Stomata are cellular epidermal valves in plants central to gas exchange and biosphere productivity. The pathways controlling their formation are best understood for Arabidopsis thaliana where stomata are produced through a series of divisions in a dispersed stem cell compartment. The stomatal pathway is an accessible system for analyzing core developmental processes including position-dependent patterning via intercellular signaling and the regulation of the balance between proliferation and cell specification. This review synthesizes what is known about the mechanisms and genes underlying stomatal development. We contrast the functions of genes that act earlier in the pathway, including receptors, kinases, and proteases, with those that act later in the cell lineage. In addition, we discuss the relationships between environmental signals, stomatal development genes, and the capacity for controlling shoot gas exchange.