In this article, some of the advantages and limitations of DNA microarray technologies for gene expression profiling are summarized. As a model experiment, DermArray® DNA microarrays were utilized to identify potential biomarkers of cultured normal human melanocytes in two different experimental comparisons. In the first case, melanocyte RNA was compared with vastly dissimilar non-melanocytic RNA samples of normal skin keratinocytes and fibroblasts. In the second case, melanocyte RNA was compared with a primary cutaneous melanoma line (MS7) and a metastatic melanoma cell line (SKMel-28). The alternative approaches provide dramatically different lists of 'normal melanocyte' biomarkers. The most robust biomarkers were identified using principal component analysis bioinformatic methods related to likelihood ratios. Only three of 25 robust biomarkers in the melanocyte-proximal study (i.e. melanocytes vs. melanoma cells) were coincidentally identified in the melanocyte-distal study (i.e. melanocytes vs. non-melanocytic cells). Selected up-regulated biomarkers of melanocytes (i.e. TRP-1, melan-A/MART-1, silver/Pme17, and nidogen2) were validated by qRT-PCR. Some of the melanocytic biomarkers identified here may be useful in molecular diagnostics, as potential molecular targets for drug discovery, and for understanding the biochemistry of melanocytic cells.