Bombardment of growing films with reactive particles has developed into a powerful technology over the last 3o years. Compared to normal evaporation methods, important improvements are: better adhesion between film and substrate, high film density, fast coating rate and stoichiometric layers with low optical losses. Although the techniques used to achieve the desired properties vary quite dramatically from high pressure plasma processing to bombardment with monoenergetic ion beams in ultra high vacuum environment, from particles with nearly thermal to some keV energy and from discharge currents of some μA to more than 1oo A in industrial applications, the ion-surface interaction, which causes the modification of the films, is the basic of all reactive deposition processes. The purpose of this paper is to review plasma processes for the production of optical coatings including ion assisted deposition, ion plating and ion cluster beam deposition, comparing the structural and optical properties of the films. Some applications of reactive evaporation presented in the following papers demonstrate the potential use of reactive evaporation and plasma processes for solving optical problems.