Abstract This study is aimed at experimentally investigating the effect of microgrinding process on the surface finish, subsurface damage and residual stresses of thermally sprayed nanostructured WC/12Co ( n-WC/12Co) and Al 2O 3/13TiO 2 ( n-Al 2O 3/13TiO 2) coatings. The material removal mechanisms are discussed. Surface textures are measured with stylus profilometry, scanning electronic microscopy (SEM) and atomic force microscopy (AFM), and analyzed using conventional methods and scale-sensitive fractal analysis. Residual stresses are measured with glancing incident X-ray diffraction (GIXD) technique that is capable of providing the depth profiles of residual stresses. Investigated is also grinding damage to the coatings.