In vitro cell culture or tissue models that mimic in vivo cellular response have potential in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, and are a more economical and accurate option for drug toxicity tests than animal experimentation. The design of in vivo-like cell culture models should take into account how the cells interact with the surrounding materials and how these interactions affect the cell behavior. Cell-material interactions are furthermore important in cancer metastasis and tumor progression, so deeper understanding of them can support the development of new cancer treatments. Herein, the colloidal probe microscopy technique was used to quantify the interactions of two cell lines (human pluripotent stem cell line WA07 and human hepatocellular carcinoma cell line HepG2) with natural, xeno-free biomaterials of different chemistry, morphology, and origin. Key components of extracellular matrices –human collagens I and IV, and human recombinant laminin-521−, as well as wood-derived, cellulose nanofibrils –with evidenced potential for 3D cell culture and tissue engineering– were analysed. Both strength of adhesion and force curve profiles depended on biomaterial nature and cell characteristics. The successful growth of the cells on a particular biomaterial required cell-biomaterial adhesion energies above 0.23 nJ/m. The information obtained in this work supports the development of new materials or hybrid scaffolds with tuned cell adhesion properties for tissue engineering, and provides a better understanding of the interactions of normal and cancerous cells with biomaterials in the human body.