Abstract Carbon membrane materials are becoming more important in the new era of membrane technology for gas separation due to their higher selectivity, permeability and stability in corrosive and high temperature operations. Carbon membranes can be produced by pyrolysis of a suitable polymeric precursor under controlled conditions. This paper reviews the fabrication aspects of carbon membranes, which can be divided into six steps: precursor selection, polymeric membrane preparation, pretreatment of the precursor, pyrolysis process, post-treatment of pyrolyzed membranes and module construction. The manipulation of the pretreatment variables, pyrolysis process parameters and post-treatment conditions were shown to provide an opportunity to enhance the separation performance of carbon membranes in the future. By understanding the available methods, one can choose and optimize the best technique during the fabrication of carbon membranes. Furthermore, areas of future potential in carbon membrane research for gas separation were also briefly identified.