Last updated
Nympheas 71293 3.jpg
American Robin Eggs in Nest.jpg
Lidded Funerary Urn (Lunghu Ping) with Dog and Dragon LACMA 53.41.3a-b (cropped).jpg
Uranus clouds.jpg
Arba'een Pilgrimage - Iranian People- Shia Muslim 15 (cropped).jpg
Wham-a different corner (cropped).jpg
Spectral coordinates
Wavelength 490–520 nm
Frequency 610–575 THz
Common connotations
Gtk-dialog-info.svg    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00FFFF
HSV     (h, s, v)(180°, 100%, 100%)
sRGB B  (r,  g,  b)(0, 255, 255)
Source CSS Color Module Level 4000
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)

Cyan ( /ˈs.ən,ˈsˌæn/ ) [1] [2] [3] is the color between green and blue on the visible spectrum of light. [4] [5] It is evoked by light with a predominant wavelength between 490 and 520 nm, between the wavelengths of green and blue. [6]


In the subtractive color system, or CMYK color model, which can be overlaid to produce all colors in paint and color printing, cyan is one of the primary colors, along with magenta and yellow. In the additive color system, or RGB color model, used to create all the colors on a computer or television display, cyan is made by mixing equal amounts of green and blue light. Cyan is the complement of red; it can be made by the removal of red from grey. Mixing red light and cyan light at the right intensity will make white light.

Colors in the cyan color range are teal, turquoise, electric blue, aquamarine, and others described as blue-green.


Its name is derived from the Ancient Greek κύανος, transliterated kyanos, meaning "dark blue enamel, Lapis lazuli". [7] [8] It was formerly known as "cyan blue" [9] or cyan-blue, [10] and its first recorded use as a color name in English was in 1879. [11] Further origins of the color name can be traced back to a dye produced from the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus). [12] [13]

In most languages, 'cyan' is not a basic color term and it phenomenologically appears as a greenish vibrant hue of blue to most English speakers. Other English terms for this "borderline" hue region include blue green, aqua, and turquoise. [14]

Cyan on the web and in printing

The web colors cyan and aqua

Cyan (additive secondary)
Gtk-dialog-info.svg    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00FFFF
HSV     (h, s, v)(180°, 100%, 100%)
sRGB B  (r,  g,  b)(0, 255, 255)
Source X11
ISCC–NBS descriptor Brilliant bluish green
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)

The web color cyan shown at right is a secondary color in the RGB color model, which uses combinations of red, green and blue light to create all the colors on computer and television displays. In X11 colors, this color is called both cyan and aqua. In the HTML color list, this same color is called aqua.

The web colors are more vivid than the cyan used in the CMYK color system, and the web colors cannot be accurately reproduced on a printed page. To reproduce the web color cyan in inks, it is necessary to add some white ink to the printer's cyan below, so when it is reproduced in printing, it is not a primary subtractive color. It is called aqua (a name in use since 1598) because it is a color commonly associated with water, such as the appearance of the water at a tropical beach. [15]

Process cyan

Cyan (subtractive primary)
Gtk-dialog-info.svg    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00B7EB
HSV     (h, s, v)(193°, 100%, 92 [16] %)
sRGB B  (r,  g,  b)(0, 183, 235)
SourceCMYK [17]
ISCC–NBS descriptor Brilliant greenish blue
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)

Cyan is also one of the common inks used in four-color printing, along with magenta, yellow, and black; this set of colors is referred to as CMYK. In printing, the cyan ink is sometimes known as printer's cyan, process cyan, or process blue.

While both the additive secondary and the subtractive primary are called cyan, they can be substantially different from one another. Cyan printing ink is typically more saturated than the RGB secondary cyan, depending on what RGB color space and ink are considered. That is, process cyan is usually outside the RGB gamut, [18] and there is no fixed conversion from CMYK primaries to RGB. Different formulations are used for printer's ink, so there can be variations in the printed color that is pure cyan ink. This is because real-world subtractive (unlike additive) color mixing does not consistently produce the same result when mixing apparently identical colors, since the specific frequencies filtered out to produce that color affect how it interacts with other colors. Phthalocyanine blue is one such commonly used pigment. A typical formulation of process cyan is shown in the color box at right.

In science and nature

Color of water

Cyan and cyanide




Photography and film


See also

Related Research Articles

CMYK color model Subtractive color model, used in color printing

The CMYK color model is a subtractive color model, based on the CMY color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. CMYK refers to the four ink plates used in some color printing: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

Primary color Sets of colors that can be mixed to produce gamut of colors

A set of primary colors consists of colorants or colored lights that can be mixed in varying amounts to produce a gamut of colors. This is the essential method used to create the perception of a broad range of colors in, e.g., electronic displays, color printing, and paintings. Perceptions associated with a given combination of primary colors can be predicted by an appropriate mixing model that reflects the physics of how light interacts with physical media, and ultimately the retina.

Magenta Colour

Magenta is a color that is variously defined as purplish-red, reddish-purple or mauvish-crimson. On color wheels of the RGB (additive) and CMY (subtractive) color models, it is located exactly midway between red and blue. It is one of the four colors of ink used in color printing by an inkjet printer, along with yellow, black, and cyan, to make all other colors. The tone of magenta used in printing is called "printer's magenta". It is also a shade of purple.

Complementary colors pairs of colors

Complementary colors are pairs of colors which, when combined or mixed, cancel each other out by producing a grayscale color like white or black. When placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast for those two colors. Complementary colors may also be called "opposite colors".

Gamut Color reproduction

In color reproduction, including computer graphics and photography, the gamut, or color gamut, is a certain complete subset of colors. The most common usage refers to the subset of colors which can be accurately represented in a given circumstance, such as within a given color space or by a certain output device.

In the visual arts, color theory is a body of practical guidance to color mixing and the visual effects of a specific color combination. There are also definitions of colors based on hues of the color wheel: primary color, secondary color, and tertiary color. Color theory has a history that goes back all the way to Antiquity. Aristotle and Claudius Ptolemy already discussed which and how colors can be produced by mixing other colors. The influence of light on color was investigated and revealed further by al-Kindi and Ibn al-Haytham (d.1039). Ibn Sina, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi and Robert Grosseteste discovered that contrary to the teachings of Aristotle, there are multiple color paths to get from black to white. More modern approaches to color theory principles can be found in the writings of Leone Battista Alberti and the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. A tradition of "color theory" began in the 18th century, initially within a partisan controversy over Isaac Newton's theory of color and the nature of primary colors. From there it developed as an independent artistic tradition with only superficial reference to colorimetry and vision science.

Subtractive color Model applied in predicting the spectral composition of light reflected from photographic film and color printed paper

Subtractive color or subtractive color mixing predicts the spectral power distribution of light after it passes through successive layers of partially absorbing media. This idealized model is the essential principle of how dyes and inks are used in color printing and photography where the perception of color is elicited after white light passes through microscopic "stacks" of partially absorbing media allowing some wavelengths of light to reach the eye and not others.

RYB color model

RYB is a subtractive color model used in art and applied design in which red, yellow, and blue pigments are considered primary colors. Under traditional color theory, this set of primary colors was advocated by Moses Harris, Michel Eugène Chevreul, Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, and applied by countless artists and designers. The RYB color model underpinned the color curriculum of the Bauhaus, Ulm School of Design and numerous art and design schools that were influenced by the Bauhaus, including the IIT Institute of Design, Black Mountain College, Design Department Yale University, the Shillito Design School, Sydney, and Parsons School of Design, New York.

Color printing or colour printing is the reproduction of an image or text in color. Any natural scene or color photograph can be optically and physiologically dissected into three primary colors, red, green and blue, roughly equal amounts of which give rise to the perception of white, and different proportions of which give rise to the visual sensations of all other colors. The additive combination of any two primary colors in roughly equal proportion gives rise to the perception of a secondary color. For example, red and green yields yellow, red and blue yields magenta, and green and blue yield cyan. Only yellow is counter-intuitive. Yellow, cyan and magenta are merely the "basic" secondary colors: unequal mixtures of the primaries give rise to perception of many other colors all of which may be considered "tertiary."

Secondary color Color made by mixing two primary colors

A secondary color is a color made by mixing of two primary colors in a given color space.

Tertiary color

A tertiary color or intermediate color is a color made by mixing full saturation of one primary color with half saturation of another primary color and none of a third primary color, in a given color space such as RGB, CMYK or RYB (traditional).

Color mixing

There are two types of color mixing: additive and subtractive. In both cases, mixing is typically described in terms of three color and three secondary colors. All subtractive colors combined in equal amounts make dark brown, while all additive colors combined in equal amounts make white.

Shades of magenta

The color magenta has notable tints and shades. These various colors are shown below.

Color space Standard that defines a specific range of colors

A color space is a specific organization of colors. In combination with color profiling supported by various physical devices, it supports reproducible representations of color -- whether such representation entails an analog or a digital representation. A color space may be arbitrary, i.e. with physically realized colors assigned to a set of physical color swatches with corresponding assigned color names, or structured with mathematical rigor. A "color space" is a useful conceptual tool for understanding the color capabilities of a particular device or digital file. When trying to reproduce color on another device, color spaces can show whether you will be able to retain shadow/highlight detail, color saturation, and by how much either will be compromised.

CMY color model Subtractive color model for dyes and pigments

The CMY color model is a subtractive color model in which cyan, magenta and yellow pigments or dyes are added together in various ways to reproduce a broad array of colors. The name of the model comes from the initials of the three subtractive primary colors: cyan, magenta, and yellow.

Shades of yellow

Varieties of the color yellow may differ in hue, chroma or lightness, or in two or three of these qualities. Variations in value are also called tints and shades, a tint being a yellow or other hue mixed with white, a shade being mixed with black. A large selection of these various colors is shown below.

Shades of blue Variety of the color blue

Varieties of the color blue may differ in hue, chroma, or lightness, or in two or three of these qualities. Variations in value are also called tints and shades, a tint being a blue or other hue mixed with white, a shade being mixed with black. A large selection of these various colors is shown below.

Shades of cyan

The color cyan, a greenish-blue, has notable tints and shades. It is one of the subtractive primary colors along with magenta, and yellow.


  1. "cyan" . Oxford English Dictionary (Online ed.). Oxford University Press. (Subscription or participating institution membership required.)
  2. "cyan". Unabridged. Random House . Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  3. "cyan". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (5th ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  4. "cyan". Merriam-Webster Dictionary . Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  5. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (5th ed.). Oxford University Press. 2002.
  6. Jones, Andrew Zimmerman. "Visible Light Spectrum - Overview and Chart". . Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  7. "Online Etymology Dictionary" . Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  8. "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, κύα^νος" . Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  9. J. Arthur H. Hatt (1908). The Colorist: Designed to Correct the Commonly Held Theory that Red, Yellow, and Blue are the Primary Colors and to Supply the Much Needed Easy Method of Determining Color Harmony. D. Van Nostrand Company. p.  22.
  10. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition.
  11. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill page 194
  12. The Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments, Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, Ruth Siddall, 2004, Routledge, ISBN   9781136373855
  13. Eastaugh, Nicholas; Walsh, Valentine; Chaplin, Tracey; Siddall, Ruth (30 March 2007). Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments. ISBN   9781136373855 . Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  14. Raffman, Diana (2014). Unruly Words: A Study of Vague Language. OUP USA. pp. 56–57. ISBN   9780199915101 . Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  15. Maerz and Paul The Dictionary of Color 1930 (see under Aqua in Index, page 189)
  16. Using HSL color space#Conversion from RGB to HSL or HSV, v=247/255
  17. "". Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2014.[ unreliable source? ]
  18. P.U.P.A. Gilbert and Willy Haeberli (2011). Physics in the Arts (Revised ed.). Academic Press. p. 110. ISBN   9780123918895 . Retrieved 31 July 2019.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  19. Craig F. Bohren (2001). Clouds in a Glass of Beer: Simple Experiments in Atmospheric Physics. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN   0-486-41738-7.
  20. Best, Janet (2017-06-08). Colour Design: Theories and Applications. Woodhead Publishing. ISBN   9780081018897.
  21. Elaine, McKeown, A. (2015-10-27). Impact of Water Pollution on Human Health and Environmental Sustainability. IGI Global. ISBN   9781466695603.
  22. Administrator, NASA Content (2015-04-02). "Uranus in True and False Color". NASA. Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  23. Hahn, Eric. "Gas Flame Colour Temperature Chart (Yellow Flame vs Blue Flame)". ELGAS - LPG Gas for Home & Business. Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  24. Mike Ware (1999). Cyanotype: the history, science and art of photographic printing in Prussian blue. NMSI Trading Ltd. ISBN   1-900747-07-3.
  25. Belton, John (2000): CinecoIor. In: Film History, 12,4, Color Film (2000), pp. 344-357.
  26. "Cinecolor". Retrieved 2017-11-10.
  27. Mosby's Medical, Nursing & Allied Health Dictionary . Mosby-Year Book (4th ed.). 1994. p. 425.
  28. Belkin (March–April 1998). "Surgical scrubs--where we were, where we are going". Todays Surg Nurse. 20 (2): 28–34. PMID   10026627.