When collimated beams of low energy ions are used to bombard materials, the surface often develops a periodic pattern or “ripple” structure. Different types of patterns are observed to develop under different conditions, with characteristic features that depend on the substrate material, the ion beam parameters, and the processing conditions. Because the patterns develop spontaneously, without applying any external mask or template, their formation is the expression of a dynamic balance among fundamental surface kinetic processes, e.g., erosion of material from the surface, ion-induced defect creation, and defect-mediated evolution of the surface morphology. In recent years, a comprehensive picture of the different kinetic mechanisms that control the different types of patterns that form has begun to emerge. In this article, we provide a review of different mechanisms that have been proposed and how they fit together in terms of the kinetic regimes in which they dominate. These are grouped into regions of behavior dominated by the directionality of the ion beam, the crystallinity of the surface, the barriers to surface roughening, and nonlinear effects. In sections devoted to each type of behavior, we relate experimental observations of patterning in these regimes to predictions of continuum models and to computer simulations. A comparison between theory and experiment is used to highlight strengths and weaknesses in our understanding. We also discuss the patterning behavior that falls outside the scope of the current understanding and opportunities for advancement.