Metallic thin films of gold and silver have been sputtered by argon ions at low energy in the framework of technological applications including nanostructuring and ion beam figuring. Ion beam sputtering at high angle of incidence usually leads to spontaneous formation of periodic structures on the target surface, commonly referred as ripples. In this work, ripples dimensions and roughness evolution have been studied as function of the angle of incidence (0-80 degrees), ion beam energy (400-1200 eV) and ion flux. The ripple wave vector direction was always observed perpendicular to the ion beam direction for both materials, in agreement with theoretical predictions for the investigated experimental conditions. The decrease of ripple wavelength with energy and ion flux shows the dominance of thermal diffusion as smoothing mechanism. Moreover, three regimes for roughness evolution on gold and silver films have been observed as function of the angle of incidence for sputtering at 650 eV, with a minimum roughness achieved around 45 degrees and 60 degrees for gold and silver, respectively. (C) 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.