This paper describes the shaped-beam synthesis of phased arrays using the cross entropy (CE) method. The CE method is a general stochastic optimization technique based on minimizing the CE (or Kullback–Leibler divergence) between sets of probability distributions to solve complex multi-extremal, multi-objective optimization problems. In this work, the CE method will be utilized to choose the complex weights of array element excitations to control the shape of far-field radiation pattern side lobe power, main lobe beamwidth, and introduce side lobe notches using amplitude-only and complex weight synthesis. Compared with similar stochastic techniques previously used to solve this problem, such as the genetic algorithm and particle swarm optimization, the CE method is a competitive alternative, possessing attractive convergence properties. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.