Patterning physical, chemical, and biological functions at solid surfaces combines technological development with scientific discoveries in many disparate fields. A variety of top-down and bottom-up approaches has proved successful for applications in the solid state, affording large-area patterning at ever-shrinking length scales. Here we review a collection of recent efforts that highlight the versatility of short-wavelength ultraviolet light and photogenerated reactive oxygen species as a simple and cost-effective means to pattern a variety of challenging materials and thin-film configurations. In particular, we discuss two different classes of materials that present different challenges for patterning: fluid phospholipid bilayers at the buried solid-water interface and the surfaces of bulk elastomers. Despite the use of an identical patterning source, the generation and stabilization of patterns in these two classes of materials follow different mechanisms and produce different functionalities.