In this study, CdO thin films were grown by e-beam evaporation technique on glass, indium tin oxide (ITO), fluorine-doped tin oxide (FTO) and silicon (Si) wafer. The deposited films were analyzed by X-ray diffraction (XRD), UV–Vis spectrophotometer, scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) and source meter (current–voltage) for structural, optical, surface morphological, elemental and electrical analysis, respectively. The films have single phase of cubic structure (space group Fm3m) with (200) preferred orientation. The structural parameters viz. inter-planar spacing, grain size, lattice constant, internal strain and dislocation density are calculated and found to vary with the nature of the substrates. The optical band gap was found in the range 2.24–3.95 eV and strongly dependents on the substrates. The SEM analysis shows that the films are compact, homogeneous and have granular structure without any defects like pin holes and cracks. The EDS spectra confirmed the presence of cadmium (Cd) and oxygen (O) in the films deposited on different substrates. The current–voltage characteristics of the films show ohmic behavior. © 2017 Elsevier B.V.