A method that allows easy and inexpensive detection of negative ions is introduced. The method is based upon the electrostatic lens effect of the sheath layer evolving to a positively biased planar probe that focuses the negative charges to distinct regions on the surface. Trajectories of negative ions inside the sheath are obtained after computing the potential and electric field distribution by solving in three dimensions the nonlinear Poisson equation. The negative ions’ flux to square and disk probes is developed in Ar/SF6 and O2 plasmas. The method allows negative ion detection with sensitivity higher than that of Langmuir probes. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.