The sticking of three model ibuprofen-lactose formulations with respect to compaction force and the surface quality of the upper punch were assessed. Compaction was performed at 10, 25 or 40 kN using an instrumented single-punch tablet press. Two sets of 12.5-mm flat-faced punches were used to evaluate the influence of surface quality. A third set of chrome-plated tooling was also used. Surface profiles (Taylor Hobson Talysurf 120) of the normal tooling upper punches indicated a large difference in quality. The punches were subsequently classified as old (Ra = 0.33 microm) or new (Ra = 0.04 microm) where Ra is the mean of all positive deviations from zero. Surface profiles of sample tablets were also obtained. Following compaction, ibuprofen attached to the face was quantified by spectroscopy. Punch surface roughness, compaction force and the blend composition were all significant factors contributing to sticking. Chrome plating of punch faces increased sticking at a low compaction force but decreased sticking at higher forces. Surface roughness of the tablets did not correlate with the corresponding data for sticking, indicating that this is not a suitable method of quantifying sticking.