A design procedure for spherical lens antennas is described. A particle swarm optimization (PSO) algorithm is coupled to a mode matching technique based on spherical wave expansion to analyze the lens antennas. The proposed methodology is applied to three optimization problems using real-number and binary PSO. First, the maximization of the directivity of Luneburg lens antennas is addressed. Then, amplitude shaped radiation patterns are synthesized by optimizing, both amplitude and position of each element of an array that illuminates a lens. Finally, a dual-beam reconfigurable lens antenna is optimized. By only switching properly the elements of an array, the lens antenna radiates either a directive or a sectoral beam. Numerical comparisons with a full wave commercial software successfully validate the proposed design procedure. (C) 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Microwave Opt Technol Lett 52: 1655-1659, 2010; Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI 10.1002/mop.25278