Due to the small exciton diffusion length in organic materials, the donor-acceptor heterointerface in simple bilayer solar cells must be placed in close proximity to the bottom electrode. This makes great demands on the planarity of the base layer, since a non-uniform topography can cause adverse shorting through overlying layers. We fabricated indium tin oxide (ITO)/titanium oxide (TiOx)/fullerene (C-60)/cyanine dye/molybdenum oxide (MoO3)/silver (Ag) solar cells with TiOx layers deposited via sputtering, coated from a nanoparticle suspension or prepared via a sol-gel process. A power conversion efficiency of 3.7% was measured when using a smooth sol-gel derived TiOx film. (C) 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.