DNA methylation contributes to the control of gene expression and plays an essential role in cellular physiology. Well-defined patterns of DNA methylation are established and fixed during embryonic development, and changes in these patterns may be a contributing factor in developmental disorders, cancer and aging. Not least the possibility of using DNA methylation as a marker for disease has created a strong need for techniques to detect and measure DNA methylation. Different techniques provide information on DNA methylation at different levels, spanning from genome-wide methylation content to methylation of single residues in specific genes. The limitations of individual techniques strongly affect interpretation of data. In this review, we discuss some general themes in DNA methylation analysis and outline the basic principles of current key techniques. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques, including potential artifacts and pitfalls, and suggest some overall guidelines that may be instructive for a rational choice of methodology.