Teal and aqua are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different shades of blue-green. Both teal and aqua sit between green and blue on the color wheel, but teal is darker and has more blue undertones, while aqua is brighter and contains more green. There are some key differences between these two popular colors that are worth understanding.
The Definitions of Teal and Aqua
Teal is a deep blue-green color that got its name from the common teal bird which has similar coloring. Teal sits between green and blue on the color wheel and has a hue ranging from 180 to 195 degrees. It is a darker, more saturated color that has strong blue undertones.
Aqua, on the other hand, is a light blue-green color named after the aqua or sea water it resembles. Aqua is located between green and blue but is much brighter and has more green in it than teal. It has a hue ranging from 180 to 200 degrees and is a less saturated color.
How Teal and Aqua Differ
While teal and aqua are similar shades, there are some key differences between the two colors:
- Teal is darker and more saturated while aqua is paler and brighter.
- Teal has stronger blue undertones whereas aqua leans more towards green.
- On the RGB color model, teal is made of blue mixed with green while aqua has more green than blue.
- In print and web design, teal is considered a tertiary color while aqua is seen as a primary color.
These differences mean that teal will appear richer and more jewel-toned, while aqua is lighter and airier. Teal also contrasts more with other colors, making it stand out in a design, while aqua tends to blend in more seamlessly.
Comparing Teal and Aqua
|Color||Hue||Saturation||Lightness||RGB Values||Hex Code|
|Teal||180-195 degrees||Higher||Darker||R 0, G 128, B 128||#008080|
|Aqua||180-200 degrees||Lower||Brighter||R 0, G 255, B 255||#00FFFF|
This table summarizes some of the key differences between teal and aqua. Teal has a narrower, more blue-based hue range while aqua’s is more green-focused. Teal also has higher saturation, making it more intense, and is darker than the paler aqua. When converted to RGB and hex values, teal clearly contains more blue than aqua.
How to Tell Teal and Aqua Apart
Because teal and aqua are such close shades, it can sometimes be tricky to tell them apart. Here are a few tips:
- Compare saturation – Teal will look more saturated than aqua.
- View against white – Aqua will look brighter and bluer next to white.
- See them side-by-side – The blue tones in teal become obvious next to aqua.
- Convert to RGB/hex – More blue in the values indicates teal.
- Remember aqua has more green – This can be a helpful reminder.
Looking at fabric swatches or color samples is the best way to train your eye to distinguish subtle color differences. When teal and aqua are isolated it becomes much easier to identify aqua’s vibrancy and teal’s deeper blue bias.
Popular Shades of Teal and Aqua
There are many shades of teal and aqua, ranging from deeper, jewel-toned variants to softer, pastel versions. Here are some popular shades:
- Dark teal – Richer and closer to a true blue-green. Hex #004D40.
- Bright teal – Vibrant teal with extra pop. Hex #00AAAA.
- Teal blue – Crisp teal with bold blue tones. Hex #367588.
- Green teal – Teal with extra green for vibrancy. Hex #00C897.
- Sapphire teal – Deep jewel-toned teal. Hex #007AA5.
- Cyan aqua – Vibrant mid-tone aqua. Hex #00FFFF.
- Blue aqua – Aqua with stronger blue tones. Hex #7FFFD4.
- Tiffany aqua – Bright robin’s egg aqua. Hex #00CED1.
- Mint aqua – Soft pastel aqua. Hex #96DED1.
- Seafoam aqua – Pale whitened aqua. Hex #90E4C1.
There are brighter, bolder versions of both teal and aqua as well as softer, more subtle shades. Understanding the spectrum for each color helps identify whether a specific hue is a teal or an aqua.
Use Cases for Teal vs. Aqua
When should you choose teal versus aqua? Here are some common use cases:
- Teal – Logos, accent walls, invitations, darker backgrounds
- Aqua – Beachy decor, spa branding, pale backgrounds, highlighting
Teal’s depth makes it ideal for adding bold pops of color and contrast, while aqua’s soothing lighter look fits better with airy, ocean themes. However, they can sometimes be swapped depending on the exact shade:
- Dark teal can substitute for aqua in some cases
- Soft aqua pastels can replace teal as an accent
The context and intended mood will help determine which shade fits best.
Teal and Aqua Together
Because teal and aqua are harmonious shades, they actually work beautifully together. Combining different hues and tones creates a dynamic, multi-dimensional look. Here are some ways to effectively pair teal and aqua:
- Use aqua as an energetic accent against a rich teal background
- Choose teal lettering or logos on top of aqua backgrounds
- Incorporate different textures like glossy teal with matte aqua
- Gradrate from dark teal to light aqua
- Mix patterns featuring various teals and aquas
Layering teal and aqua together allows each hue to stand out while complementing the other. Just be sure to vary saturation and depth to create visual interest.
Teal and Aqua Color Schemes
Teal and aqua pair beautifully with a wide range of colors depending on the desired look and mood. Here are some complementary color schemes:
- Teal + Orange – Vibrant, high-contrast scheme
- Aqua + Navy – Classic nautical pairing
- Teal + Red – Strong, attention-grabbing combo
- Aqua + Coral – Playful beachy vibe
- Teal + Gold – Rich, luxurious appearance
Teal has more contrast against warm shades like orange and red, while aqua naturally complements other oceanic hues. You can also soften teal and aqua by pairing with neutrals like cream or tan.
Psychology of Teal vs. Aqua
Color psychology suggests teal and aqua both create a sense of relaxation, renewal, and balance. However, they evoke slightly different moods:
- Teal – Soothing, graceful, introspective
- Aqua – Cool, calming, airy, weightless
Teal is associated with wisdom, emotional healing, and companionship. Its tranquility comes from self-reflection. Aqua evokes feelings of refreshment and relief by transporting our minds to beautiful tropical waters. Both shades inspire serenity in different ways.
- Teal is darker and more saturated than the brighter aqua.
- Aqua leans towards green while teal has stronger blue tones.
- Teal offers more contrast, making it stand out, while aqua blends in.
- Dark teal can often substitute for aqua, while soft aqua can replace teal.
- Pair teal and aqua together using different shades and textures.
- Teal inspires wisdom and introspection, while aqua evokes cool ocean hues.
Though often lumped together, teal and aqua offer their own unique personalities and moods. Teal is the darker, richer sibling that contrasts beautifully against warm tones. Aqua is the sweeter, cooler cousin that naturally complements other watery hues. Both provide that perfect balance between the stability of blue and growth of green. Understanding how to distinguish these two popular shades helps you take advantage of their unique strengths.