Physical characterization of individual process steps and their interaction with other processes is a key element during development as well as manufacturing of semiconductor technology. This paper presents a number of examples that illustrate the usefulness of the combination of sample wet-chemical staining techniques with the latest generation SEM imaging capabilities. The examples show how sample preparation and imaging conditions have to be tailored to the specific needs. The combination of application-tailored chemical decoration with high-resolution material contrast SEM imaging has proven to be a powerful technique for the characterization of manufacturing process steps. Only with the novel imaging modes available in the latest generation SEM instruments, it became possible to perform investigations with fast turnaround times and on large sample areas.