Magmatic sheet intrusions contribute significantly to the upper crustal magma transport network. The emplacement mechanism of the magmatic sheets controls the final geometry of the intrusions and the characteristics of host rock deformation. Previous observations have highlighted the preponderance of brittle structures, associated with shallow-level sheet intrusions. However, recent studies have suggested that non-brittle host rock behaviour also occurs, particularly related to the formation of magma fingers during shallow-level sill intrusion. Here, we examine both brittle and non-brittle intrusion mechanisms and expand upon them with field observations from a series of widespread and variable magmatic systems. Non-brittle emplacement appears primarily associated with viscous flow of the host rock during intrusion and is therefore intimately linked to the contemporaneous host rock rheology as well as magma dynamics. Purely brittle and non-brittle emplacement processes are found to be end members with many intrusions containing evidence of both behaviours. Deriving the host rock characteristics is therefore important for discerning potential diagnostic intrusion indicators and intrusion geometries both within the field and in modelling. Incorporation of variable host material behaviours in numerical and analogue modelling, tuned using direct field observations, may consequently further our understanding of the controls on shallow-level intrusion.