Amorphous carbon nitride films have been deposited by two different methods: (1) direct ion beam deposition from a gas mixture of CH4/N2; and (2) nitrogen ion beam sputtering of a graphite target. The chemical composition, deposition rate, chemical bond and optical properties of the as-deposited films were studied as a function of the process parameters. In the first technique, ions (CH3
+, N+, NH4
+, HCN+, CN+ and N2H2
+) were directly impacted onto the substrate surface. The effects of RF power, CH4/N2 gas ratio, total gas flow, pressure, and ion energy on the film properties and deposition rates were studied. In the second technique, a flux of energetic nitrogen ions (N2
+, N+), generated by N2 and N2/Ar plasmas, were used to directly sputter a graphite target. In this case, the effects of RF power, gas mixture (N2, N2/Ar), and ion energy on the film characteristics and deposition rates were determined. The properties of the films generated by the two alternative techniques were also compared.