The application of a commercially available spatial light modulator (SLM) to control the spatial intensity distribution of a nanosecond pulsed laser for micromachining is described for the first time. Heat sinking is introduced to increase the average power handling capabilities of the SLM beyond recommended limits by the manufacturer. Complex intensity patterns are generated, using the Inverse Fourier Transform Algorithm, and example laser machining is demonstrated. The SLM enables both complex beam shaping and also beam steering. © 2010 Optical Society of America.