This review summarizes several aspects of the interactions between organic dyes and clay minerals, and presents some interesting properties of hybrid materials based on these components. It explains the basic phenomena and photophysical properties of dye/clay mineral hybrid systems (DCHS) while examining the role of clay minerals in them. A brief history of using dyes as tools for clay research and on traditional materials based on DCHS is presented. Metachromasy, the phenomenon of colour change related to the formation of dye molecular aggregates is described in detail and analysed from various perspectives. The properties of DCHS, including photoactivity, luminescence, photocatalytic properties, optical anisotropy and non-linear optical properties are analysed in detail. Clay minerals often play a significant role in the occurrence of specific photophysical phenomena such as resonance energy transfer and luminescence quenching and may influence various reactions, such as conformational changes in dye molecules, photochromism, photoisomerization, photosensitization and other photochemical processes. Routes to synthesize various types of hybrid materials are also described here. The relevance of DCHS for clay research, chemistry and materials science is summarized briefly.