Laser pulse heating of surfaces offers several advantages over its conventional counterparts. The desired temperature at the surface of the substrate is essential to obtain the required metallurgical changes in the surface vicinity. In the present study, modelling of the laser heating process is carried out. The desired temperature at the surface is formulated and the corresponding discrete step input intensity profiles are predicted. The ratio (k) of desired surface temperature to steady value and the rise time of irradiance corresponding to the desired surface temperature are introduced. In the formulation, two variables (k and tau(r)) are employed and the functional relation between the desired temperature and the variables is developed. It is found that as dimensionless rise time (tau(r)) decreases while the temperature ratio (k) increases, partial steady heating of the surface is possible. Moreover, as tau(r) increases, steady heating of the surface becomes impossible for all k values. (C) 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.