Abstract A pulse-modulated direct-current methane plasma is used to deposit amorphous hydrogenated carbon (a-C:H) films on Si and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) substrates. The structure and mechanical properties of the films are examined by applying a negative pulse bias voltage of 0.5 to 3 kV to the substrate at a pulse bias period of 100 to 200 μs. The deposition rate on both Si and PMMA increases with increasing the net input power, independent of the pulse period. The Raman spectra demonstrate that the films on Si are diamond-like carbon (DLC), while those on PMMA are polymer-like or soft amorphous carbon because of higher crystallinity of the sp 2 phase and lower nanoscale hardness. The residual compressive stress of the films on PMMA is constantly low ranging from 0 to 2 GPa due exclusively to high flexibility of PMMA, which causes the easy relief of the stress and thus the density decrease in the films.