This letter illustrates with AlN/CrN multilayers that optical superlattices, comprised of multilayers of a uv transmitting dielectric layer and a metallic layer, offer a systematic approach to design and fabricate partially transmitting, phase-shift masks for photolithography. From the measured optical constants of sputtered AlN/CrN multilayers, it was found that films had π-phase shift and tunable optical transmission between 5% and 15% at 365, 248, and 193 nm. We compared the optical properties of sputtered AlN/CrN multilayers to “ideal” superlattices, calculated from the measured optical properties of individual thick CrN and AlN layers, and to compositionally equivalent psuedobinary alloys of (AlN)1−x(CrN)x. Although optical properties for all three systems were nearly the same, which is attractive because it implies wide process lattitude, we found systematic differences that were attributed to their individual structures. A phase shift mask with 6% transmission at 365 nm was fabricated with a 1650-Å-thick (25 Å AlN+25 Å CrN) multilayer film. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.