Payments for ecosystem services (PES) are flexible, financial mechanisms for utilisation of available finances for environmental improvement. Payments for forest ecosystem services (PFES) have gained increasing policy acceptance at national and international levels. However, evidence about their implementation is limited and rather mixed. PES design is a complex task. There are a number of PES design features that need careful understanding of the specific ecological and socio-economic context. The aim of this article is to analyse main approaches to PFES and types of PES schemes or financial arrangements with the emphasis on three basic schemes: (i) public schemes or government-financed PES (Pigouvian type), (ii) private schemes or user-financed PES (Coasean type) and (iii) public–private schemes (a mixed type). The empirical part is based on the review of PES schemes implemented in different Forest Europe signatory countries. The main features of PES schemes are described on chosen examples from Slovakia.