Purpose: The purpose of this publication is to present the results of own long-term research summarising the experience concerning as casting magnesium alloys, and in especially a thermal analysis describing the process of alloys crystallisation, standard heat treatment according to the occurring phase transitions and precipitation processes, surface treatment with the CVD and PVD methods, laser surface treatment of surface layers, as well as using the methods of Computer Materials Science. Design/methodology/approach: The research concerned in the first place an analysis of Mg-Al-Zn alloys crystallisation kinetics. Optimisation investigations for heat treatment conditions taking into consideration different cooling mediums were performed in order to identify fully the structure of the investigated magnesium casting alloys. Investigations were carried out of the structure and properties of coatings produced with the CVD and PVD methods on the investigated Mg-Al-Zn alloys. The last stage of investigating the presented Mg-Al-Zn alloys applied to laser surface treatment enabling to produce a quasi-composite structure of MMCs characterised by the gradient of phase composition as well as functional properties by feeding hard ceramic particles, in particular carbides and oxides, into the surface of the materials produced. Findings: Valuable and original results were achieved based on the broad scope of the research performed both, in cognitive and applicational terms, concentrated mainly on the analysis and influence of chemical composition and technological heat and surface treatment processes on the structure and properties of the investigated alloys. Practical implications: The properties of the core and surface layer of the part produced can be customised most advantageously by selecting the part’s material and its structure and properties formation processes appropriately along with the surface layer type and technology ensuring the required functional properties. Originality/value: The knowledge gathered for years concerning light metal alloys, and in particular Mg-Al-Zn alloys, of an undoubtedly valuable cognitive character, is dedicated not only to students but also postgraduates and researches to improve the conditions of education.