Many applications of diffractive phase elements involve the calculation of a continuous phase profile that is subsequently quantized for fabrication. The quantization process maps the continuous range of phase values to a limited number of discrete steps. We report our observation of the influence of this quantization process on the performance of mode-selecting diffractive elements and show that the quantization process produces significantly better results by use of an optimized bias phase. In principle this process can be employed to a greater or lesser extent in any quantization process. © 1999 Optical Society of America.