Outstanding pristine properties of carbon nanotubes and graphene have limited the scope for real-life applications without precise controllability of the material structures and properties. This invited article to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Advanced Materials reviews the current research status in the chemical modification/doping of carbon nanotubes and graphene and their relevant applications with optimized structures and properties. A broad aspect of specific correlations between chemical modification/doping schemes of the graphitic carbons with their novel tunable material properties is summarized. An overview of the practical benefits from chemical modification/doping, including the controllability of electronic energy level, charge carrier density, surface energy and surface reactivity for diverse advanced applications is presented, namely flexible electronics/optoelectronics, energy conversion/storage, nanocomposites, and environmental remediation, with a particular emphasis on their optimized interfacial structures and properties. Future research direction is also proposed to surpass existing technological bottlenecks and realize idealized graphitic carbon applications.