A new diffraction imaging technique for the characterization of polycrystalline materials is proposed and applied to obtain direct information about individual grains and their size and shape distributions and, in turn, strains in these materials. Unlike traditional powder diffractometry, where divergent and focusing x-ray optics are essential to collect information from an ensemble of grains, the nearly parallel and monochromatic beam available from a synchrotron x-ray source is employed to observe and measure diffraction images from individual grains and component particles in consolidated materials prepared by various processes. Images can be recorded by traditional methods, such as film and pulse counting detectors, but modern image detectors, such as charge coupled device (CCD) detectors and image analyzers, make the proposed imaging technique more practical. Unlike traditional diffractometry, this new technique provides the ability to measure shape, size, and strain without model based analyses. The spatial distribution of strain within individual grains, displayed as a diffraction image (topograph), indicates the presence of defects, such as dislocations, subgrain boundaries, and precipitates, and sheds new light on the origins of residual strains (stresses) in industrial materials. The resolution of the imaging system used is limited to grains ∼10 μm or larger due to diffraction broadening (∼20” from the size effect) and the resolution of the recording medium.