We describe the current status of techniques for preparing planar lipid bilayers, the fusion of sensory elements and the design of bilayer interfaces for analytical applications. Advances in bilayer fabrication have allowed preparation of lipid bilayers with membrane resistance of >1 GΩ ("gigaseal") in flow, microfluidic and array formats, which have enabled single-channel and multi-channel recording. Not only biological but also engineered channels have been adopted as sensory elements for lipid-bilayer-based biosensors. Synthetic and inorganic channels are also emerging for designing membranes for lipid-bilayer sensors. We discuss the potential of lipid bilayers containing biological, engineered or synthetic channels for the design of biosensors, including drug-screening biosensors.