A method for forming a hard bias structure in a magnetoresistive sensor is disclosed. A magnetoresistive sensor having a soft magnetic bias layer, spacer layer, and a magnetoresistive layer, is formed over a substrate having a gap layer. A mask is formed over a portion of the magnetoresistive sensor structure to define a central region. The masked structure is ion milled to remove portions not shielded by the mask, to form the central region with sloped sides, and to expose a region of the gap layer laterally adjacent the sloped sides. A first underlayer is deposited onto at least the sloped sides at a high deposition angle. A second underlayer is deposited to at least partially overlap the first underlayer, and at a first lower deposition angle. A hard bias layer is deposited over at least a portion of the second underlayer, and at a second lower deposition angle.