Vital dyes have advanced diagnosis and surgical technique in various specialties, including oncology, gastroenterology, and ophthalmology. In ocular surgery vital dyes are widely used in cataract and vitreoretinal surgery. Worldwide, intra-operative use of trypan blue during cataract surgery has enhanced visualization of the anterior capsule during capsulorrhexis, and patent blue has been recently licensed in Europe for cataract surgery. For chromovitrectomy, the vital dyes indocyanine green, infracyanine green, and brilliant blue stain the internal limiting membrane, and trypan blue and triamcinolone acetonide help visualize epiretinal membranes and vitreous, respectively. Intra-operative vital dyes are finding uses in corneal, glaucoma, orbit, strabismus, and conjunctival surgery. We provide a summary of current knowledge of the use of vital dyes in ocular surgery. We review the properties of dyes, techniques of application, indications, and complications in ocular surgery. Vital dyes represent an expanding area of research, and novel dyes deserve further investigation.