Cell migration is an essential process, both in unicellular organisms such as amoeba and as individual or collective motility in highly developed multicellular organisms like mammals. It is controlled by a variety of activities combining protrusive and contractile forces, normally generated by actin filaments. Here, we summarize actin filament assembly and turnover processes, and how respective biochemical activities translate into different protrusion types engaged in migration. These actin-based plasma membrane protrusions include actin-related protein 2/3 complex-dependent structures such as lamellipodia and membrane ruffles, filopodia as well as plasma membrane blebs. We also address observed antagonisms between these protrusion types, and propose a model – also inspired by previous literature – in which a complex balance between specific Rho GTPase signaling pathways dictates the protrusion mechanism employed by cells. Furthermore, we revisit published work regarding the fascinating antagonism between Rac and Rho GTPases, and how this intricate signaling network can define cell behavior and modes of migration. Finally, we discuss how the assembly of actin filament networks can feed back onto their regulators, as exemplified for the lamellipodial factor WAVE regulatory complex, tightly controlling accumulation of this complex at specific subcellular locations as well as its turnover.