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A scanned, focused argon ion laser beam is used to locally heat a thin polymer/palladium film applied to a polyimide‐coated substrate, thereby reducing chemically bound palladium to palladium metal. The metallic palladium is resistant to a caustic etchant that removes the unirradiated film; the residual patterned palladium then acts as a catalyst for conventional electroless plating. As an alternate patterning method a laser may be used to selectively deposit the thin polymer film on the substrate from a surrounding liquid solution.