Shape-shifting of flat materials into the desired 3D configuration is an alternative design route for fabrication of complex 3D shapes, which provides many benefits such as access to the flat material surface and the ability to produce well-described motions. The advanced production techniques that primarily work in 2D could then be used to add complex surface features to the flat material. The combination of complex 3D shapes and surface-related functionalities has a wide range of applications in biotechnology, actuators/sensors, and engineering of complex metamaterials. Here, we categorize the different programming strategies that could be used for planning the shape-shifting of soft matter based on the type of stresses generated inside the flat material and present an overview of the ways those mechanisms could be used to achieve the desired 3D shapes. Stress gradients through the thickness of the material, which generate out-of-plane bending moments, and compressive in-plane stresses that result in out-of-plane buckling constitute the major mechanisms through which shape-shifting of the flat matter could be programmed. We review both programming strategies with a focus on the underlying physical principles, which are highly scalable and could be applied to other structures and materials. The techniques used for programming the time sequence of shape-shifting are discussed as well. Such types of so-called “sequential” shape-shifting enable achieving more complex 3D shapes, as the kinematics of the movements could be planned in time to avoid collisions. Ultimately, we discuss what 3D shapes could be achieved through shape-shifting from flat soft matter and identify multiple areas of application.