When a neutral atom moves in a properly designed laser field, its center-of-mass motion may mimic the dynamics of a charged particle in a magnetic field, with the emergence of a Lorentz-like force. In this Colloquium the physical principles at the basis of this artificial (synthetic) magnetism are presented. The corresponding Aharonov-Bohm phase is related to the Berry's phase that emerges when the atom adiabatically follows one of the dressed states of the atom-laser interaction. Some manifestations of artificial magnetism for a cold quantum gas, in particular, in terms of vortex nucleation are discussed. The analysis is then generalized to the simulation of non-Abelian gauge potentials and some striking consequences are presented, such as the emergence of an effective spin-orbit coupling. Both the cases of bulk gases and discrete systems, where atoms are trapped in an optical lattice, are addressed.