Method and system for producing a selected pattern or array of at least one of a single wall nanotube and/or a multi-wall nanotube containing primarily carbon. A substrate is coated with a first layer (optional) of a first selected metal (e.g., Al and/or Ir) and with a second layer of a catalyst (e.g., Fe, Co, Ni and/or Mo), having selected first and second layer thicknesses provided by ion sputtering, arc discharge, laser ablation, evaporation or CVD. The first layer and/or the second layer may be formed in a desired non-uniform pattern, using a mask with suitable aperture(s), to promote growth of carbon nanotubes in a corresponding pattern. A selected heated feed gas (primarily CH4 or C2Hn with n=2 and/or 4) is passed over the coated substrate and forms primarily single wall nanotubes or multiple wall nanotubes, depending upon the selected feed gas and its temperature. Nanofibers, as well as single wall and multi-wall nanotubes, are produced using plasma-aided growth from the second (catalyst) layer. An overcoating of a selected metal or alloy can be deposited, over the second layer, to provide a coating for the carbon nanotubes grown in this manner.