Blistering of protective, structural, and functional coatings is a reliability risk pestering films ranging from elemental to ceramic ones. The driving force behind blistering comes from either excess hydrogen at the film-substrate interface or stress-driven buckling. Contrary to the stress-driven mechanism, the hydrogen-initiated one is poorly understood. Recently, it was shown that in the bulk Al-Al2O3 system, the blistering is preceded by the formation of nano-sized cavities on the substrate. The stress-and hydrogen-driven mechanisms in atomic-layer-deposited (ALD) films are explored here. We clarify issues in the hydrogen-related mechanism via high-resolution microscopy and show that at least two distinct mechanisms can cause blistering in ALD films. Published by AIP Publishing.