This comprehensive review gives an excellent summary of the uses and properties of the different dyes available to aid better visualisation and diagnoses in ophthalmology. The authors clearly display the pharmacological properties, molecular details, osmolarity and indications in clinical ophthalmology of all known and relevant dyes. Various dyes are used today in corneal diseases and each has unique properties that are beneficial for a specific use; for example Rose Bengal to evaluate the protective status of the pre-ocular tear film, fluorescein which indicates increased epithelial permeability and Lissamin green B that stains devitalised cells. In addition dyes have an important role in surgery, particularly cataract and vitreoretinal surgery to enable better visualisation of the anterior capsule and pre-retinal membranes respectively. The authors conclude that the field of vital dyes offers great opportunities for research in ophthalmology and that new and novel dyes need further studies to clarify the safety and optimal indications in ophthalmology.