Enhancement of mechanical properties by using a TiCN/TiNbCN multilayered system with different bilayer periods (Λ) and bilayer numbers (n) via magnetron sputtering technique was studied in this work. The coatings were characterized in terms of structural, chemical, morphological and mechanical properties by X-ray diffraction (XRD), atomic force microscopy (AFM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and nanoindentation. Results of the X-ray analysis showed reflections associated to FCC (1 1 1) crystal structure for TiCN/TiNbCN films. AFM analysis revealed a reduction of grain size and roughness when the bilayer number is increased and the bilayer period is decreased. Finally, enhancement of mechanical properties was determined via nanoindentation measurements. The best behavior was obtained when the bilayer period (Λ) was 15 nm (n = 200), yielding the highest hardness (42 GPa) and elastic modulus (408 GPa). The values for the hardness and elastic modulus are 1.6 and 1.3 times greater than the coating with n = 1, respectively. The enhancement effects in multilayer coatings could be attributed to different mechanisms for layer formation with nanometric thickness due to the Hall-Petch effect; because this effect, originally used to explain the increase in hardness with decreasing grain size in bulk polycrystalline metals, has also been used to explain hardness enhancements in multilayers taking into account the thickness reduction at individual single layers that make the multilayered system. The Hall-Petch model based on dislocation motion within layers and across layer interfaces, has been successfully applied to multilayers to explain this hardness enhancement. © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.