Abstract Ambient ionization is a set of mass spectrometric ionization techniques performed under ambient conditions that allows the direct analysis of sample surfaces with little or no sample pretreatment. Using combinations of different types of sample introduction systems and ionization methods, several novel techniques have been developed over the last few years with many applications (e.g., food safety screening; detection of pharmaceuticals and drug abuse; monitoring of environmental pollutants; detection of explosives for antiterrorism and forensics; characterization of biological compounds for proteomics and metabolomics; molecular imaging analysis; and monitoring chemical and biochemical reactions). Electrospray ionization and atmospheric pressure chemical ionization are the two main ionization principles most commonly used in ambient ionization mass spectrometry. This tutorial paper provides a review of the publications related to ambient ionization techniques. We describe and compare the underlying principles of operation, ionization processes, detecting mass ranges, sensitivity, and representative applications of these techniques.