Abstract The ball-end milling process is widely used for generating three-dimensional sculptured surfaces with definite curvature. In such cases, variation of surface properties along the machined surface curvatures is not well understood. Therefore, this paper reports the effect of machining parameters on the quality of surface obtained in a single-pass of a ball-end milling cutter with varying chip cross-sectional area. This situation is analogous to generation of free form cavities, pockets, and round fillets on mould surfaces. The machined surfaces show formation of distinct bands as a function of instantaneous machining parameters along the periphery of cutting tool edge, chip compression and instantaneous shear angle. A distinct variation is also observed in the measured values of surface roughness and micro-hardness in these regions. The maximum surface roughness is observed near the tool tip region on the machined surface. The minimum surface roughness is obtained in the stable cutting zone and it increases towards the periphery of the cutter. Similar segmentation was observed on the deformed chips, which could be correlated with the width of bands on the machined surfaces. The sub-surface quality analysis in terms of micro-hardness helped define machining affected zone (MAZ). The parametric effects on the machining induced shear and residual stresses have also been evaluated.