Two novel “turn-on” fluorescent probes with perylene tetracarboxylic diimide (PDI) as the fluorophore and two different di-(2-picolyl)-amine (DPA) groups as the metal ion receptor (PDI-1 and PDI-2) were successfully synthesized with satisfactory yields. PDI-1 exhibited high selectivity toward Ni2+ in the presence of various other metal cations including Zn2+, Cd2+ and Cu2+ which were expected to interfere significantly. A 1 : 2 stoichiometry was found for the complex formed by PDI-1 and Ni2+ by a Job's plot and by non-linear least square fitting of the fluorescence titration curves. By introducing an extra diamino ethylene group between DPA and the phenyl bridge, the receptor was modified and the high selectivity of the sensor toward Ni2+ shifted to Fe3+. The enhancement factor of the fluorescence response of PDI-2 to Fe3+ was as high as 138. The binding behavior of the receptors in these two compounds is affected significantly by the PDI fluorophores. Most interestingly, both Ni2+ and Fe3+ are paramagnetic metal ions, which are known as fluorescence quenchers and are rarely targeted with “turn-on” fluorescence probes. This result suggests that PDIs are favorable fluorophores for a “turn-on” fluorescence probe for paramagnetic transition metal ions because of their high oxidation potential.