A measuring principle for qualitative and quantitative analyses of three-dimensional unsteady flows is presented. The principle is based on colour coding of the flow volume under consideration. Coloured light sheets are generated and used to illuminate the flow volume. Consecutive light sheets of different colours are scanned over the volume within a small interval of time. Thus, the volume is sliced and colour-coded quasi-instantaneously. With this technique, the 3D position of a particle in the volume can be identified by a 2D image and an associated colour. Since most optical flow measuring systems are based on tracers, colour coding allows the application of 2D image recorders to register 3D flow information. The paper discusses the state-of-the-art of this principle for three-dimensional flow analyses and gives information about applicability and limitations.