BACKGROUND Determining the anatomical source of brain activity non-invasively measured from EEG or MEG sensors is challenging. In order to simplify the source localization problem, many techniques introduce the assumption that current sources lie on the cortical surface. Another common assumption is that this current flow is orthogonal to the cortical surface, thereby approximating the orientation of cortical columns. However, it is not clear which cortical surface to use to define the current source locations, and normal vectors computed from a single cortical surface may not be the best approximation to the orientation of cortical columns. We compared three different surface location priors and five different approaches for estimating dipole vector orientation, both in simulations and visual and motor evoked MEG responses. We show that models with source locations on the white matter surface and using methods based on establishing correspondences between white matter and pial cortical surfaces dramatically outperform models with source locations on the pial or combined pial/white surfaces and which use methods based on the geometry of a single cortical surface in fitting evoked visual and motor responses. These methods can be easily implemented and adopted in most M/EEG analysis pipelines, with the potential to significantly improve source localization of evoked responses.