What Is Direct Staining?


Cell staining is a process used to help make cells or cellular components more visible when viewed under a microscope. There are two basic staining methods used: direct (or simple) staining and indirect (or negative) staining.

Direct Staining

  • Direct staining, also referred to as simple staining, is when a single dye is used to stain a cell or cell component. The stain is allowed to set for 30 to 60 seconds before being washed off.

Indirect Staining

  • Indirect staining, also known as negative staining, is when dye is used to stain the slide before the organism is added. It is called "indirect" staining because the dye is applied to something other than the cells that are being examined.


  • Cell staining has several useful functions. First, it can be used as a means of telling apart living and dead cells in a single sample. Second, different stain colors can be used to number individual cells when biomass must be determined.

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  • Photo Credit Microscope image by e-pyton from Fotolia.com
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