Superpolished optical flats with high spatial frequency roughness below 0.1 nm have been commercially available for years. However, it is much more difficult to obtain figured optics of similar quality. We have obtained and tested the finish of figured optics from different vendors by atomic force microscopy and optical profilometry and have investigated how the substrate quality can be improved by the deposition of thin films. We have determined the growth parameters of several thin-film structures. From these parameters we can determine how the surface topography of a coated mirror differs from that of the substrate, select the best thin-film structure, and predict the possible improvement.© (1999) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.