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Is teal more blue or green?

Teal is a fascinating color that sits between blue and green on the color spectrum. With shades of both blue and green, there is an ongoing debate among artists, interior designers, and color enthusiasts about whether teal is actually more blue or more green. In this in-depth article, we will examine the technical qualities of the teal color, look at how it is perceived by the human eye, and explore why there are different opinions on whether it skews more toward blue or green. Read on for a comprehensive analysis of this complex and intriguing intermediate color.

The Technical Qualities of Teal

To understand whether teal is more blue or green, we first need to look at how the color is technically defined. Teal is considered a tertiary color, meaning it is created by combining a primary color and a secondary color. In the case of teal, the primary color is blue and the secondary color is green.

Specifically, teal sits between the blue-green color turquoise and the greenish-blue color aquamarine on the visible spectrum of light. Its hex code is #008080, meaning it contains equal parts green and blue values. On the HSV (hue, saturation, value) color wheel used by artists and designers, teal has a hue ranging from 160-180°, putting it directly between green and blue.

Based on these technical qualities, teal is quite literally right in between blue and green, achieving its complex color by blending equal amounts of those two primary hues. So in theory, teal is neither more blue nor more green.

How Teal is Perceived by the Human Eye

However, the way colors are technically defined and mixed is different from how they are perceived by the human eye. Our vision and interpretation of color is subjective. So even though teal may contain a balanced mix of blue and green wavelengths, we may perceive it as appearing more blue or green based on how our eyes and brains process the color.

The way we distinguish colors is dependent on the cones in our eyes that are sensitive to different wavelengths of light. There are cones that are primarily sensitive to red light, green light, and blue light. The combination and comparative stimulation of these three types of cones allow us to see the range of colors from the visible color spectrum.

For teal, there is likely fairly balanced stimulation of the green and blue cones in our eyes. However, there are a few theories for why some people may perceive teal as more green or more blue:

  • We have slightly more green cones than blue or red cones, so we may be extra sensitive to the green elements of teal.
  • The green cones respond stronger to light, so the green hues in teal may stand out more to our vision.
  • Context and surrounding colors may make teal appear more blue or green based on simultaneous contrast effects.
  • Personal experiences and associations may also play a role in whether we subconsciously register teal as more of a “green” or “blue” color.

With these visual perception factors in mind, two different people with normal color vision may look at the exact same teal sample and perceive it as slightly more green or slightly more blue based on how their eyes and brains process the color.

What Design Experts Say About Teal

Given the visual complexity of teal, what do artists, interior decorators, and other design professionals have to say about whether teal reads as more blue or more green?

Many expert sources describe teal as a bluish-green or greenish-blue. House Beautiful notes its “bluish-green hue” while Pantone refers to its “greenish-blue tones.” Behr paints describe it as “a sophisticated, jewel-toned green with blue undertones.”

These descriptions reinforce that teal straddles the line between blue and green, containing elements of both while not fully committing to either side. But while it sits in the middle, some experts do come down slightly on one side or the other:

Source Perspective on Teal “Teal is a medium blue-green.”
Tiger Color “Teal leans toward a green bias.”
Empowered by Color “Teal is more closely related to green than blue.”
Bourn Creative “Teal is a richer, darker shade of cyan, leaning more toward green.”

There seems to be a slight preference among design experts for viewing teal as fundamentally more green than blue. However, the classification is not definitive, with many acknowledging teal’s dichotomy and ability to straddle both sides of the color spectrum.

How Different Shades of Teal Shift the Balance

When evaluating whether teal reads as more blue or green, it is also important to consider that there are many different shades and variations of teal along the color spectrum. Teal colors that contain more blue take on a cooler, brighter, more cyan-like appearance. Teals with more green appear deeper, richer, and more emerald-like.

Some examples of teal shades and how they may be perceived:

Teal Variation Appears More Blue or Green?
Aquamarine teal Blue
Seafoam teal Blue
Spearmint teal Green
Forest teal Green

The brighter, cooler shades of teal remind many people more of blue, while the deeper emerald shades definitely pull more towards green. So discussions around teal’s blue-green balance may depend on exactly which shade of teal is being viewed.

How Teal is Used in Design and Decor

How teal is used in design, art, fashion, and decor also provides clues about whether it is treated more as a blue or green color. Here are some examples of how teal is classified and utilized:

  • In many color palette tools and schemes, teal is grouped with other greens such as emerald and seafoam.
  • Teal is sometimes used as an accent color with oranges and reds, following the traditional “complementary colors” rule for greens.
  • In interior design, teal is often used with natural wood tones, referencing its green nuances.
  • Teal gemstones like turquoise are considered “cool-toned” gems, linking to teal’s blue side.
  • Teal is a staple color in beach, tropical, and ocean-themed designs, nodding to teal’s blue tones.

Like many aspects of teal, design applications reveal associations with both blue and green. Teal flows seamlessly between the two depending on the context.

Geographic and Cultural Associations

Geography and cultural associations also provide clues about teal’s blue-green status. Here are some of the main places, cultures, and symbols linked to teal:

  • The Caribbean – Teal waters surround these island nations.
  • Greece – Teal evokes the blue skies and green-blue waters of the Mediterranean.
  • Central America – Turquoise has significance to Aztec and Mayan cultures.
  • Tropical lagoons – Teal is the perfect color for shallow, crystal waters.
  • Beaches – Reminiscent of sea glass and ocean shades.
  • Peacocks – Their tail feathers span the teal color range.

These associations cover a wide territorial scope from the Americas to Europe to tropical regions. They also include both watery, blue associations as well as green tropical and wildlife connections. This diversity shows how teal is truly an international color that crosses many cultures and environments.

How Different Languages Describe Teal

Examining how teal is described in other languages also gives insight into its blue-green characterization. Different cultures divide the color spectrum in different ways through their vocabularies. Here are some foreign language terms for teal:

  • Malaquita (Spanish) – Refers to the bluish-green mineral malachite.
  • Bleu vert (French) – Translates directly to “blue green”.
  • Blaugrün (German) – Also translates to “blue green”.
  • Siniturkoosi (Finnish) – Means “blue turquoise”.

These terms reinforce that other languages also struggle to classify teal as strictly blue or green. Many reinforce teal’s in-between status through composite words meaning “blue-green.” The Spanish term’s connection to malachite also hints at teal’s gemological history.

What the Human Eye Can Distinguish

An interesting way to evaluate whether teal is more blue or more green is to examine what the human eye can distinguish. How small of a difference in hue, saturation, or brightness can we perceive? This gives insight into how much a color can shift before we classify it as a different color entirely.

Research suggests humans with normal color vision can identify differences as small as 1-2 nm on the visible light spectrum. This means we may be able to distinguish up to 5 million different color tones! Humans are also very sensitive to differences in saturation and brightness.

Based on this level of discernment, if teal starts to shift toward either blue or green, we would likely pick up on those subtle changes long before the color became fully blue or fully green. Teal has a very wide berth before it clearly transitions into blue or green.

This hypersensitivity to color variation reinforces why many people describe teal as neither fully blue nor fully green. Our eyes detect even minute shifts away from true teal towards other colors on the spectrum.

Men’s Fashion Trends

An example of how teal trends between blue and green based on context is its use in men’s fashion. For much of the 20th century, teal was not a common color for men’s clothing. However, preferences changed in the late 1990s and 2000s:

  • Late 1990s – Teal becomes popular for retro windbreakers, aligning it more with green outdoorsy looks.
  • Early 2000s – Teal suits gain popularity, linking teal to corporate blue colors.
  • Late 2000s – Barack Obama wears teal ties, reflecting power and intelligence.

This shows how men’s fashion elevated teal at the turn of the millennium, but used it in different ways that emphasized either the green or blue side depending on the specific context.

Women’s Fashion Trends

Teal has also wavered between blue and green associations in women’s fashion:

  • 1960s – Teal eye makeup surges in popularity, pulling from blue tones.
  • 1970s – Jewel tones like teal gain prominence, connecting to emerald greens.
  • 1980s – Ocean and tropical themes feature teal, hinting at sea blue.
  • 1990s – Grunge and punk styles incorporate teal’s green side more.

Makeup trends leaned blue, while jewel tones and ocean themes were more mixed. Grunge styles in the 1990s likely tapped into the natural or earthy side of teal’s green shades.

How Teal is Used in Spirituality

Interestingly, teal is seen as a bridge between worlds and bodies in many spiritual practices. This may be connected to how it straddles the blue and green realms:

  • New Age – Used in healing and cleansing rituals to create balance.
  • Hinduism – Associated with the 6th chakra to bridge mind and spirit.
  • Buddhism – Represents spiritual growth and achieving harmony.

Teal is therefore seen as a conduit to personal fulfillment and deeper understanding. By integrating blue and green aspects, teal allows connecting and unifying seemingly disparate ideas. This reflects its liminal nature between colors that can be in opposition.

Use of Teal Pigments Over Time

Pigments that produce a teal color have also shifted in their applications and availability over time. Early teal pigments were rare and valued for their uniqueness.

Era Common Teal Pigments
Ancient Times Malachite, Azurite, Egyptian Blue
Middle Ages Azurite
Renaissance Verdigris
18th Century Scheele’s Green
Modern Phthalocyanine, Viridian

Many early teal pigments were made by combining blue and green mineral ingredients. It was not until synthetic pigments were discovered that brighter, more stable teal paints became available.

Use of Teal Dyes Over Time

Similar to pigments, teal dyes also evolved in their composition and origin stories:

Era Common Teal Dyes
Ancient Woad leaves, indigo
Medieval Woad, orchil lichen
Renaissance Indigo
Colonial Synthetic indigo
Modern Acid dyes, direct dyes

Again, many early sources for teal dyes came from blue plants and green plants that were combined to produce an in-between color. Modern chemistry allowed more control and consistency in dying fabrics teal.

Use of Teal in Literature

Descriptions of teal appear in many famous literary works, both classic and contemporary. Examining how it is referenced in literature gives insight into teal’s changeable nature:

  • In The Odyssey, Homer describes the “wine-dark sea”. Some believe he was referring to the teal waters of Greek seas.
  • In Moby Dick, Herman Melville uses teal to evoke ocean depths and blue-green horizons.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the “teal shallows” of bays around Long Island in The Great Gatsby.
  • Suzanne Collins describes Katniss’s blue-green dress with teal gems in The Hunger Games.

These examples show teal portraying the green shallows of bays but also the deeper blue of the open ocean. Once again, context drives whether teal skews more green or more blue in literature.

Use of Teal in Movies

Teal light and costuming also appears in many popular movies, signaling different moods:

  • The Matrix used teal hues to give scenes a clinical, futuristic feel.
  • Disney’s The Little Mermaid