Severe plastic burnishing was investigated as a promising surface severe plastic deformation technique for generating gradient microstructure surfaces. The deformed state of oxygen free high conductivity copper workpieces during the surface deformation process was determined with high-speed imaging, this complemented by microstructure characterization using orientation image microscopy based on electron backscatter diffraction. Varying deformation levels in terms of both magnitude and gradient on the processed surface were achieved through control of the incident tool angle. Refined microstructures, including laminate grains elongated in the velocity direction and equiaxed submicron grains were observed in the subsurface and were found to be controlled by the combined effects of strain and strain rate in the surface deformation process. Additionally, crystallographic texture evolutions were characterized, showing typical shear textures predominately along the 〈110〉 partial fiber. The rotation of texture from original ideal orientation positions was related directly to the deformation history produced by sliding process. Based on these observations, a controllable framework for producing the processed surface with expected mechanical and microstructural responses is suggested.