The presence of optical aberrations in the entrance pupil of a coronagraph causes the stellar light to scatter about the occulting spot, reducing the effective contrast achievable. Even if these aberrations are sufficiently corrected with a deformable mirror to enable planet detection, small drifts in the optical alignment of the telescope introduce additional low-order aberrations. The design parameters of the coronagraph itself (e.g. occulting spot size, Lyot stop diameter, etc.) affect how these aberrations impact the contrast in the focal plane. In this study, we examine the sensitivity of contrast to low-order optical errors for several coronagraph concepts over their respective design parameters. By combining these sensitivities with the telescope throughput, we show that for each coronagraph concept there is an optimum selection of the design parameters that provides efficient, high-contrast imaging at the inner working distance in the presence of alignment errors.© (2003) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.