In this study, we investigated the relative contributions of atomic number (Z) and density (rho) to the degradation of the electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) pattern quality for nanoparticles < 500 nm in diameter. This was accomplished by minimizing the diffuse scattering from the conventional thick mounting substrate through the design of a sample holder that can accommodate particles mounted on thin-film TEM substrates. With this design, the contributions of incoherently scattered electrons that result in the diffuse background are minimized. Qualitative and quantitative comparisons were made of the EBSD pattern quality obtained from Al(2)O(3) particles approximately 200 nm in diameter mounted on both thick- and thin-film C substrates. For the quantitative comparison we developed a 'quality' factor for EBSD patterns that is based on the ratio of two Hough transforms derived from a given EBSD pattern image. The calculated quality factor is directly proportional to the signal-to-noise ratio for the EBSD pattern. In addition to the comparison of the thick and thin mounting substrates, we also estimated the effects of Z and rho by comparing the EBSD pattern quality from the Al(2)O(3) particles mounted on thin-film substrates with the quality of patterns obtained from Fe-Co nanoparticles approximately 120 nm in diameter. The results indicate that the increased background generated in EBSD patterns by the electrons escaping through the bottom of the small particles is the dominant reason for the poor EBSD pattern quality from nanoparticles < 500 nm in size. This was supported by the fact that we were able to obtain usable EBSD patterns from Al(2)O(3) particles as small as 130 nm using the thin-film mounting method.