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Writing of nanostructures on thin metal films using atomic force microscopy (AFM) was demonstrated. The writing experiments were done in a nitrogen ambient having variable humidity. Using a p‐type heavily doped silicon AFM tip, a bias voltage was independently applied between the tip and the surface of a thin chromium layer deposited on a Si(100) substrate. Protruded patterns of various shapes were formed only on the water‐adsorbed chromium surface when applying a negative bias on the tip. Their sizes were found to be dependent on the writing time, the bias voltage, and the humidity. The smallest feature size obtained is about 20 nm. From Auger electron spectroscopy (AES) analysis, the products are shown to be Cr oxides. The surface modification mechanism appears to be tip‐induced local oxidation, i.e., anodization. © 1995 American Institute of Physics.