Cell–material interactions constitute a key fundamental topic in biomaterials study. Various cell cues and matrix cues as well as soluble factors regulate cell behaviors on materials. These factors are coupled with each other as usual, and thus it is very difficult to unambiguously elucidate the role of each regulator. The recently developed material techniques of surface patterning afford unique ways to reveal the underlying science. This paper reviews the pertinent material techniques to fabricate patterns of microscale and nanoscale resolutions, and corresponding cell studies. Some issues are emphasized, such as cell localization on patterned surfaces of chemical contrast, and effects of cell shape, cell size, cell–cell contact, and seeding density on differentiation of stem cells. Material cues to regulate cell adhesion, cell differentiation and other cell events are further summed up. Effects of some physical properties, such as surface topography and matrix stiffness, on cell behaviors are also discussed; nanoscaled features of substrate surfaces to regulate cell fate are summarized as well. The pertinent work sheds new insight into the cell–material interactions, and is stimulating for biomaterial design in regenerative medicine, tissue engineering, and high-throughput detection, diagnosis, and drug screening.