Ceramic based coatings are used to increase the die and cutting tool life, and to produce quality parts which have surface and dimension sensitive. In this experimental study, the wear performance and thermal properties of the ceramic based coatings were investigated, using the forming tool and cutting tool. M41 high speed steel was coated with TiN, TiAlN, CrN, AlTiN and TiCN by arc physical vapor deposition method (Arc PVD). The wear performance of each coating material was tested by using pin-on ring method. In addition, the thermal diffusivity of the coated steel was measured under thermal load. To be able to understand the probable wear mechanism of the each coating material was carried out. The difference of this work from literature studies is that it uses five different coating types for determination of the thermal diffusivities. Furthermore, an empirical equation was developed for the thermal diffusivity variations with temperature of M41 steel coated with TiN, TiAlN, CrN, AlTiN and TiCN. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.