A color-encoded digital fringe projection technique is proposed for high-speed 3-D surface contouring applications. In this technique, a color fringe pattern whose RGB components comprise three phase-shifted fringe patterns is created by software on a computer screen and then projected to an object by a novel computer-controlled digital projection system. The image of the object is captured by a digital camera positioned at an angle different from that of the projection system. The image is then separated into its RGB components, creating three phase-shifted images of the object. These three images are used to retrieve the 3-D surface contour of the object through the use of a phase wrapping and unwrapping algorithm. Only one image of the object is required to obtain the 3-D surface contour of the object. Thus contouring speed, limited only by the frame rate of the camera, can be dramatically increased as compared to that of the traditional phase-shifting techniques. The technique is especially useful in applications where the object being contoured is going through quasi-static or dynamic changes. The principle of the technique is described and some preliminary experimental results are presented. © 1999 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.