A new method for preparing cells for microscopic examination is presented in which cell mixtures are fractionated by dielectrophoretic forces and simultaneously collected into characteristic zones on slides. The method traps cells directly from the suspending medium onto the slide, reducing cell loss. Furthermore, it exploits differences in the dielectric properties of the cells, which sensitively reflect their morphology. Because different cell types are trapped in characteristic zones on the slide, the technique represents an advance over existing methods for slide preparation, such as centrifugation and smears where cells are randomly distributed. In particular, the new method should aid in the detection of rare and anomalous cell subpopulations that might otherwise go unnoticed against a high background of normal cells. As well as being suitable for traditional microscopic examination and automated slide scanning approaches, it is compatible with histochemical and immunochemical techniques, as well as emerging molecular and proteomic methods. This paper describes the rationale and design of this so-called electrosmear instrumentation and shows experimental results that verify the theory and applicability of the method with model cell lines and normal peripheral blood subpopulations.