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Is teal blue or turquoise?

Is teal blue or turquoise?

Teal is often considered a shade that falls somewhere between blue and green. However, there is some debate over whether teal should be classified as a shade of blue or as a distinct color more closely related to turquoise. In this article, we’ll examine the origins of the word “teal,” how it is defined, and how it compares to similar shades like turquoise and aqua to help determine whether teal is ultimately more blue or more turquoise.

The Origins and Definitions of Teal

The word “teal” has only been used to describe a specific color since the early 20th century. It is believed to derive from the common teal, a type of duck found in Eurasia that has striking greenish-blue feathers. The first known uses of “teal” to refer to the color date back to 1917.

Most modern color dictionaries and sources define teal as a medium to dark blue-green or greenish-blue. Its hue sits between blue and green, which means it has elements of both colors. The exact hue can vary depending on the specific teal shade.

Some more technical definitions identify teal’s place on the color wheel. For example, the HSL and HSV color models, which define colors according to hue, saturation, and lightness/brightness, categorize teal as having:

  • Hue between 180° (blue-green) and 195° (blue)
  • Saturation between 20-70%
  • Lightness/brightness between 25-70%

The RGB color model, which creates colors from mixtures of red, green, and blue light, defines teal as having:

  • Medium to high green values (51-153 on a 0-255 scale)
  • Medium blue values (51-170)
  • Low to medium red values (0-102)

Due to its position between blue and green, teal inherently has elements of both colors. However, most definitions place it closer to blue than true green on the spectrum.

How Teal Compares to Turquoise

Turquoise is another color that sits between blue and green, leading many people to associate it closely with teal. However, there are some key differences between the two shades:

  • Hue: Turquoise has a slightly greener hue than teal. Its hue angle falls between 180-200° compared to 180-195° for teal.
  • Saturation: Turquoise tends to be more saturated than teal, meaning it has a higher intensity of color. Teal often has some grayness to it.
  • Lightness: Turquoise is usually lighter in tone than teal, which more often has medium to dark tones.
  • Green content: Turquoise has higher green values and lower blue values compared to teal.

Some examples of turquoise vs. teal shades:

Turquoise Teal
Turquoise Teal
Lighter Turquoise Darker Teal

While turquoise and teal are similar, teal sits a bit closer to blue on the color wheel. Teal also often has more grayness compared to the brighter, more saturated look of turquoise.

How Teal Compares to Aqua

Like turquoise, aqua is sometimes used interchangeably with teal. But again, there are a few important distinctions:

  • Hue: Aqua has a more greenish hue compared to teal. Its hue angle is 180-200°.
  • Saturation: Aqua is much brighter and more saturated than teal.
  • Lightness: Aqua also tends to be significantly lighter than teal.
  • Green content: Aqua has higher green values and lower blue values than teal.

Some examples of aqua vs. teal shades:

Aqua Teal
Aqua Teal
Bright Aqua Darker Teal

Aqua differs from teal by having a greener, brighter, lighter hue. It sits closer to the green side of the blue-green color spectrum than teal.

Teal vs. Blue

Given its position between blue and green, teal naturally shares some similarities with blue as well. However, there are also some distinguishing factors:

  • Hue: Blue has a hue angle of 200-280°, putting it further along the spectrum from teal at 180-195°.
  • Green content: Blue lacks the green elements that teal possesses.
  • Brightness: Vivid blues are often brighter than teal, but darker blues can be similar in lightness to some teals.

Some examples comparing teal and blue shades:

Blue Teal
Vivid Blue Teal
Midnight Blue Dark Teal

While teal and blue overlap along the color spectrum, teal is ultimately distinguished from blue by its additional green content. It sits between blue and green rather than fully in the blue color family.

Is Teal a Tertiary Color?

Some color classification systems identify teal as a tertiary color. The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are created by mixing two primary colors, giving us orange, green, and purple. Tertiary colors are then made by mixing a primary color with a secondary color next to it on the color wheel.

By this logic, teal can be considered a tertiary color between the primary blue and secondary green. This again demonstrates that teal falls in between blue and green rather than fully belonging to the blue family.


Based on its origins, definitions, and comparisons to similar shades, teal ultimately sits closer to blue than true green on the color spectrum. However, with its significant green elements and position between blue and green, most color experts today consider teal to be more closely associated with turquoise than a true blue. It is distinguished from blue by having higher green content. Teal is probably best classified as a tertiary color rather than as strictly a shade of blue.

There are no strictly defined boundaries between color categories, so there is room for debate. But in general, calling teal a shade of turquoise or blue-green seems to fit most standard color definitions and models better than classifying it solely as a variant of blue.

So in summary, while teal leans closer to blue than green, it is not fully blue. Its green elements move it toward being more accurately described as a greenish-blue or blue-green related to turquoise than a true blue. But its classification likely depends on the specific shade and application.

There are endless variations on colors between blue and green, with aqua, teal, turquoise, and more overlapping and blending together. In the end, teal fits somewhere in the middle, embracing elements of both while not fully belonging to either blue or green.