A simple method to decorate multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNTs) with Au, Ag and Cu nanoparticles is illustrated. The method consists in directly depositing the selected metals by thermal evaporation on the carbon nanotubes. Comparative measurements carried out on samples that differ in the quantity and type of the deposited metal, reveal that isolated discrete particles form on the nanotube outer wall for all three metals. The CNT-based composites have been investigated by scanning and transmission electron microscopy to determine the size, shape and distribution of the nanoparticles. The results indicate that the quantity of evaporated metal only affects the nanoparticle size and not the average particle density. Particle composition was determined by X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy study. The results are discussed in terms of metal nanoparticle–tube interactions, an important issue for the fundamental and practical applications of similar MWCNT based composites.