An epitaxial deposition process produces epitaxial lateral overgrowth (ELO) of nitride based materials directly a patterned substrate (10). The substrate (10) is preferably formed from SiC or sapphire, and is patterned with a mask (12), preferably formed of silicon nitride, having a plurality of openings (13) formed therein. A nucleation layer (14), preferably formed of AlGaN, is grown at a high reactor temperature of 700-1100 degrees C, which wets the exposed substrate surface, without significant nucleation on the mask (12). This eliminates the need for regrowth while producing smooth growth surfaces in the window openings (13) as well as over the mask (12). Subsequent deposition of a nitride based material layer (16), preferably GaN, results in a relatively defect free planar surfaced material grown laterally over the mask (12).