Using Kelvin force microscopy, the authors have investigated the potential distribution on ferroelectric films. The local distribution of potential was observed on downward, prepoled areas. The polarity of the potential corresponds to the screen charge. It was found that the electrical properties of the grain boundary affect the potential distribution. Most of the grain boundaries show a lower potential than the area inside the grain. The authors identified certain regions at the grain boundary with a very low potential. Such potential pits may act as efficient screen charge draining paths and may lead to important perturbations on the device level. (c) 2007 American Institute of Physics.