Europium-activated yttrium oxide (Eu:Y2O3) thin films were deposited on (100) silicon and (0001) sapphire substrates using 248 nm KrF pulsed laser. To investigate the effect of the Eu:Y2O3 film roughness on cathodoluminescence (CL) and photoluminescence (PL) properties, the substrate surfaces with various roughnesses were used. The roughness was found to play an important role in determining CL and PL brightness of the Eu:Y2O3 films. The improvement in brightness by increasing the film roughness is due to increase in total portion of light that escapes from the surface of the phosphor film. A model has been proposed which supports strongly this explanation. Our results show that depositions with slower growth rate and lower laser energy are more important parameters than increasing the roughness to improve CL brightness of the Eu:Y2O3 thin film phosphors.