The performance of five commercial photochromic dyes applied by screen printing on textiles was evaluated using a colour measurement methodology which has previously been established and validated. Printing as disperse dyes on polyester gives the strongest photochromic effect when the dye is located near the surface. However, the dyes are applied more effectively using an adaptation of a pigment printing method. Several factors influencing the photochromic properties of the printed textiles were evaluated. The ultraviolet reflecting properties of cotton give a higher level of photocoloration than on polyester. In the dyes studied, the spirooxazines show slightly faster colour development and fade much more rapidly than the naphthopyrans, and the latter show a residual colour after fading. The effect of the ultraviolet irradiation wavelength profile on the photochromic response may be correlated with the ultraviolet absorption spectra of the dyes. © 2010 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2010 Society of Dyers and Colourists.