Although dendrite arborization patterns are hallmarks of neuronal type and critical determinants of neuronal function, how dendritic arbors take shape is still largely unknown. Transcription factors play important roles in specifying neuronal types and have a profound influence on dendritic arbor size and complexity. The space that a dendritic arbor occupies is determined largely by a combination of growth-promoting signals that regulate arbor size, chemotropic cues that steer dendrites into the appropriate space, and neurite-neurite contacts that ensure proper representation of the dendritic field and appropriate synaptic contacts. Dendritic arbors are largely maintained over the neuron's lifetime, but in some cases, dendritic arbors are refined, in large part as a result of neuronal activity. In this review, we summarize our current understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate dendritic field formation and influence the shaping of dendritic arbors.