Document Type

Technical Report


Computer Science and Engineering

Publication Date






Technical Report Number



The relationship between color and perceived depth for realistic, colored objects with varying shading was explored. Background: Studies have shown that warm-colored stimuli tend to appear nearer in depth than cool-colored stimuli. The majority of these studies asked human observers to view physically equidistant, colored stimuli and compare them for relative depth. However, in most cases, the stimuli presented were rather simple: straight colored lines, uniform color patches, point light sources, or symmetrical objects with uniform shading. Additionally, the colors were typically highly saturated. Although such stimuli are useful for isolating and studying depth cues in certain contexts, they leave open the question of whether the human visual system operates similarly for realistic objects. Method: Participants were presented with all possible pairs from a set of differently colored objects and were asked to select the object in each pair that appears closest to them. The objects were presented on a standard computer screen, against 4 different uniform backgrounds of varying intensity. Results: Our results show that the relative strength of color as a depth cue increases when the colored stimuli are presented against darker backgrounds and decreases when presented against lighter backgrounds. Conclusion: Color does impact our depth perception even though it is a relatively weak indicator and is not necessarily the overriding depth cue for complex, realistic objects. Application: Our observations can be used to guide the selection of color to enhance the perceived depth of objects presented on traditional display devices and newer immersive virtual environments.


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