Multicellular organisms produce complex tissues with specialized cell types. During animal development, numerous cell–cell interactions shape tissue patterning through mechanisms involving contact-dependent cell migration and ligand–receptor-mediated lateral inhibition. Owing to the presence of cell walls, plant cells neither migrate nor undergo apoptosis as a means to correct for mis-specified cells. How can plants generate functional tissue patterns? This review aims to deduce fundamental principles of pattern formation through examining two-dimensional (2-D) spatial tissue patterning in plants and animals. Turing's mathematical framework will be introduced and applied to classic examples of de novo 2-D patterning in both animal and plant systems. By comparing their regulatory circuits, new insights into the similarities and differences of the basic principles governing tissue patterning will be discussed.