Zinc-magnesium layers have been produced by a combination of conventional hot-dip galvanizing and PVD magnesium coating. A subsequent short heat treatment causes the diffusion of magnesium into the zinc layer. The influence of the maximum temperature of the heat treatment on the diffusion of magnesium and on the type and distribution of the formed intermetallic Mg-Zn phases has been examined in detail in a temperature range from 300 to 400°C by means of X-ray phase analyses and metallographic cross sections. With increasing temperature a sequential intermetallic Mg-Zn phase formation has been detected. At 300°C, an initial magnesium rich, intermetallic MgZn 2 surface layer is formed, which, at higher temperatures from 335 to 379°C, is progressively transformed into a zinc rich Mg 2 Zn 11 layer by interdiffusion. In this context, the nucleation of the Mg 2 Zn 11 phase takes place on the interface between the MgZn 2 and the Zn phase. Above the peritectic temperature of 381°C, the microstructure is composed of a zinc matrix in which precipitated MgZn 2 is dispersed.