The ability to create dynamic deformations of micron-sized structures is relevant to a wide variety of applications such as adaptable optics, soft robotics and reconfigurable microfluidic devices. In this work, we examine non-uniform lubrication flow as a mechanism to create complex deformation fields in an elastic plate. We consider a Kirchhoff–Love elasticity model for the plate and Hele-Shaw flow in a narrow gap between the plate and a parallel rigid surface. Based on linearization of the Reynolds equation, we obtain a governing equation which relates elastic deformations to gradients in non-homogeneous physical properties of the fluid (e.g. body forces, viscosity and slip velocity). We then focus on a specific case of non-uniform Helmholtz–Smoluchowski electro-osmotic slip velocity, and provide a method for determining the zeta-potential distribution necessary to generate arbitrary static and quasi-static deformations of the elastic plate. Extending the problem to time-dependent solutions, we analyse transient effects on asymptotically static solutions, and finally provide a closed form solution for a Green’s function for time periodic actuations.