Starting from the optical properties of laser beams, the requirements of optical systems for manipulating laser radiation in industrial applications are derived. The relevant parameters, relations to the diffraction limit and the state-of-the-art design techniques are discussed. The three important types of lasers for use in industrial materials processing operate at wavelengths ranging from the infrared (10.6 μm, CO2 laser; 1.06 μm, Nd:YAG) to the ultraviolet region (excimer lasers). Each wavelength range is associated with specific design challenges. The scarcity of suitable refractive materials for the 10 μm wavelength range and the ultraviolet below 300 nm is a major constraint. Reflective systems are used widely at the longer wavelength, but some designs suffer from coma. The 1.06 μm radiation from the Nd:YAG laser can make use of many well-developed optical means for handling visible light. Energy transport by optical fibres is commonly used. Optical systems for excimer laser applications are specific in that they image a mask onto a workpiece, and use the high photon energy and the high definition possible with the short wavelength for precision micro-machining.