Reactive ion etching (RIE) is known as an effective technique for high precision anisotropic etching with a minimum loss of the critical dimensions provided by the photoresist or other masking materials. RIE can also be used to transfer continuous forms such as spherical resist microlenses into substrate materials (e.g., quartz glass or silicon). The form of the lenses can be considerably controlled by changing the etch rate ratio between resist and the substrate. This was achieved by varying the etch gas compound, especially the amount of oxygen, during the etching or by changing the applied power. Measured etch rates for silicon are given to demonstrate the possibilities of lens shaping. The surface roughness of the etched lenses was one of the main problems. The roughness could be minimized by adding helium to the etch gases for heat removal and by increasing the resist rinse time after the wet chemical development.