According to the maximum principle in thin film optics multilayer designs are optimal at least at the normal light incidence. Nevertheless multilayer designs featuring spectral properties typical for inhomogeneous coatings are not widespread. This is connected with the computational problems related to the design of multilayers with large number of layers. This paper shows that using needle optimization technique it is possible to design multilayer counterparts to rugate filters. These multilayers possess even better spectral properties than their inhomogeneous prototypes.© (1996) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.