Synthetic Dyes: Properties, Types, Classification and Application

What is Synthetic Dyes?
Textile dyes are used for coloring the fabrics. Dyes are molecules which absorb and reflect light at specific wavelengths to give human eyes the sense of color. There are two major types of dyes: natural and synthetic dyes. The natural dyes are complex mixtures of components derived extracted from natural substances such as plants, animals or minerals. Synthetic dyes are made in a laboratory. Chemicals are synthesized for making synthetic dyes. Some of the synthetic dyes contain metals too. In this article I will discuss about synthetic dyes.

synthetic dyes

Synthetic dyes are artificially made coloring agents that are used to add color to a wide range of materials such as textiles, plastics, foods, cosmetics, and printing materials. They are made from chemical compounds synthesized in a laboratory. Synthetic dyes are sometimes referred to as ‘coal tar dyes’, since they are manufactured from substances which, until recently, were only obtained from coal tar. They are classified based upon their chemical composition and the method of their application in the dyeing process.

Almost all the colors that you see today are synthetic dyes. They are used everywhere in everything from clothes to paper, from food to wood. This is because they are cheaper to produce, brighter, more color-fast, and easy to apply to fabric. Example, Acid Dyes, Azo Dyes, Basic Dyes, Mordant Dyes, etc Azo dye testing

Properties of Synthetic Dyes:
The properties of synthetic dye depend on the specific type of dye, but in general, synthetic dyes have the following properties:

  1. Brightness and consistency: Synthetic dyes are known for their bright and vibrant colors, which are consistent across different batches.
  2. Stability: These dyes are stable and do not fade easily in light or with exposure to other environmental factors.
  3. Affordability: They are generally more affordable than natural dyes, making them a cost-effective option for large-scale production.
  4. Chemical properties: Different types of synthetic dyes have different chemical properties that make them suitable for different types of materials and applications. For example, acid dyes are used for coloring protein fibres like wool and silk, while disperse dyes are used for coloring synthetic fibers like polyester.
  5. Resistance to water and other chemicals: These dyes are generally resistant to water and other chemicals, making them suitable for use in a wide range of applications.

Classification of Synthetic Dyes:
Synthetic dyes can be classified in several ways based on different criteria, including their chemical structure, application, and dyeing process. Here are some common classifications of synthetic dyes:

  1. Chemical structure: Synthetic dyes can be classified based on their chemical structure, such as azo dyes, anthraquinone dyes, phthalocyanine dyes, and indigo dyes.
  2. Dyeing process: They can be classified based on the type of dyeing process used, such as direct dyes, acid dyes, reactive dyes, disperse dyes, and vat dyes.
  3. Application: Classified according to application, such as textile dyes, leather dyes, paper dyes, food dyes, cosmetic dyes, and inkjet dyes.
  4. Colorfastness: They are also classified based on their colorfastness properties, such as lightfastness, washfastness, and heat stability.
  5. Toxicity: These dyes can be classified based on their toxicity level, such as eco-friendly dyes, low-toxicity dyes, and high-toxicity dyes.

You can follow below chart for clear concept.

dyes classification
Fig: Dyes classification

Types of Synthetic Dyes:
There are many types of synthetic dyes, each with their own unique chemical properties and applications. Here are some common types of synthetic dyes:

  1. Azo dyes
  2. Anthraquinone dyes
  3. Phthalocyanine dyes
  4. Reactive dyes
  5. Acid dyes
  6. Direct dyes
  7. Disperse dyes
  8. Vat dyes
  9. Basic dyes
  10. Mordant dyes
  11. Solvent dyes
  12. Fluorescent dyes
  13. Oxidation dyes
  14. Sulphur dyes
  15. Metal complex dyes
  16. Naphthol dyes
  17. Nitro dyes
  18. Triarylmethane dyes
  19. Azoic dyes

Advantages of Synthetic Dyes:
Synthetic dyes offer several advantages over natural dyes, including:

  1. Wide range of colors: Synthetic dyes offer a wider range of colors and shades than natural dyes, allowing for more options in textile and other industries.
  2. Consistency: More consistent in color than natural dyes, ensuring that the same shade of color can be achieved repeatedly.
  3. Affordability: Generally less expensive than natural dyes, making them a more cost-effective option for large-scale production.
  4. Durability: They are often more durable than natural dyes and can withstand harsh environmental conditions and washing.
  5. Availability: Can be produced in large quantities, making them more widely available and accessible than natural dyes.
  6. Chemical properties: Different types of synthetic dyes have different chemical properties that make them suitable for different types of materials and applications, allowing for greater versatility and flexibility.

Disadvantage of Synthetic Dyes:
Synthetic dyes have harmful effects on the environment and human beings. The production and disposal of synthetic dyes can cause pollution of water and soil, leading to negative impacts on the environment and wildlife.

First off, synthetic dyes are made up of chemical compounds that can be harmful to humans, especially those who work in their production.

Some of the chemicals found in synthetic dyes are mercury, lead, chromium,copper, sodium chloride, toluene, and benzene. Exposure to large doses of these substances can be toxic and can have severe effects in the human body. Some synthetic dyes have been linked to health problems such as cancer, allergies, and skin irritation, both for workers involved in their production and for end-users.

Most dyes are not biodegradable, meaning they can persist in the environment for a long time, leading to long-term environmental impacts.

Application of Synthetic Dyes:
Synthetic dyes have a wide range of applications in various industries, including:

  1. Textiles: Synthetic dyes are commonly used in the textile industry to color fabrics such as cotton, silk, wool, and synthetic fibres like polyester, nylon, and acrylic.
  2. Printing: They are also used in the printing industry to produce a range of printed materials such as magazines, newspapers, books, and packaging.
  3. Cosmetics: Synthetic dyes are used in the cosmetics industry to add color to products such as lipsticks, eye shadows, and nail polish.
  4. Food: In the food industry, synthetic dyes are used to add color to products such as candies, baked goods, and beverages.
  5. Plastics: These dyes are used in the production of plastics to add color and improve the aesthetic appeal of products such as toys, containers, and consumer electronics.
  6. Pharmaceuticals: In the pharmaceutical industry, synthetic dye is used to add color to medications for ease of identification and differentiation.


  1. Synthetic Dyes by Gurdeep R. Chatwal
  2. Textile Dyeing By Dr. N. N. Mahapatra
  3. Textile Dyes by N. N. Mahapatra

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