MINI MASTERPIECE: Scientists used a laser to create a tiny metal version of Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Starry Night

Most painters create their art using brushes and a canvas. Now engineers in Saint Petersburg, Russia, have found a new way to paint—using a computer-guided laser.

The concentrated beam of light heats a metal surface until the material starts to melt and then evaporate, or turn from liquid to gas. As the metal cools, it reacts with oxygen in the air to form a thin film of metal oxide. When light reflects, or bounces off, the metal oxide layers, it separates into different wavelengths, or colors.

The team hopes to eventually develop a portable version of their new tool so artists can create their own laser-painted pictures.