Dyes differ from pigments, which are finely ground solids dispersed in a liquid, such as paint or ink, or blended with other materials. Most dyes are organic compounds (i.e., they contain carbon), whereas pigments may be inorganic compounds (i.e., they do not contain carbon) or organic compounds. Pigments generally give brighter colours and may be dyes that are insoluble in the medium employed.
Unlike most organic compounds, dyes possess colour because they 1) absorb light in the visible spectrum (400–700 nm), 2) have at least one chromophore (colour-bearing group), 3) have a conjugated system, i.e. a structure with alternating double and single bonds, and 4) exhibit resonance of electrons, which is a stabilizing force in organic compounds