The effect of substrate characteristics on the formation of plasma-sprayed alumina splats was studied using both experiments and numerical simulation. Knowledge of the particle and substrate conditions is critical in understanding coating formation and in validating computational models. The size, velocity and temperature of the alumina particles prior to impact were measured using a particle in-flight diagnostic system. Experiments were performed on two substrate materials: stainless steel and glass. Substrate temperatures were varied in a range of 20-500°C and controlled with an electric heater. For each substrate material, a transition temperature was observed above which there was no fingering/splashing and the splats had a circular disk shape. A 3D computational model of free surface flows with heat transfer and solidification was used to simulate the impact of alumina particles in conditions given by the experiments. The splat shapes from numerical model were comparable to those of the experiments for hot stainless steel substrate. For a cold substrate, the numerical model did not show any fingering/splashing. In the experiments, however, we observed two types of splat shapes: intensive splashing with no central core and circular disk splat. Substrate surface contamination, not considered in the numerical model, was the probable cause of droplet splashing on the cold substrate.