In this work, we describe a simple spin-coating deposition technique for lead sulphide (PbS) and cadmium sulphide (CdS) films from a methanolic metal–thiourea complex. The characterization of the films by X-ray diffraction and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy techniques revealed that pure cubic phase PbS and CdS layers were formed via this method. As shown by atomic force microscopy and scanning electron microscopy results, both films were homogeneous and presented a smooth surface. Optical properties showed that the energy band gap of PbS and CdS films were around 1.65 and 2.5 eV, respectively. The PbS film is p-type in nature with an electrical conductivity of around 0.8 S/cm. The hole concentration and mobility were 2.35 × 1018 cm−3 and 2.16 × 10−3 cm2/V/s, respectively, as determined from Hall measurement. Both films were used to develop a thin film solar cell device of graphite/PbS/CdS/ITO/glass. Device characterization showed the power conversion efficiency of around 0.24 %. The corresponding open circuit voltage, short circuit current and fill factor were 0.570 V, 1.32 mA/cm2 and 0.32, respectively.