In this study the synthesis of nanocrystalline zinc oxide powders using an oxidative electrodeposition method without the use of any surfactants or stabilizers was explored. Nanocrystalline zinc oxide powders were successfully produced by this method and characterized and the effect of the process parameters was studied. The experimental results and analyses were validated against a proposed mechanism for particle formation during oxidative electrodeposition. It was demonstrated that the proposed mechanism can describe the process accurately. © 2009 IOP Publishing Ltd.