Imaging of live cells has been revolutionized by genetically encoded fluorescent probes, most famously green and other fluorescent proteins, but also peptide tags that bind exogenous fluorophores. We report here the development of protein reporters that generate fluorescence from otherwise dark molecules (fluorogens). Eight unique fluorogen activating proteins (FAPs) have been isolated by screening a library of human single-chain antibodies (scFvs) using derivatives of thiazole orange and malachite green. When displayed on yeast or mammalian cell surfaces, these FAPs bind fluorogens with nanomolar affinity, increasing green or red fluorescence thousands-fold to brightness levels typical of fluorescent proteins. Spectral variation can be generated by combining different FAPs and fluorogen derivatives. Visualization of FAPs on the cell surface or within the secretory apparatus of mammalian cells can be achieved by choosing membrane permeant or impermeant fluorogens. The FAP technique is extensible to a wide variety of nonfluorescent dyes.