FT-Raman and surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) spectroscopy were applied to the study of lac dye, a highly fluorescent anthraquinone red dye. The SERS spectra were obtained at different pH values, on Ag nanoparticles prepared by chemical reduction with citrate and hydroxylamine, and at several excitation wavelengths, in order to find the best experimental conditions for the detection of the lac dye. The lower detection limit was achieved using nanoparticles prepared by reduction with hydroxylamine, excitation at 514.5 nm, and slightly acidic pH conditions, thus exploiting a combination of factors including lower electrostatic repulsion between dye and nanoparticles and resonance Raman enhancement. A comparison between the adsorption of laccaic acid (LA) and carminic acid (CA), another anthraquinone red dye, was also done, based on the SERS spectra of both dyes. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.