Synthetic dyes

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Chemically synthesized organic colorants. The first synthetic Dye, Mauve was made in 1856 by Sir William H. Perkin, an English scientist. Early synthetic dyes were not readily accepted because there were application difficulties. However, the advantages of synthetic dyes, mainly clarity and lower production cost, were responsible for their eventual popularity.

Synthetic dyes, of which there are over ten thousand, are generally categorized into groups based on their reactivity, their solubility and their method of application.

For more information see entries on the following: Acid dye; Aniline dye; Anthraquinone dye; Azo dye; Basic dye; Vat dye; Developed dye; Direct dye; Disperse dye; Reactive dye; Metallized dye; Mordant dye; Naphthol dye; Sulfur dye

Synonyms and Related Terms

synthetic dyestuff; colorante sintético (Esp.); colorant synthétique (Fr.); corante sintético (Port.)

Resources and Citations

  • Colorant Industry History (in U.S.) at
  • B. Berrie, S.Q. Lomax, 'Azo Pigments: Their History, Synthesis, Properties and Use in Artists' Materials', Studies in the History of Art , National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, No. 57, 1997
  • M. de Keijzer, 'A survey of red and yellow modern synthetic organic artists pigments discovered in the 20th century and used in oil colors', ICOM Preprints Lyons, France, Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, p. 369, 1999
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Rosalie Rosso King, Textile Identification, Conservation, and Preservation, Noyes Publications, Park Ridge, NJ, 1985