Fluorescent sensors that illuminate specific molecules and chemical events allow the selective and sensitive study of the cellular environment. At the centre of this technology lies the fluorescent reporter molecule, and it is therefore crucial to provide a breadth of fluorophores with varying photophysical and biological behaviour. 4-Amino-1,8- naphthalimides are commonly employed in fluorescent sensors, but the narrow range of structural derivatives limits versatility of application. Here we report the synthesis and investigation of a set of twelve 4-amino-1,8-naphthalimides bearing an additional substituent on the aromatic core. Photophysical characterisation and time-dependent density functional theory studies provided insights into the structure– photophysical property relationships of these derivatives,
which show an expanded range of emission wavelengths and other photophysical properties. These compounds could all be visualised within cells by confocal microscopy, showing cytoplasmic or lipid droplet localisation. Our studies have demonstrated that simple structural modification of 4-amino-1,8-naphthalimides provides derivatives with considerable breadth of behaviour that lend valuable versatility to the design of fluorescent sensors.