In order to use environmental models effectively for management and decision-making, it is vital to establish an appropriate level of confidence in their performance. This paper reviews techniques available across various fields for characterising the performance of environmental models with focus on numerical, graphical and qualitative methods. General classes of direct value comparison, coupling real and modelled values, preserving data patterns, indirect metrics based on parameter values, and data transformations are discussed. In practice environmental modelling requires the use and implementation of workflows that combine several methods, tailored to the model purpose and dependent upon the data and information available. A five-step procedure for performance evaluation of models is suggested, with the key elements including: (i) (re)assessment of the model's aim, scale and scope; (ii) characterisation of the data for calibration and testing; (iii) visual and other analysis to detect under- or non-modelled behaviour and to gain an overview of overall performance; (iv) selection of basic performance criteria; and (v) consideration of more advanced methods to handle problems such as systematic divergence between modelled and observed values.