Micromachined deformable mirror technology can boost the imaging performance of an otherwise nonrigid, lower-quality telescope structure. This paper describes the optimization of lead zirconium titanate (PZT) unimorph membrane microactuators for deformable mirrors. PZT unimorph actuators consisting of a variety of electrode designs, silicon-membrane thickness, and membrane sizes were fabricated and characterized. A mathematical model was developed to accurately simulate the membrane microactuator performance and to aid in the optimization of membrane thicknesses and electrode geometries. Excellent agreement was obtained between the model and the experimental results. Using the above approach, we have successfully demonstrated a 2.5-mm-diameter PZT unimorph actuator. A measured deflection of 5 μm was obtained for 50 V applied voltage. Complete deformable mirror structures consisting of 10-μm-thick single-crystal silicon mirror membranes mounted over the aforementioned 4×4 4 PZT unimorph membrane microactuator arrays were designed, fabricated, assembled, and optically characterized. The fully assembled deformable mirror showed an individual pixel stroke of 2.5 μm at 50 V actuation voltage. The deformable mirror has a resonance frequency of 42 kHz and an influence function of approximately 25%.