Cyan ([1] or [2]) is a greenish-blue color.[3][4] On the color wheels of the RGB (additive) and CMYK (subtractive) color models, it is located midway between blue and green, making it the complementary color of red.

Its name is derived from the Ancient Greek κυανός, transliterated kýanos, meaning "dark blue".[5][6] It was formerly known as "cyan blue"[7] or cyan-blue,[8] and its first recorded use of as a color name in English was in 1879.[9] Further origins of the color name can be traced back to a dye produced from the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus).[10][11]

The web color cyan is synonymous with aqua. 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. Some varieties in the cyan color range are teal, turquoise, electric blue, aquamarine, and other colors described as blue-green.

In the CMYK color model, used in color printing, cyan is one of the primary colors, along with magenta, yellow, and black, which can be overlaid to produce all colors in the CMYK color model. 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. Since it is the complement of red, it can also 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. Cyan light has a wavelength of between 490 and 520 nanometers, between the wavelengths of blue and green.[12]


  • Gallery 1
  • Cyan on the web and in printing 2
    • The web colors cyan and aqua 2.1
    • Process cyan (pigment cyan) (printer's cyan) 2.2
  • In science and nature 3
    • Color of water 3.1
    • Cyan and cyanide 3.2
    • Bacteria 3.3
    • Astronomy 3.4
    • Energy 3.5
    • Photography and film 3.6
    • Medicine 3.7
    • Why surgeons wear cyan gowns 3.8
  • In human culture 4
    • Architecture 4.1
    • Music 4.2
    • Video Games 4.3
  • See also 5
  • References 6


Cyan on the web and in printing

The web colors cyan and aqua

Cyan (additive secondary)
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00FFFF
sRGBB  (rgb) (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.[14]

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

Cyan (subtractive primary)
    Color coordinates
Hex triplet #00B7EB
sRGBB  (rgb) (0, 183, 235)
CMYKH   (c, m, y, k) (100, 22, 0, 8)
HSV       (h, s, v) (193°, 100%, 92[15]%)
Source CMYK[16]
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

  • Pure water is nearly colorless. However, it does absorb slightly more red light than blue, giving large volumes of water a bluish tint; increased scattering of blue light due to fine particles in the water shifts the blue color toward green, for a typically cyan net color.[17]

Cyan and cyanide




Photography and film

  • Cyanotype, or blueprint, a monochrome photographic printing process that predates the use of the word cyan as a color, yields a deep cyan-blue colored print based on the Prussian blue pigment.[18]
  • Cinecolor, a bi-pack color process, the photographer would load a standard camera with two films, one orthochromatic, dyed red, and a panchromatic strip behind it. Color light would expose the cyan record on the ortho stock, which also acted as a filter, exposing only red light to the panchromatic film stock.


  • Cyanosis is an abnormal blueness of the skin, usually a sign of poor oxygen intake. i.e. the patient is "cyanotic".
  • Cyan is associated with the throat chakra in vedic medicine.

Why surgeons wear cyan gowns

  • In the 19th century, surgeons wore white gowns, but in the 20th century surgeons began to wear cyan or green surgical gowns, for several reasons. First, in the brightly lit operating room, cyan reflected less light than white and caused less strain on the eyes of the medical team. Second, cyan is the complementary color of red, so red blood on a cyan gown looks black or gray rather than red, and is not as vivid. Also, shifting your sight to cyan after staring at red for long periods of time does not cause cyan after-images, as shifting from red to white will do. Lastly, since cyan is considered a restful and soothing color, it causes less anxiety to patients.[19]

In human culture


  • Cyan colored tiles are often used to pave swimming pools to make the water within them seem more intensely colored, and therefore more inviting.


Video Games

  • Cyan was the name of the company that developed Myst and Riven.
  • The ghost enemy Inky from the Game Pac-Man is Cyan.

See also


  1. ^  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, 2002.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 5th edition.
  9. ^ Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York:1930 McGraw-Hill page 194
  10. ^ The Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments, Nicholas Eastaugh, Valentine Walsh, Tracey Chaplin, Ruth Siddall, 2004, Routledge, ISBN 9781136373855
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "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." (
  14. ^ Maerz and Paul The Dictionary of Color 1930 (see under Aqua in Index, page 189)
  15. ^ Using HSL color space#Conversion from RGB to HSL or HSV, v=247/255
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^