A comparison of dry and wet release methods for surface micromachining of metallic structures, such as RF MEMS switches, test structures, bridges, and cantilevers is presented. The dry release process is optimized by varying the concentration of O2 and CF4 plasma and RF power. The plasma ashing of the sacrificial layer typically results in damage to metallic structures or stress-related deformation due to rise in temperature (80°C). A wet release process using critical point drying (CPD) has been investigated to realize gold-electroplated structures with reduced residual stress. The CPD, being a low-temperature (31.1°C) process, is more suitable for compliant structures without any deformation. © 2014 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.