, in a move unpopular with many, 50007 was renamed Sir Edward Elgar and painted in a shade of GWR brunswick green to mark the 50th anniversary of the composer's death. The repainting of 50007 into this livery prevented there ever being a time when all the class sported British Rail large logo livery.
In 1986 the West of England Main Line came under the control of the newly-formed Network SouthEast (NSE) sector, which saw the introduction of a light blue, red and white livery with the nameplate affixed slightly higher and off-centre. The first locomotive in NSE original livery was again 50023 Howe. The original variant of this livery had upswept red and white stripes at both ends, with a white cab surround. A revised version was introduced in 1988 which dispensed with the upswept stripes at the cab ends and had blue cab surrounds. The NSE revised livery had a slightly darker shade of blue since it had beenfound that the lighter shade soon began to look very tatty.
From 1989, 50008 Thunderer, 50019 Ramillies and 50037 Illustrious, were re-allocated to the Departmental Sector and were given a special livery of British Rail Laira blue (see above) which comprised blue bodysides, grey roof, yellow ends and black window surrounds. NSE-style numbers were applied on the left cab side together with white BR logo on the right cab side. The nameplates were also retained in the higher position on the bodyside. 50037 was transferred back to the main NSE pool and repainted after only a few weeks in this scheme. 50008 and 50019 however, retained the livery until being sold to preservationists. A year later in 1990, 50015 Valiant was transferred to CCE departmental stock in the DCWA pool and was repainted in the new standard CE 'Dutch' livery, so-called because of its close resemblance to the standard locomotive livery of the Dutch railway system. It comprised yellow and grey bodysides, black roof, yellow ends and black window surrounds.