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Is teal or turquoise closer to aqua?

Teal, turquoise, and aqua are all shades of blue-green that can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between. While they are closely related colors, there are some key differences that set them apart. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the exact definitions of teal, turquoise, and aqua, examine how they are created, and compare their hexadecimal color codes. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of which shade is closer to aqua.

Defining Teal

Teal is a medium blue-green color that takes its name from the common teal, a member of the duck family, whose eyes exhibit this hue. It sits between green and blue on the color wheel and has a slightly darker and more grayish-green tint than turquoise.

The first recorded use of “teal” as a color name in English was in 1917. Before this, the term was commonly used to refer to the common teal duck found in Eurasia. The word comes from the Middle English “tele” meaning greenish-blue.

Teal became popularised as a color name thanks to its use in fashion. It started appearing on the market in the 1920s when bright “jazz age” colors came into vogue. Certain feathers, like peacock feathers, that display teal shades have also been used for ornamental purposes dating back centuries.

Some examples of teal shades in nature are the ocean waters off tropical islands and some bird feathers like peacocks. It is a cool color associated with sophistication, creativity, trustworthiness, and spirituality.

Defining Turquoise

Turquoise is a slightly greener shade of blue-green. It has been defined as being located between cyan and blue-green on the color wheel. It was first recorded as a color name in English in 1573.

The name comes from the turquoise gemstone, which has been popular since ancient times. The gemstone was first imported to Europe via Turkey, which is how it earned its name meaning “Turkish stone”. Other names for the color turquoise reference the vibrant robin’s egg blue shades of the gemstone.

Turquoise pigments have been used by artists for thousands of years. The vibrant blue-green turquoise found in mineral deposits was highly prized by ancient cultures like the Persians, Aztecs, and Egyptians.

In nature, turquoise can be seen in shades of minerals, lakes, coral reef waters, bird feathers, and exotic plant life. It is associated with vibrancy, wisdom, life, and fertility.

Defining Aqua

Aqua is a lighter, brighter blue-green color positioned between green and cyan. Its name comes from the Latin word for water, referring to its cool, clear oceanic tint. The first recorded use of “aqua” as a color name in English dates back to 1598.

Aqua sits closer to the green side of blue-green colors. It usually has a very slightly greenish cast that distinguishes it from pure cyan. However, aqua and cyan can be hard to tell apart and are sometimes used interchangeably as color names.

In nature, aqua is found in sunlit shallow waters, some bird plumage, and minerals like beryl and tourmaline. As a color, it is commonly associated with water, freshness, fitness, and wellbeing.

Comparing Hex Codes

Hexadecimal color codes provide precise specifications for digital colors. By looking at the hex codes for teal, turquoise, and aqua, we can objectively compare their shades.

Color Hex Code
Teal #008080
Turquoise #40E0D0
Aqua #00FFFF

Based on these hex codes, we can see that aqua is brighter and more cyan-leaning than teal and turquoise. Teal is darker and more grayish-green. Turquoise sits in the middle – slightly brighter than teal but not as bright as aqua.

Teal vs Turquoise

When directly comparing teal and turquoise, turquoise appears brighter and contains more green. Teal is darker and more blue-based.

There are a few ways to distinguish teal and turquoise:

  • Turquoise usually has a slightly yellowish-green tint while teal has more gray-green
  • Teal appears darker and slightly more blue
  • Turquoise pops more while teal is more muted

However, there is a fair amount of overlap between teal and turquoise shades. Depending on lighting conditions and other nearby colors, they can occasionally be hard to tell apart.

Turquoise vs Aqua

When comparing turquoise and aqua, aqua is brighter and contains more cyan tones. Turquoise is slightly darker and greener.

Here are some ways turquoise and aqua differ:

  • Aqua is brighter and has more “pop”
  • Turquoise is slightly muted and more subtle
  • Aqua leans more toward cyan while turquoise leans toward green
  • Aqua has a very slightly purple tint while turquoise skews yellow-green

However, turquoise and aqua can be challenging to distinguish in some cases. More greenish shades of aqua can closely resemble bluish turquoise. Their similarity is why aqua and turquoise are sometimes used interchangeably.

Teal vs Aqua

When comparing teal and aqua, aqua stands out as brighter and containing more cyan. Teal is darker and has more green-gray.

Some key ways teal and aqua differ are:

  • Aqua is brighter and “poppier” while teal is more subdued
  • Teal sits closer to green on the spectrum while aqua leans more cyan
  • Teal has more grayness while aqua is cleaner

However, some shades of teal and aqua can be very difficult to tell apart. There is not always a clear dividing line between the two colors.

Is Teal or Turquoise Closer to Aqua?

Based on the definitions, color wheel positions, hex codes, and direct comparisons above, turquoise is slightly closer to aqua while teal differs more.

Aqua and turquoise both exhibit bright, “poppy” tones. They contain similar levels of greenness diluted with lots of cyan. Teal is noticeably darker and more muted than aqua. It contains much more grayness and less vibrancy.

Therefore, while neither teal nor turquoise is an exact match for aqua, turquoise shades demonstrate a closer resemblance. The vibrant greenish-blue hues of turquoise align more closely with the bright cyan-green tones of aqua.

Tips for Telling Teal, Turquoise, and Aqua Apart

While teal, turquoise, and aqua are closely related colors, there are some tips that can help distinguish between them:

  • Compare darkness – Teal is darker and more muted than turquoise and aqua
  • Examine grayness – Teal has more gray tones while turquoise and aqua are cleaner
  • Observe brightness – Aqua pops more than turquoise, and turquoise pops more than teal
  • Analyze undertones – Turquoise leans slightly yellow-green, aqua leans slightly purple, and teal is more neutral
  • View in context – Nearby colors impact the appearance of teal, turquoise, and aqua

With practice, you can train your eye to faster distinguish between these three beautiful blue-green shades.

Use Cases for Teal, Turquoise, and Aqua

Despite their similarities, the subtle differences between teal, turquoise, and aqua make them suitable for different uses:

  • Teal – sophisticated branding, alternative to darker blues, environmental causes
  • Turquoise – fun branding, beach themes, exotic tropical vibes
  • Aqua – water graphics, clean/crisp branding, refreshing blue accent

Understanding exactly how teal, turquoise, and aqua differ allows you to strategically select the perfect shade for designs and visual projects.

Mixing Teal, Turquoise, and Aqua

Teal, turquoise, and aqua can be beautifully combined to create a soothing, nature-inspired color palette. Here are a few examples of ways to mix them:

  • Use turquoise as an accent color against a teal backdrop
  • Combine aqua and turquoise for a bright, tropical look
  • Layer teal and aqua washes for a subtle, watercolor effect
  • Blend teal and turquoise together to create new blue-green hues

Blending these colors results in relaxed, laidback palettes reminiscent of the ocean, lakes, birds, minerals, and other natural teal, turquoise, and aqua shades.


Teal, turquoise, and aqua are three beautiful shades of blue-green that have their own unique identities but also overlap in many ways. Of the three, turquoise sits closest to aqua due to their similarly bright, vibrant hues. However, all three colors have their own personality and uses. Understanding the nuances that set teal, turquoise, and aqua apart allows you to fully leverage these colors for your design needs.