Tissue patterning, through the concerted activity of a small number of signaling pathways, is critical to embryonic development. While patterning can involve signaling between neighbouring cells, in other contexts signals act over greater distances by traversing complex cellular landscapes to instruct the fate of distant cells. In this review, we explore different strategies adopted by cells to modulate signaling molecule range to allow correct patterning. We describe mechanisms for restricting signaling range and highlight how such short-range signaling can be exploited to not only control the fate of adjacent cells, but also to generate graded signaling within a field of cells. Other strategies include modulation of signaling molecule action by tissue architectural properties and the use of cellular membranous structures, such as signaling filopodia and exosomes, to actively deliver signaling ligands to target cells. Signaling filopodia can also be deployed to reach out and collect particular signals, thereby precisely controlling their site of action.