A system is provided for producing plasma pinch X-rays usable in X-ray lithography. Ionized heated plasma is repeatably generated in a first area directly from solid material without exploding the latter. X-rays are generated in a second area by passing high current through the plasma causing radial inward magnetic field pinching. Accurate control and improved intensity performance, and greater flexibility in selection of X-ray emitting materials, are provided by the separation of the plasma generating and the X-ray pinch generating functions. Common electrode structure is provided for plasma generating and for plasma pinching, which common electrode also provides a cylindrical plasma communication passage from the first to the second area, and provides an X-ray emission passage of desired axial orientation.