Carbon films deposited by filtered cathodic arc show a high compressive stress which limits their thickness because of delamination. We study three methods of relieving the stress in these films. We first determine the dependence of the stress on DC bias up to bias voltages of 1200V and show that the formula of Davis provides a good fit to the data including the stress maximum in the region of 150–200V and the progressive decrease in stress at higher voltages. In the second method, plasma immersion ion implantation (PIII) was used to create multilayer of alternating high density, high stress (PIII on) films and lower density, low stress (PIII off) films. This method enabled thicker structures to be produced. In the third method we made multilayers using amorphous silicon and carbon layers. Annealing of these layers showed that the stress could be reduced to very low values because of the ability of the silicon layers to absorb compressive stress by contracting after the annealing step. The microstructural effects of PIII were studied by transmission and scanning electron microscopy.