When a textured 3-dimensional surface is projected in perspective, the statistics of the texture in the image change with the shape of the surface. Most shape-from-texture models assume that these changes are due solely to the projection of non-fronto-parallel portions of the surface. This is true for developable surfaces, which are formed by bending or curving flat, textured sheets without tearing or stretching. However, for other surfaces such as those carved from solids or formed by stretched materials, the texture on the surface is generally not homogenous. If the perspective image is parsed into
local Fourier spectra, we find that signature patterns of orientation flows occur at locations corresponding to specific 3-D shapes. These patterns occur generically for developable, carved and stretched surfaces and when they are visible, observers make veridical shape judgments. In contrast, frequency modulations vary systematically for different types of surfaces, and often lead to non-veridical percepts when they are caused by changes in slant (e.g. isotropically textured
developable surfaces). Our results suggest that in the extraction of 3-D shape, the visual system can generically employ a limited number of neural mechanisms to extract the signature orientation flows from the image regardless of homogeneity.