In this paper, we present a novel method of using graphene for sensing the inhomogeneous strain due to the surface relief in FeNiCoTi shape memory alloy. In the experiment, a large sheet of graphene fabricated by chemical vapor deposition was transferred onto the FeNiCoTi substrate. The flat surface of the substrate would become wrinkled due to the surface relief formed during the FeNiCoTi substrate phase transformation, meanwhile loading a tensile strain on the surface graphene. It is found that the 2D Raman peak of graphene demonstrates a significant red shift due to the tensile strain. The different colors exhibited in the Raman mapping image of the graphene directly displayed the strain distribution information across the surface. In the future, we may alter to quantitatively analyze the surface relief by using Raman spectroscopy instead of the atomic force microscopy. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.