Infrared lasers have been used in combination with applied cooling methods to preserve superficial skin layers during cosmetic surgery. Similarly, combined laser irradiation and tissue cooling may also allow development of minimally invasive laser therapies beyond dermatology. This study compares diffusing, side-firing, and radial delivery laser balloon catheter designs for creation of subsurface lesions in tissue, ex vivo, using a near-IR laser and applied contact cooling. An Ytterbium fiber laser with 1075 nm wavelength delivered energy through custom built 18 Fr (6-mm-OD) balloon catheters incorporating either 10-mm-long diffusing fiber tip, 90 degree side-firing fiber, or radial delivery cone mirror, through a central lumen. A chilled solution was flowed through a separate lumen into 9-mm-diameter balloon to keep probe cooled at 7°C. Porcine liver tissue samples were used as preliminary tissue model for immediate observation of thermal lesion creation. The diffusing fiber produced subsurface thermal lesions measuring 49.3 ± 10.0 mm2 and preserved 0.8 ± 0.1 mm of surface tissue. The side-firing fiber produced subsurface thermal lesions of 2.4 ± 0.9 mm2 diameter and preserved 0.5 ± 0.1 mm of surface tissue. The radial delivery probe assembly failed to produce subsurface thermal lesions, presumably due to the small effective spot diameter at the tissue surface, which limited optical penetration depth. Optimal laser power and irradiation time measured 15 W and 100 s for diffusing fiber and 1.4 W and 20 s, for side-firing fiber, respectively. Diffusing and side-firing laser balloon catheter designs provided subsurface thermal lesions in tissue. However, the divergent laser beam in both designs limited the ability to preserve a thicker layer of tissue surface. Further optimization of laser and cooling parameters may be necessary to preserve thicker surface tissue layers.