Dense surface models can be used to analyze 3D facial morphology by establishing a correspondence of thousands of points across each 3D face image. The models provide dramatic visualizations of 3D face-shape variation with potential for training physicians to recognize the key components of particular syndromes. We demonstrate their use to visualize and recognize shape differences in a collection of 3D face images that includes 280 controls (2 weeks to 56 years of age), 90 individuals with Noonan syndrome (NS) (7 months to 56 years), and 60 individuals with velo-cardio-facial syndrome (VCFS; 3 to 17 years of age). Ten-fold cross-validation testing of discrimination between the three groups was carried out on unseen test examples using five pattern recognition algorithms (nearest mean, C5.0 decision trees, neural networks, logistic regression, and support vector machines). For discriminating between individuals with NS and controls, the best average sensitivity and specificity levels were 92 and 93% for children, 83 and 94% for adults, and 88 and 94% for the children and adults combined. For individuals with VCFS and controls, the best results were 83 and 92%. In a comparison of individuals with NS and individuals with VCFS, a correct identification rate of 95% was achieved for both syndromes. This article contains supplementary material, which may be viewed at the American Journal of Medical Genetics website at http://www.interscience.wiley.com/jpages/0148-7299/suppmat/index.html. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.