When a vernier stimulus is presented for a short time and followed by a grating comprising five straight lines, the vernier remains invisible but may bequeath its offset to the grating (feature inheritance). For more than seven grating elements, the vernier is rendered visible as a shine-through element. However, shine-through depends strongly on the spatio-temporal layout of the grating. Here, we show that spatially inhomogeneous gratings diminish shine-through and vernier discrimination. Even subtle deviations, in the range of a few minutes of arc, matter. However, longer presentation times of the vernier regenerate shine-through. Feature inheritance and shine-through may become a useful tool in investigating such different topics as time course of information processing, feature binding, attention, and masking. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.