Deep, mysterious, and often misunderstood, teal is a color that always makes a statement. In most cases, that’s a good thing — unless you use it carelessly.
Not sure how to use teal in your next design? Let’s dive into the color teal and examine its history, meaning, and how you can harness its power to create captivating designs.
Teal in Brief
Teal is a deep shade of blue-green. Because it sits right between blue and green on the color wheel, pure teal is neither a shade of green nor a shade of blue — it’s an even blend of the two.
While there are many possible shades of teal, the values below give you a good sense of what “pure” teal looks like:
As you can see, these values indicate a shade of pure and unadulterated teal. When you look at the RGB values, you see that there are exactly equal proportions of green and blue.
That being said, many of teal’s infinite variations lean more blue or more green. Subtle changes in the blue/green balance can make a major difference in design. For instance, if you prefer a nearly monochromatic look and are working on a design made up of spring green and teal, a teal shade with more green than blue is ideal. But if you want to play up the contrast between the two, a blue-leaning teal is the better choice.
Is Teal the Same as Turquoise?
Before we go any further, it’s important to address a common misconception. Many people use the terms “teal” and “turquoise” interchangeably. Both could be considered shades of blue-green, but the similarities end there. Here are some of the key differences between the two:
- Turquoise is a paler shade than teal
- Turquoise is more green than blue
- Turquoise has a touch of yellow, but teal does not
- Teal contains even proportions of blue and green
- Teal is more saturated than turquoise
That gives you a general sense of the difference between the two, but it also helps to simply view them side-by-side:
As you can see, turquoise is much less saturated than teal. It also has more yellow and less black than teal — that explains why it leans warmer and seems more energetic.
Teal in History
The origins of some color names are clearer than others. For example, the color turquoise was named after the mineral. The name “turquoise” itself is the French word for “Turkish,” as many of the first turquoise stones to reach Europe came through Turkey.
So what about teal? This color’s name comes from a bird called the Eurasian teal (Anas crecca), a type of duck found in parts of Europe and Asia. As you can see in the picture above, the Eurasian teal has a stripe on its head that is roughly the color we call “teal.” In certain lights, this metallic patch of feathers can look more blue or more green — just like the many different shades of teal.
Teal in Interior Design
If you’re familiar with the evolution of interior design through the decades, you might recall that teal commonly appeared in the interiors of the 1950s and 1960s. That popularity came about largely because teal was one of the shades used in the Plochere Color System.
This system, created in 1948, was developed by Los Angeles interior designers Gladys and Gustave Plochere. The Plochere Color System organized and standardized almost 1,500 colors. It was a hit with interior designers of the next decade or so, and as a result, teal started appearing more frequently in interiors.
Teal interiors aren’t too common today. But when you do see them, they often have a retro appeal.
Teal on the Internet Frontier
The internet used to be a lot less colorful than it is now. In the early days, many browsers could only recognize 16 HTML colors. Teal was one of them. If you’re curious, the others were blue, aqua, navy, yellow, olive, green, lime, fuchsia, purple, maroon, white, silver, gray, black, and red.
Teal in Culture
When you look closely, you see that teal has at least some level of cultural importance in many countries. For example, several countries’ flags feature variations of teal:
- Sri Lanka
Despite the fact that warmer colors like red and orange tend to be more associated with sports, teal appears on the uniforms of a number of sports teams around the world as well:
- Belfast Giants (Northern Irish hockey team)
- Charlotte Hornets (American basketball team)
- Port Adelaide Football Club (Australian football team)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (American football team)
- San Jose Sharks (American hockey team)
- Griquas (South African rugby union team)
Interestingly enough, this tranquil shade has also been chosen to represent more than one major transportation institution. Because TEAL is the acronym for Tasman Empire Airways Limited (a New Zealand airline), teal is the airline’s signature color. It’s also the official color of Kochi Metro, a transit system in India.
The Meaning of Teal
Every color has its own meaning. Often, that meaning is somehow connected to the feelings that color inspires in us. For example, red can energize and even agitate us, so it’s fitting that it’s associated with confidence, courage, and aggression.
What about teal? A color with this kind of depth and nuance is sure to have a deep and nuanced meaning. Here’s a brief overview of the meaning of teal.
If you’ve ever run into a magnificent teal sea on a hot day, you know just how rejuvenating teal can be. The earth, water, and sky will refresh and uplift you, and teal combines the two main colors behind them: blue and green.
Teal isn’t an obscure color — after all, most people would probably be able to describe it if asked. Despite that fact, there’s still something refreshingly unique about this bold, cool shade. Teal simply isn’t afraid to be itself.
Harmony/Lack of Bias
You saw above that teal is a shade with equal parts blue and green. When these shades work together in harmony, they create a deep and peaceful shade. Because pure teal is not biased toward blue or green, the color itself can symbolize objectivity and freedom from bias.
Because it’s made up of blue and green (both of which are cool colors), teal is a shade that can definitely promote relaxation. But oddly enough, even though teal is a relaxed color, most people wouldn’t describe it as “casual.” Teal has a certain gravitas that makes it seem formal or dignified.
Though it may seem paradoxical, these descriptions aren’t necessarily at odds with one another. For instance, imagine the president of a company giving a speech at a formal event. They’re dressed formally and carry themselves gracefully, but they still seem relaxed and at ease behind the podium.
You may have noticed that the color teal is similar to the color of the ocean. It also can be reminiscent of the color of the sky. So it’s no wonder that Tibetan monks connect teal to the idea of infinity, and especially to the infinity of the sea and the sky.
Shades of Teal: Example Color Codes
Above, you saw an example of “true” teal — a color that’s exactly half blue and half green. However, given the vast array of colors in the world, it’s likely that most shades of teal you run into won’t just be a 50/50 blue/green split. Below are a few examples of different teal shades.
1. Steel Teal
When you hear a color described as “steel,” you probably picture it as being light and shiny. Steel teal is lighter than the original teal color, and the grayish undertones add a shiny metallic effect to it. As you can see, it leans slightly more blue than green.
2. Common Teal
This color’s name suggests that it’s one of teal’s most basic shades. And if you look at it side by side with the “pure” teal introduced above, you’ll see that the two are quite similar. Common teal is just a touch lighter.
3. Dusty Teal
This is another shade of teal with a faded look. It’s noticeably different from the standard teal shade. As you can see, it has a non-zero red value. Because there is proportionally more green than blue, this is one of those shades of teal that appear to be more green than blue.
4. Egyptian Teal
This exotic-sounding shade might make you think of ancient jewelry or intricate carvings on Egyptian amulets. It’s a very similar shade to teal, and unless you’re looking at them side by side, it can be hard to tell them apart! Egyptian teal has a bit more blue than green, and it’s just a touch lighter than pure teal.
5. Metallic Seaweed
You don’t see colors with fun names like this every day! Metallic seaweed isn’t really a metallic, but it does have a cool depth that makes it seem appropriately weighty. Although it does have some red undertones, this teal shade leans decidedly blue.
How Does Teal Compare to Other Shades of Blue Green?
There are endless shades of blue and green, so it follows that there are endless blue-green combinations, too. Some of them are close to teal, but others are entirely different. Here are a few shades of blue green you might (or might not) already be familiar with.
1. Blue Green (Munsell) vs. Teal
Throughout history, color experts have developed different color models and systems. If you’ve ever worked with RGB, HSL, or CMYK models, you’ve benefited from a color system. The Munsell color system (introduced in 1913) was unique for its time because it was based on human visual perception of color. It classifies shades using three dimensions: hue, value, and chroma.
Munsell blue green is somewhat similar to teal. As you can see, Munsell blue green has a bit more green than blue, and it’s also lighter than standard shades of teal.
2. Blue-Green (Crayola) vs. Teal
This shade might not have the most imaginative name, but it has quite the rich history. It’s been a standard Crayola color since 1949. However, from 1930-1958, a different hex code (#47ABCC) went by the name “Blue-Green.” That color’s name was later changed to Maximum Blue.
Even though its name implies equal levels of blue and green, this shade leans much more blue. And as you can see from both the K value and the lightness, it’s also lighter than standard teal shades.
3. Light Sea Green vs. Teal
Going by the name alone, you might guess that light sea green would look greener next to teal or that it at least would include more green than blue — and it does. It also has some red undertones. When you place it next to teal, you see that it’s much closer to being a shade of green (and that teal looks much closer to being blue).
4. Skobeloff vs. Teal
Of all the color comparisons on the list, skobeloff is probably closest to pure teal. As you can see, both shades have equal amounts of green and blue, both have a saturation of 100%, and both have a 100% C value. However, skobeloff is a bit darker than teal.
5. Tiffany Blue vs. Teal
If you’re a jewelry aficionado, you likely are already familiar with this well-balanced blue green that sits roughly between teal and turquoise. Tiffany blue is the signature shade of Tiffany & Co., and in 2001, it was standardized by Pantone specifically for the company. Pantone calls it “1837 Blue” after the year Tiffany & Co. was founded.
What Colors Pair Well With Teal?
Now you’ve gotten a general sense of the many shades of teal. But unless you’re creating a palette that is genuinely only a single color, you’ll need to choose one or more shades to go along with teal. Here are a few suggestions — we’ve included something for almost every style and mood of design.
Hex Codes: #FF00FF, #379392, #17301C
This is one of the most dramatic combinations on the list. After all, cyan and magenta are complementary colors, and teal is essentially a darker version of cyan. As you can see above, this high-contrast combo can work nicely for colorblocking. However, because magenta is almost fluorescent, it can be a little hard on the eyes. You might have better luck creating a design that’s largely teal with just a few carefully placed bursts of magenta.
2. Soft Yellow
Hex Codes: #FDFD96, #48A9A6, #3C493F
As you saw above with the magenta combination, teal tends to do well when paired with warm colors. However, shades of very bright yellow can get overwhelming very quickly. The palette above keeps things easy on the eyes by incorporating a soft, almost pastel shade of yellow instead of a very bright, sunny shade. Much like the teal/magenta combination, this one looks eye-catching yet balanced when you include soft yellow accents or patterning on a teal background.
3. Cool Beige
Hex Codes: #D8BCAB, #0E9594, #562C2C
You don’t have to feel limited to pairing teal with bright colors. If you prefer a palette that remains uniformly cool, consider putting teal next to a cool neutral. The shade of cool beige above is a great example, and its pinkish undertones really help emphasize the contrast between the shades.
Hex Codes: #C0C0C0, #387D7A, #E15554
Speaking of cool neutrals, silver is another one to consider putting with teal — especially if it’s a metallic! For instance, if you’re designing an interior, including silver accents in a room with teal walls is a great way to make a statement. Silvery patterning (like stripes, plaid, etc.) over a matte teal background also works quite well, especially if you’re designing a card, gift bag, wrapping paper, or other printed item.
5. Powder Blue
Hex Codes: #B0E0E6, #307473, #7A82AB
Along with sky blue, powder blue is easily one of the most culturally popular shades of light blue. It makes a fitting companion for teal — both are cool colors, but the light/dark juxtaposition offers plenty of contrast. If you’re using these colors together, you might find that each one is equally suited to being a background color. Try your design both ways and see which one you prefer!
How Do You Successfully Use Teal in a Design?
The above colors offer some suggestions, but when it comes to using teal in your designs, the possibilities are endless! Here are some strategies to consider.
A Little Goes a Long Way
You don’t have to make teal the focus of your design for it to make a big impact. If you like this bold, cool shade but are worried it’ll be a little too much, you can always start small. For example, say you’re creating a flyer. So far, you have black text on a yellow-beige background (think the color of parchment). You decide that the design needs a little something extra, so you include a simple border of teal lines and dots.
In this scenario, teal certainly has a presence. But because there’s so little of it, teal is noticeable without taking away from the design.
Different Combos, Different Eras
Colors are amazingly evocative — of emotions, places, and times. Depending on the color(s) you use with teal, you can make your audience think of certain eras. Here’s a general rule of thumb: if you want your project to have a sleek, modern feel, pair teal with neutrals like cool white, charcoal gray, and cool beige. If you want to cultivate a vintage vibe, use it alongside brighter, warmer shades like pink and yellow.
For example, let’s say you’re designing a few different kinds of wallpaper. You want one to have a distinctly modern appeal, so you give it a teal background and pattern it with cool gray diamonds. You also need to create a vintage-style wallpaper. For this one, you create a teal floral print and put it on a backdrop of buttery pastel yellow.
Let the Sea Be Your Guide
Many oceans are at least vaguely teal-colored. And whether you’re putting together an interior, creating an abstract digital design, or anything in between, you might find it helpful to take some inspiration from the sea. When you bring together deep teal, bright white, and sandy beige, you create a universally recognized, beachy palette that will appeal to many.
Go Bold and Monochromatic
When you think of a monochromatic color scheme, you probably picture layers of various shades of gray or beige. There’s nothing wrong with a color scheme like this, but if you want to create something ultra-bold and memorable, go for an all-teal color scheme.
For example, let’s say you’re designing an office. You could start with walls of bold, deep teal. From there, you could choose slightly different shades of teal for the desk, chair, and rug. You’ll want to trust your eye here and pay attention to the kinds of teals you choose. Too much variation will make the room look chaotic. But if every teal feature is exactly the same color, you might find that the finished product looks a little dull. Try adding pops of bright, cool white for a bit of contrast!
What Can You Accomplish With Teal?
Few colors have the depth, nuance, and presence of teal. So when you bring its unique energy to a design (and do so with care), you have the potential to create great things. Whether you incorporate just a tiny hint of teal or make it the main focus of your project, you might find that it makes your next design your best one yet.