The aggregation behavior of one azine and three triphenylmethane cationic dyes in dispersions of reduced-charge montmorillonites (RCMs) was investigated. The extent and types of dye aggregation were monitored using visible spectroscopy. Similar relationships between dye aggregation and layer charge were observed, independent of the structure of the dye cations. High charge-density surfaces induced the formation of H-aggregates, with a face-to-face association between the dye cations that then absorb light at relatively lower wavelengths. Moderate reductions in layer charge were reflected in the lowering of the H-aggregation in favor of monomers, dimers and less densely-packed J-aggregates, absorbing light at higher wavelengths. Dye spectra in the presence of the lowest-charge RCMs resembled those of dilute dye solutions, indicating the absence of dye aggregation of any type in this case. The relationship between dye spectral changes and layer-charge densities of smectites is a general phenomenon which can potentially be used to estimate the layer charge of smectites. However, applying this method to triphenylmethane dyes, which have structurally more complicated cations, may reduce the sensitivity of the probe.