[en] Ion beam figuring (IBF) is an advanced technique that is been used for more than 10 years as a final step in the manufacturing of optical elements. It makes use of ion sputtering to correct shape defects but this process may eventually lead to the degradation of the surface roughness. In this study, the evolution of roughness for some optical materials subjected to the ion beam figuring process has been investigated by using optical profilometry and scanning electron microscopy. Emphasis has been made on electroplated nickel, PVD gold and CVD silicon carbide. These materials are often used for X-ray and UV applications but only limited data on their behavior under ion milling is currently available. Roughness measurements have been performed at different etching depths down to 5 mum which is representative of typical IBF treatments. The effects of using different inert gases (Ar, Kr and Xe) with ion energies ranging from 200 to 900 eV have been studied. The observed trends are an important increase of the roughness for electroplated nickel, a slight decrease for PVD gold and a slight increase for CVD silicon carbide. Results are discussed in relation to previous related works and within sputtering considerations. (C) 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.