Problems of bore distortion, combustion blowby and gasket fatigue in lightweight engine blocks are ultimately related to the gasket sealing pressure distribution. For both conventional embossed steel gaskets and composite ones this distribution can be modified by suitable local changes in gasket stiffness. Current methods of gasket optimization concentrate on large scale iterative finite element analysis of the head/gasket/block system, with major computational costs. We present a more economical alternative in which condensed compliance matrices are obtained either from elementary NASTRAN runs or by experimental means. The algorithm enables the gasket engineer to ‘tune’ the gasket to the desired sealing pressure profile with acceptable stiffness variations.