The heat transfer characteristics depending upon ceramic coatings in thermal barrier applications have been investigated in this paper. Finite element method (FEM) is used to compute the temperature and stress fields. The effect of the different types of coatings on thermal insulation properties and residual stresses was discussed in terms of the results by FEM. It is evaluated that the best thermal barrier coating systems, which have the lowest residual stresses and high temperature difference, are determined on the interlayer and bond coat of the MgO-ZrO2 coating system with five layers, and also finite element technique can be used to optimize the heat transfer characteristics of the thermal barrier ceramic coatings. (c) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.