Latest Classification of Natural Dyes in 3 Way

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Natural dyes derived from plant leaves, roots, bark, insect secretions, and minerals were the only dyes for coloring textiles until 1856 a synthetic dye was discovered. During the industrialization of textile production, rapid progress in synthetic chemistry led not only to the development of synthetic alternatives to popular natural dyes but also to several synthetic dyes in various colors and hues that gradually displaced natural dyes. As the twentieth century came to an end, environmental concerns in synthetic dye production and application revived consumer interest in natural dyes. Environmentally conscious consumers prefer textiles colored with natural dyes, and these textiles have a niche market today.

Figure-1: Natural dyed fabric

You May Read: History of Natural Dyes: From Ancient to Modern World.

Classification of Natural Dyes:

Several classification methods are available for natural dyes, including colour, solubility, chemical composition, application, and origin. Most of the researchers are agree that natural dye can classified into three way.

Classification of natural dyes

Now we will describe the classification of natural dyes in detail:

Basis on Chemical Structure:

  1. Indigoids dye: Indigoids are the largest and oldest group of natural dyes (Ahmed, 2009). The oldest indigo dye and the Tyrian purple dye are among them (Yusuf et al., 2017). Indigo is the main chemical constituent of this dye. Indigo is a distinctive blue dye extracted from Indigofera tinctoria, Polygonum tinctoria, Persicaria tinctoria, Isatis tinctoria. The historic tyrian purple dye contained 6, 6‘-dibromoindigotin. A sea snail’s hypobranchial gland was used to produce this dye.
  2. Quinonoids: The chemical structure of quinooids is again used to classify them as benzoquinones, alpha-napthoquinones, and anthraquinones. Anthraquinone dyes are derived from the fruits and flowers of plants. Anthraquinone dyes are abundant and widely used in food coloring. Anthraquinone dyes are derived from the root of Rubia cordifolia Linn. Plant. Napthoquinone is extracted from henna (Lawsonia inermis L.).
  3. Pyridine based dye: The natural dye berberine is obtained from plants Phellodendron amurense, Rhizoma coptidis, Berberis aristata, and Berberis vulgaris. It has a bright yellow color.
  4. Carotenoids: In nature, carotenoids constitute the largest group of dyes. These polyisoprenoids have a conjugated double bond system, absorbing visible light from the electron magnetic spectrum and producing red, yellow, and orange colors. Generally, carotenoids are classified into two groups: 1) those that contain oxygen molecules, referred to as xanthophyll, and 2) those that contain hydrocarbon carotenoids, referred to as carotenes. Most plants produce carotenoids, and fungi can also produce carotenoids. Microorganisms such as Myxococcus spp., Streptomyces spp., Serratia spp. produce yellow colored carotenoids which are used as food colors.
  5. Dihydropyran: The dye can be used for imparting dark color on silk, wool and cotton fabrics. Dihydropyrans dye contains brazilin from Caesalpinia sappan and haematoxylin from Haematoxylon campechianum.
  6. Flavonoids: The flavonoids are further divided into isoflavones, aurones, chaleones, and flavones. Isoflavones are derivations of hydroxyl and methoxy substituted flavones that produce yellow dyes. The flavonoids found in plants include Artocarpus heterophyllus, Butea monosperma, Bignonia chica, Commelina communis, Pterocarpus santalinus, Myrica esculenta, Datisca canna, Delphinium zalil.
  7. Tannins: As water-soluble phenolic compounds, tannins can be classified as hydrolysable (pyrogallol) or condensed (proanthocyanidins). A variety of plants are used to produce tannins, including Quercus infectoria, Punica granatum, Terminalia chebula, Acacia meransii, Schinopsis balansae, and Vitis vinifera. Tannins are used in food, pharmaceuticals, and dyeing industries.
  8. Prodigiosins: Several microorganisms produce prodigiosin, including Pseudomonas magnesiumrubra, Vibrio gazogenes, Serratia rubidaea, Alteromonas rubra, and Streptomyces longisporus ruber. In addition to antibacterial, antimalarial, antineoplastic, antibiotic, and antifungal activities, red colored prodigiosin produced by Serratia marcescens, Vibrio psychoerythrus, Streptoverticillium rubrireticuli, Vibrio psychoerythrus, and Streptoverticillium rubrireticuli have antifungal and antiprotozoa.
  9. Melanin: It is a heteropolymer pigment that is dark brown or black in color and is divided into eumelanins, allomelanins, pheomelanins, pyomelanins, and neuromelanins. A wide variety of plants and animals contain melanin pigment, which is produced by the Azotobacter chroococcum bacterium. This pigment is used in cosmetics and food industries as well as protecting against UV radiation. The melanin pigment is also produced by fungi such as Cryptococcus neoformans, Wangiella dermatitidis, Sporothrix schenckii, and Aspergillus fumigatus.
  10. Riboflavin: As a water-soluble pigment, riboflavin is also known as vitamin B2. In the food industry, yellow colored riboflavin is produced by bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis, Candida famata, Ashbya gossypii. Riboflavin is derived from ribose sugar and lumichrome.

Basis on Source:

It can be divided into four categories based on the source of natural dyes. They are:

  1. Plant origin
  2. Animal origin
  3. Mineral origin
  4. Microbial and fungal origin

1. Plant Origin:

The majority of natural dyes have been extracted from plants historically. In addition to roots, leaves, twigs, stems, heartwood, bark, wood shavings, flowers, fruits, rinds, hulls, husks, and other plant parts, natural dyes also come from roots, leaves, twigs, stems, heartwood, bark, wood shavings, and the like. Indigo is a famous blue dye made from leaves of the plant indigofera tinctoria. Some important plant basis natural dyes are listed below:

S/NPlantBotanical nameFamilyPart usedExtracted Color
 1. Red sandalwoodPterocarpus santainusFabaceaeWoodRed
 2.TamarindTamarindus indicaFabaceaeLeaves, seedYellow, Brown
 3.African tulip treeSpathodea campanulataBignoniaceaeFlowerYellow/orange
 4.Sausage treeKigelia pinnataBignoniaceaePetals, heartwood, barkYellow,pink
 5.DrumstickMoringa petrygospermaMoringaceaeLeafYellow
 6.AmlaEmblica officinalisPhyllanthaceaeBark,fruitYellow/brown
 7.DahliaDahlia variabilisAsteraceaeFlowerOrange
 8.BaboolAcacia niloticaFabaceaeLeaves, barkYellow/brown
 9.TeakTectona grandisLamiaceaeLeavesYellow
 10.Goat weedAgeratum conyzoidesBerberidaceaeWhole plantYellow
 11.Siam weedsEupatorium odoratumAsteraceaeWhole plantYellow
 12.Scarlet sageSalvia splendensLamiaceaeFlowerRed
 13.CosmosCosmos sulphureusAsteraceaeFlowerMustard color
 14.TurmericCurcuma domesticaZingiberaceaeDried rootsYellow
 15.Pink champaPlumeria rubraApocynaceaeFlowerDark pink
Table-1: Plant source natural dyes

2. Animal Origin:

Various shades of red and purple were produced using dyes that came from animals. The best red dyes known to people in those early days were obtained from animals. In this session we will discuss about some common natural dyes which is obtained from animals.

S/NAnimalBotanical nameFamilyPart usedExtracted Color
1.Cochineal insectsDactylopius coccusDactyopidaeWhole boddyBrownish red
2.Lace insectKerria laccaKeriidaWhole bodyRed
3.Murex snailsMuricidae murexMuricidaeShellPurple
4.Polish cochinealPorphyrophora polonicaMargarodidaeWhole bodyRed
5.OctopusOctopus vulgarisOctopodinaeInkblack
Table-2: Animal source natural dyes

3. Mineral Origin:

Natural dyes with mineral origin include several colors derived from inorganic metal salts and metal oxides. Mineral dyes are classified based on the color obtained. The most important mineral dyes are listed below.

S/NDyes NameExtract color
 1. OchreYellow, brown, red nuances
 2.MalachiteGreen nuances
 3.ManganeseBlack nuances
 4.CinnabarRed nuances
 5.AzuriteBlue nuances
 7.LeadRed nuances
 8.AragoniteWhite nuances
 9.Lapis lazuliBlue nuances

4. Microbial and fungal origin:

Several microorganisms have been found to produce indigo in response to petroleum products. Malik et al. have provided a list of pigment-producing microorganisms and chemical classes of pigments they produce. Some pigment producing micro-organisms are listed below:

S/NMicro-organismPigments/MoleculeExtract color
1.Bradyrhizobium Sp.CanthaxanthinDark-red
2.Flavobacterium Sp., Paracoccus zeazanthinifaciensZeazanthinYellow
3.Chormobacterium violaceumViolaceinPurple
4.Fusarium sporotrichioidesLycopeneRed
5.Monascus purpureusMonascin AnkaflavinRed-yellow
6.Monascus roseusCanthazanthinOrange-pink
7.Pacilomyces farinosusAnthraquinoneRed
8.Rhodotorula sp. Rhodotorula glutinisTorularhodinOrange-red

Basis on Application Method:

Based on their application method, the following classes of natural dyes have been identified:

  1. Mordant Dyes: By bonding mordant dyes to materials for which they have little affinity, mordant dyes can enhance the interaction between the dye and the fiber. Alizarin is an example of one such dye. Depending on the mordant used, most of these dyes produce different hues or colors.
  2. Vat Dyes: They are categorized based on the way they are applied. Typically, they are applied in buckets or vats. In their vibrant forms, they cannot be dissolved. The category of vat dyes only includes indigo, tyrian purple, and wood dyes.
  3. Direct Dyes: The direct dyes are organic compounds soluble in water that produce bright colors. They are commonly used in plant fibers, cotton, and cellulose. Turmeric, annatto, pomegranate, and safflower are typical examples.
  4. Acid Dyes: Among the direct dyes used in acidic media are acid dyes. These dyes mainly contain carboxylic acid groups. One example is saffron, used to dye polyamide fibers such as silk, wool, and cotton.
  5. Basic Dyes: A basic dye is a salt of an organic base. Also known as cationic dyes, these colors are applied under conditions ranging from mild acidic to neutral. Berberine is an example of a simple dye. A variety of fabrics are used with them, including wool, silk, cotton, and modified acrylic.
  6. Disperse Dyes: Lawson, Juglone, Lapachol, and Shikonin, among other natural colors, can be classified as disperse dyes. They color fibers made of acetate or polyester because water cannot dissolve them.


  1. Ahmed, H. E. (2009). History of Natural Dyes in North Africa ‘Egypt.’ In Handbook of Natural Colorants (pp. 27–36). Wiley.
  2. Parekh, S. G., & Solanki, H. A. (2023). NATURAL TEXTILE DYEING : a REVIEW. July.
  3. Salauddin Sk, M., Mia, R., Haque, M. A., & Shamim, A. M. (2021). Review on Extraction and Application of Natural Dyes. Textile & Leather Review, 6257(June), 1–16.
  4. Sayem ANM*, Ahmed F, S. P. and T. B. (2021). A Review on Natural Dyes: Raw Materials, Extraction Process, and their Properties. Advance Research Textile Engineering, 6.
  5. Yusuf, M., Shabbir, M., & Mohammad, F. (2017). Natural Colorants: Historical, Processing and Sustainable Prospects. Natural Products and Bioprospecting, 7(1), 123–145.

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