The 2018 technical examination project The Girl in the Spotlight aimed to characterise the materials and techniques that Johannes Vermeer used to paint Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665, Mauritshuis). Five research questions guided the micro- and macro-scale analyses: What can we find out about layers beneath the surface? What steps did Vermeer take to create the painting? Which materials did Vermeer use and where did they come from? Which techniques did Vermeer use to create subtle optical effects? What did the painting look like originally, and how has it changed? This paper concludes the special issue of Heritage Science by summarising the results and putting them in an art-historical and materials history context. Non-invasive macroscopic imaging methods were used to examine the Girl, in conjunction with the (re)analysis of microscopic samples. Here, Vermeer’s painting techniques are revealed using microphotographs made using a high-resolution 3D digital microscope at 140× magnification (1.1 μm/pixel).