This paper describes the key elements of a system for detecting quality defects on leather surfaces. The inspection task must treat defects like scars, mite nests, warts, open fissures, healed scars, holes, pin holes, and fat folds. The industrial detection of these defects is difficult because of the large dimensions of the leather hides (2 m X 3 m), and the small dimensions of the defects (150 micrometers X 150 micrometers ). Pattern recognition approaches suffer from the fact that defects are hidden on an irregularly textured background, and can be hardly seen visually by human graders. We describe the methods tested for automatic classification using image processing, which include preprocessing, local feature description of texture elements, and final segmentation and grading of defects. We conclude with a statistical evaluation of the recognition error rate, and an outlook on the expected industrial performance.