An improved thick dielectric (TD) layer for inorganic electroluminescent (EL) display devices has been achieved through a composite high-κ dielectric sol-gel/powder route. This composite TD film results in a luminance improvement (up to 10×) in these TDEL devices with Eu-doped GaN and Mn-doped ZnS phosphor layers. The use of a composite TD film, composed primarily of lead-zirconate-titanate (PZT), results in a significantly higher charge (>3 μC/cm²) coupling to the phosphor layer. Furthermore, the reduction in porosity of the TD has improved the homogeneity of electric field applied to the phosphor layer, resulting in a steeper luminance-voltage slope. The reduction in porosity has also decreased the diffuse reflection of the TD, which when pigmented, exhibits a diffuse reflectivity of <2% resulting in high display contrast. High luminance levels of up to 3500 cd/m2 have been achieved from the ZnS:Mn TDEL devices and 450 cd/m² from GaN:Eu devices. A detailed analysis of the electrical steady-state time-varying characteristics has shown that the electrical performance of TDELs is very similar to TFELs in spite of the physical asymmetry in the device structure. These results demonstrate that three critical requirements for practicality of the TDEL approach (formation on standard display glass, low reflectivity, and electric field homogeneity) can be obtained by careful selection and design of the device materials, fabrication process and device structure.