Several sets of diamond films were grown by microwave plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (CVD) using a CH4–H2 gas mixture. The growth conditions were systematically changed in order to obtain different film morphologies, preferential orientations, and crystal qualities. In particular, the substrate temperature Ts and the CH4 concentration in the gas mixture were varied in the ranges 850–950 °C and 0.4%–2.0%, respectively. The resulting films were characterized by x‐ray diffraction, Raman spectroscopy, and scanning electron microscopy. Room‐temperature cathodoluminescence has been investigated in the energy range 1.55–6.20 eV (200–800 nm). A clear correlation of the 2.85 eV (435 nm) emission band, the so‐called band A, with both the substrate temperature and CH4 content in the gas mixture during deposition, was observed. An explanation is given in terms of crystal defects and diamond film texturing induced by the growth process. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.