Abstract Transparent silicon oxide films were deposited on polyethylene terephthalate substrates by means of reactive magnetron sputtering with a mixture of argon and oxygen gases. The influences of process parameters, including the oxygen flow ratio, work pressure, radio frequency (RF) power density and deposition time, on the film properties, such as: deposition rate, morphology, surface roughness, water vapor/oxygen transmission rate and flexibility, were investigated. The experimental results show that the SiO x films deposited at RF power density of 4.9 W/cm 2, work pressure of 0.27 Pa and oxygen flow ratio of 40% have better performance in preventing the permeation of water vapor and oxygen. Cracks are produced in the SiO x films after the flexion of more than 100 cycles. The minimum transmission rates of water vapor and oxygen were found to be 2.6 g/m 2 day atm and 15.4 cc/m 2 day atm, respectively.