Abstract Factors determining creation of self-organized structures, Bénar–Marangoni cells, during the process of solvent evaporation from the polymer solution and formation of polymer film were studied. Examined parameters were temperature, temperature gradient, rate of drying, height of a liquid layer, area for film preparation, viscosity, molecular weight distribution, etc. A special apparatus, micro condensation drying system, was engineered for this study. As a model system, hydroxyethyl cellulose aqueous solution was used for its excellent film-forming ability and the tendency to self-aggregation. Experimental results, presented in a wide spectrum of self-organized patterns, show the complexity of the problem and the crucial role of molecular weight distribution of the polymer in the fixation of organized structures under highly non-equilibrium conditions.