Surface processing of a Ti–6Al–4V alloy led to a complex multilayered microstructure containing several phases of the Ni–Ti–P–Al–O system, which improves the mechanical and tribological surface properties. The microstructure, chemical and phase compositions of the hard layer formed on the surface were investigated by LM, XRD, SEM as well as analytical/high-resolution TEM, STEM, EDS, electron diffraction and FIB. Phase identification based on electron diffraction, HRTEM and EDS microanalysis revealed the presence of several binary and ternary phases in the system Ti–Ni–P, sometimes with partial substitution of Ti by Al. However some phases, mainly nanoparticles, still remain not identified satisfactorily. Electron microscopy techniques used for identification of phases present in surface multilayers and some practical limits to their routine application are reminded here.