In this paper, a generalized analysis model for fringe pattern profilometry is presented. The new analysis model is derived mathematically, which describes the essential relationships between projected and deformed fringe patterns. With generalized analysis model, the projected fringe patterns used for profilometry can be arbitrary rather than being limited to be sinusoidal as those for the conventional approaches. Meanwhile, based on the proposed generalized model, a new algorithm is presented to reconstruct three-dimensional surfaces. Computer simulation results show that compared with the conventional model for fringe pattern profilometry, the generalized model and the proposed algorithm can significantly improve the three-dimensional reconstruction accuracy, especially when the projected fringe pattern is distorted by some unknown factors.