A novel means of combining thin-layer chromatography (TLC) with laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry using a liquid matrix is proposed. Surface-assisted laser desorption/ionization (SALDI) mass spectrometry, which uses a mixture of a micrometer-sized carbon powder (graphite or activated carbon, the SALDI solid) and 15% sucrose/glycerol, dissolved in an equal volume of methanol (SALDI liquid) as a SALDI matrix, is used for laser desorption mass analysis. The ablation of carbon powder from a pencil drawing was used as an alternative to the SALDI solid. The liquid matrix resembled that used in a conventional SALDI matrix system. A line was drawn before separation with a pencil on the track of the sample developed on the TLC plate. After TLC separation, ∼0.1 µl of SALDI liquid was directly applied to the chromatographic spots on the TLC plate. Porphyrins were used to demonstrate this combination owing to the visible colors of this type of compound. The analyte signal can be easily detected by irradiating the laser along the pencil line on the TLC plate. An additive, p-toluenesulfonic acid, is added to the SALDI liquid to enhance the signal's intensity. This additive dramatically improves the signal-to-noise ratio. A detection limit of ∼500 pg is demonstrated for porphines, which is 50 times better than that corresponding to conventional TLC SALDI. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.