Clarifying the signals that lead to dendritic cell (DC) development and identifying cellular intermediates on their way to DC differentiation are essential steps to understand the dynamic regulation of number, localization, and functionality of these cells. In the past decade, much knowledge on cytokines, transcription factors, and successive progenitors involved in steady-state and demand-adapted DC development was gained. From the stage of multipotent progenitors, DCs are generated from Flt3(+) intermediates, irrespective of lymphoid or myeloid commitment, making fms-related tyrosine kinase 3 ligand one of the major regulators for DC development. Additional key cytokines involved are granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and M-CSF, with each being essential for particular DC subsets and leading to specific activation of downstream transcription factors. In this review, we seek to draw an integrative view on how instructive cytokine signals acting on intermediate progenitors might lead to the generation of specific DC subsets in steady-state and during inflammation. We hypothesize that the lineage potential of a progenitor might be determined by the set of cytokine receptors expressed that make it responsive to further receive lineage instructive signals. Commitment to a certain lineage might consequently occur when lineage-relevant cytokine receptors are further upregulated and others for alternative lineages are lost. Along this line, we emphasize the role that diverse microenvironments have in influencing the generation of DC subsets with specific functions throughout the body.