This article is about the color. For other uses, see Cyan (disambiguation).
Spectral coordinates
Wavelength 490–520 nm
Frequency 610–575 THz
Common connotations
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00FFFF
sRGBB  (r, g, b) (0, 255, 255)
CMYKH   (c, m, y, k) (100, 0, 0, 0)
HSV       (h, s, v) (180°, 100%, 100%)
Source CSS Color Module Level 3
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)

Cyan (/ˈs.ən/[4] or /ˈs.æn/[5]) is a greenish-blue color.[6][7] It is evoked by light with a predominant wavelength of between 490520 nm, between the wavelengths of blue and green.[8]

In the subtractive color system, or CMYK (subtractive), which can be overlaid to produce all colors in paint and color printing, cyan is one of the primary colors, along with magenta, yellow, and black. In the additive color system, or RGB (additive) 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 white light. Mixing red light and cyan light at the right intensity on a black screen will make white.

The web color cyan is synonymous with aqua. Other 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".[10][11] It was formerly known as "cyan blue"[12] or cyan-blue,[13] and its first recorded use of as a color name in English was in 1879.[14] Further origins of the color name can be traced back to a dye produced from the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus).[15][16]

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. Reasons for why cyan is not linguistically acknowledged as a basic color term can be found in the frequent lack of distinction between blue and green in many languages.

Cyan on the web and in printing

The web colors cyan and aqua

Cyan (additive secondary)
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00FFFF
sRGBB  (r, g, b) (0, 255, 255)
CMYKH   (c, m, y, k) (100, 0, 0, 0)
HSV       (h, s, v) (180°, 100%, 100%)
Source X11
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)

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.[17]

Process cyan (pigment cyan) (printer's cyan)

Cyan (subtractive primary)
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00B7EB
sRGBB  (r, g, b) (0, 183, 235)
CMYKH   (c, m, y, k) (100, 22, 0, 8)
HSV       (h, s, v) (193°, 100%, 92[18]%)
Source CMYK[19]
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 as in spectrum(s).

While both the additive secondary and the subtractive primary are called cyan, they can be substantially different from one another. Cyan printing ink can be more saturated or less saturated than the RGB secondary cyan, depending on what RGB color space and ink are considered.

Process cyan is not an RGB color, 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. 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


Surgeon gowns

In human culture


Video Games

See also


Wikimedia Commons has media related to Cyan.
  1. "Results for "cyan"". Lexico Publishing Corp. 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-22.
  2. Oxford English Dictionary
  3. Khalifa, Rashad (trans). "Sura 76, The Human (Al-Insaan)". Quran The Final Testament. Retrieved 2007-11-30.
  4. "cyan". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. "Cyan definition on". Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  6. "Cyan - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  7. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  8. Andrew Zimmerman Jones. "Visible Light Spectrum - Overview and Chart". About. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  9. "In the 20th century an influential doctor switched to green because he thought it would be easier on a surgeon's eyes...Green may be especially well-suited to help doctors see better because it is the opposite of red on the color wheel." (
  10. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  11. "Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, κύα^νος". Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  12. 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.
  13. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition.
  14. Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill page 194
  15. The Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments, Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, Ruth Siddall, 2004, Routledge, ISBN 9781136373855
  16. Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  17. Maerz and Paul The Dictionary of Color 1930 (see under Aqua in Index, page 189)
  18. Using HSL color space#Conversion from RGB to HSL or HSV, v=247/255
  19. "". Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  20. Craig F. Bohren (2001). Clouds in a Glass of Beer: Simple Experiments in Atmospheric Physics. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-41738-7.
  21. Mike Ware (1999). Cyanotype: the history, science and art of photographic printing in Prussian blue. NMSI Trading Ltd. ISBN 1-900747-07-3.
  22. "Why Do Doctors Wear Green or Blue Scrubs?". Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  23. DeMaria, Rusel; Wilson, Johnny L. (December 18, 2003). High Score!: The Illustrated History of Electronic Games (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill Osborne Media. ISBN 0-07-222428-2.
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