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Is deep teal green or blue?

Teal is a fascinating color that seems to straddle the line between green and blue. While opinions differ on whether teal is ultimately a shade of green or blue, examining the technical details of color theory can help provide some clarity on this debate.

The Origins of Teal

The name “teal” first came into use in the early 20th century and was likely derived from the common teal, a type of freshwater duck whose feathers and markings display a mix of blue and green colors. As a result, when the name was adopted as a color term, it seemed fitting to describe shades that incorporate aspects of both green and blue.

Interestingly, while teal has been an accepted color name in English for over a century now, some other languages don’t have an equivalent single word for this shade. In Spanish, teal is often described as “verde azulado” which translates to “bluish green.” This helps illustrate the dual nature of teal as a color that seems to bridge the gap between green and blue.

Teal in Color Models

To better understand the technical classification of teal, it’s helpful to look at some of the main color models used today:

RGB Color Model

The RGB or red, green, blue color model is commonly used for digital displays. In this model, colors are created by mixing levels of red, green, and blue light. In RGB, a typical teal color like #008080 is made up of:

Color RGB Value
Red 0
Green 128
Blue 128

As we can see, teal consists of equal parts green and blue in the RGB color model. This lends support to the idea that teal is a balanced blend between green and blue.

CMYK Color Model

The CMYK or cyan, magenta, yellow, black model is commonly used for print design. In this model, colors are created by mixing levels of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. In CMYK, a typical teal color like C100 M0 Y25 K10 is made up of:

Color CMYK Value
Cyan 100
Magenta 0
Yellow 25
Black 10

Here we can see teal consists primarily of cyan ink, with some yellow and black mixed in for shading. Since cyan is the color on the green side of the color spectrum in CMYK, this provides more evidence of teal’s green leanings.

HSV/HSL Color Models

HSV (hue, saturation, value) and HSL (hue, saturation, lightness) are two similar cylindrical color models. In both systems, the hue value represents the base color tone going around the color wheel from red to violet. Teal colors are typically found between 160-180° hue in these models. This positions teal near the center of the green and blue color ranges.

Saturation and value/lightness can vary among different teal shades, resulting in brighter or duller, lighter or darker variations. But the hue stays consistently within the green-blue zone.

Psychology of Color Perception

Beyond the technical definitions, human perception also plays a key role in interpreting whether teal appears more green or blue. Optical illusions demonstrate that the same color can appear different based on what surrounds it. Context and comparisons impact color vision.

For example, teal may look more green when paired with blues and more blue when paired with greens. The human brain also tends to automatically contrast and balance color perceptions. So a teal object against a red background may take on more of a green tone, while that same teal against a yellow background may appear more blue.

Cultural associations also influence color perceptions. For instance, in many western cultures blue is associated with masculinity and green with femininity as gendered color tropes. Viewers with these cultural biases may be predisposed to categorize unclear colors like teal based on gender stereotypes rather than objective properties.

Variations of Teal

With both technical analysis and subjective human perception playing a role, context also impacts whether teal leans green or blue. Here are some examples of different teal shades and how they may be described:

Teal Variation Green or Blue?
Dark teal (#004d40) Greenish teal due to deeper hue
Bright teal (#00feff) Bluish teal due to increased saturation
Pale teal (#77ffff) Greenish teal due to lower saturation
Gray teal (#5e7b7d) Blueish teal due to lower brightness

As shown above, subtle shifts in lightness, saturation, and brightness can make some teal shades appear more green or blue. But all remain balanced between the two, without fully becoming a pure green or pure blue.

Teal in Nature

Interestingly, teal shades rarely occur naturally in plants and minerals. However, the teal coloration does manifest in the animal kingdom among certain species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects.

Some examples of animals displaying teal tones include:

  • Teal or green-winged ducks
  • Parrot species like budgies and lorikeets
  • Tree frogs
  • Lizards like green anoles
  • Tropical fish like damselfish
  • Butterflies such as the teal oakleaf

In these organisms, the teal coloration likely serves as camouflage and protection through blending in with aquatic environments and leafy foliage. It also may function as signaling for mating rituals.

From a technical perspective, the teal tones in animals result from a combination of blue structural colors from light refracting cell structures alongside yellow pigments. Together these mix to produce green and teal hues.

Teal Gemstones

There are few mineral gemstones that naturally exhibit a true teal color. However, some gem varieties can display teal shades when specific trace impurities are present.

For example:

  • Teal sapphires contain traces of iron and titanium
  • Teal paraiba tourmalines include copper impurities
  • Green fluorite can show teal tones when irradiated

Additionally, the gemstone chrysoprase derives its color from nickel impurities and is considered a green-blue or teal member of the quartz mineral family.

Teal Dyes and Pigments

While teal appears rarely in nature, it has long been produced synthetically as dyes and pigments. Some examples include:

  • Cobalt teal – Invented in the 19th century using cobalt oxide
  • Phthalocyanine teal – Synthetic greenish blue pigment developed in the 1930s
  • Teal cyan – Digital printing ink combining both cyan (blue) and yellow

The ability to reliably produce teal synthetic dyes and pigments has made the color widely accessible for art, design, and manufacturing applications.

Teal in Human Culture

As a color straddling green and blue, teal has developed some interesting cultural associations. For example:

  • Associated with emotional balance, intuition, and perspective
  • Represents sophistication and spirituality in color psychology
  • Popular for marketing health and wellness brands
  • Used to convey open communication and clarity

Teal is also noticeable as an increasingly popular choice for fashion, home decor, art, and graphic design. Its versatility allows it to fit many contexts and convey different moods from retro to modern.


So is teal green or blue? As we’ve seen, there’s evidence on both sides of the debate. Technically teal falls right between green and blue. Yet perception varies based on context and individual interpretation.

In the end, the dual nature of teal as both greenish blue and bluish green is what likely attracts people to this shade. Sitting in the middle, teal inherits positive qualities associated with both colors. This makes teal a rich, vibrant, and aesthetically pleasing hue with an intriguing identity.