Molecular resists, such as fullerenes, are of significant interest for next generation lithographies. They utilize small carbon rich molecules, giving the potential for higher resolution and etch durability, together with lower line width roughness than conventional polymeric resists. The main problem with such materials has historically been low sensitivity, but with the successful implementation of chemical amplification schemes for several of the molecular resist families this is becoming less of a concern. Aside from sensitivity the other main obstacle has been the difficulty of preparing good quality thin films of non-polymeric materials. Here we present a study of pinhole defect density in fullerene films as a function of substrate cleanliness, post-application bake, and incorporation of chemical amplification components. Ultrathin (sub 30 nm) films of the previously studied fullerene resist M1703-01, and the polymeric resist PMMA were prepared on hydrogen terminated silicon by spin coating and the density of pinhole defects in the films was studied using atomic force microscopy. It was seen that pinhole density was strongly affected by the quality of the substrates, with the lowest densities found on films spun on freshly cleaned substrates. Aging of the film subsequent to spin coating was seen to have less effect than similar aging of the substrate prior to spin coating. Additionally, the use of a post-application bake significantly degraded the quality of the films. The addition of an epoxy crosslinker for chemical amplification was found to reduce defect density to very low levels. (c) 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.