We have studied the fabrication of hierarchical periodic microstructures on metals by means of direct laser interference patterning. A nanosecond pulsed Nd:YAG laser at 355 nm wavelength was used to produce the microstructures with grating periods ranging from to on stainless steel, titanium, and aluminum. The results indicate that the geometrical characteristics of the interference patterns as well as the thermal properties of the substrates determine the quality of the fabricated structures. In particular, the best structures were obtained when the material at the interference minima position remained in the solid state and the temperature at the interference maxima is below the vaporization temperature. Thermal simulations by finite element method were carried out modeling photothermal interactions of the interference pattern with the metallic substrates to evaluate laser induced thermal effects, such as temperature distribution and temperature gradients and, thus, enabling us to explain the obtained results.