“How well do line drawings depict shape?” by Cole, Sanik, DeCarlo, Finkelstein, Funkhouser, et al. …

  • ©Forrester Cole, Kevin Sanik, Doug DeCarlo, Adam Finkelstein, Thomas (Tom) A. Funkhouser, Szymon Rusinkiewicz, and Manish Singh


    This paper investigates the ability of sparse line drawings to depict 3D shape. We perform a study in which people are shown an image of one of twelve 3D objects depicted with one of six styles and asked to orient a gauge to coincide with the surface normal at many positions on the object’s surface. The normal estimates are compared with each other and with ground truth data provided by a registered 3D surface model to analyze accuracy and precision. The paper describes the design decisions made in collecting a large data set (275,000 gauge measurements) and provides analysis to answer questions about how well people interpret shapes from drawings. Our findings suggest that people interpret certain shapes almost as well from a line drawing as from a shaded image, that current computer graphics line drawing techniques can effectively depict shape and even match the effectiveness of artist’s drawings, and that errors in depiction are often localized and can be traced to particular properties of the lines used. The data collected for this study will become a publicly available resource for further studies of this type.


    1. Agrawala, M., Phan, D., Heiser, J., Haymaker, J., Klingner, J., Hanrahan, P., and Tversky, B. 2003. Designing effective step-by-step assembly instructions. ACM Trans. Graph. 22, 3, 828–837. Google ScholarDigital Library
    2. Belhumeur, P. N., Kriegman, D. J., and Yuille, A. L. 1999. The bas-relief ambiguity. Int. Journal of Computer Vision 35, 1, 33–44. Google ScholarDigital Library
    3. Caniard, F., and Fleming, R. W. 2007. Distortion in 3d shape estimation with changes in illumination. In ACM Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization (APGV) 2007, 99–105. Google ScholarDigital Library
    4. Cole, F., Decarlo, D., Finkelstein, A., Kin, K., Morley, K., and Santella, A. 2006. Directing gaze in 3D models with stylized focus. Eurographics Symposium on Rendering (June), 377–387. Google ScholarDigital Library
    5. Cole, F., Golovinskiy, A., Limpaecher, A., Barros, H. S., Finkelstein, A., Funkhouser, T., and Rusinkiewicz, S. 2008. Where do people draw lines? ACM Trans. Graph. 27, 3. Google ScholarDigital Library
    6. Debevec, P. 1998. Rendering synthetic objects into real scenes. In SIGGRAPH 1998, 189–198. Google ScholarDigital Library
    7. DeCarlo, D., and Rusinkiewicz, S. 2007. Highlight lines for conveying shape. In NPAR 2007. Google ScholarDigital Library
    8. DeCarlo, D., Finkelstein, A., Rusinkiewicz, S., and Santella, A. 2003. Suggestive contours for conveying shape. ACM Trans. Graph. 22, 3, 848–855. Google ScholarDigital Library
    9. DeCarlo, D., Finkelstein, A., and Rusinkiewicz, S., 2004. Interactive rendering of suggestive contours with temporal coherence. In NPAR 2004, 15–145. Google ScholarDigital Library
    10. Fleming, R. W., Torralba, A., and Adelson, E. H. 2004. Specular reflections and the perception of shape. Journal of Vision 4, 9, 798–820.Google ScholarCross Ref
    11. Fulvio, J. M., Singh, M., and Maloney, L. T. 2006. Combining achromatic and chromatic cues to transparency. Journal of Vision 6, 8, 760–776.Google ScholarCross Ref
    12. Gooch, B., Reinhard, E., and Gooch, A. 2004. Human facial illustrations: Creation and psychophysical evaluation. ACM Trans. Graph. 23, 1, 27–44. Google ScholarDigital Library
    13. Hertzmann, A., and Zorin, D. 2000. Illustrating smooth surfaces. In Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 2000, 517–526. Google ScholarDigital Library
    14. Interrante, V., Fuchs, H., and Pizer, S. 1995. Enhancing transparent skin surfaces with ridge and valley lines. In Proceedings of Vis 1995, IEEE Computer Society, 52. Google ScholarDigital Library
    15. Isenberg, T., Neumann, P., Carpendale, S., Sousa, M. C., and Jorge, J. A. 2006. Non-photorealistic rendering in context: an observational study. In NPAR 2006, 115–126. Google ScholarDigital Library
    16. Judd, T., Durand, F., and Adelson, E. H. 2007. Apparent ridges for line drawing. ACM Trans. Graph. 26, 3, 19. Google ScholarDigital Library
    17. Kaplan, M., and Cohen, E. 2006. Producing models from drawings of curved surfaces. In Eurographics Workshop on Sketch-Based Interfaces and Modeling, 51–58. Google ScholarDigital Library
    18. Koenderink, J. J., van Doorn, A., and Kappers, A. 1992. Surface perception in pictures. Perception and Psychophysics 52, 487–496.Google ScholarCross Ref
    19. Koenderink, J. J., van Doorn, A., Christou, C., and Lappin, J. 1996. Shape constancy in pictorial relief. Perception 25, 155–164.Google ScholarCross Ref
    20. Koenderink, J. J., van Doorn, A., Kappers, A. M., and Todd, J. T. 2001. Ambiguity and the ‘mental eye’ in pictorial relief. Perception 30, 431–448.Google ScholarCross Ref
    21. Koenderink, J. J. 1984. What does the occluding contour tell us about solid shape? Perception 13, 321–330.Google ScholarCross Ref
    22. Kolomenkin, M., Shimshoni, I., and Tal, A. 2008. Demarcating curves for shape illustration. ACM Transactions on Graphics 27, 5 (Dec.), 157:1–157:9. Google ScholarDigital Library
    23. Langer, M. S., and Bülthoff, H. H. 2001. A prior for global convexity in local shape-from-shading. Perception 30, 4, 403–410.Google ScholarCross Ref
    24. Lee, Y., Markosian, L., Lee, S., and Hughes, J. F. 2007. Line drawings via abstracted shading. ACM Trans. Graph. 26, 3, 18. Google ScholarDigital Library
    25. Malik, J. 1987. Interpreting line drawings of curved objects. International Journal of Computer Vision 1, 1, 73–103.Google ScholarDigital Library
    26. Mamassian, P., and Landy, M. S. 1998. Observer biases in the 3d interpretation of line drawings. Vision Research 38.Google Scholar
    27. Markosian, L., Kowalski, M. A., Goldstein, D., Trychin, S. J., Hughes, J. F., and Bourdev, L. D. 1997. Real-time nonphotorealistic rendering. In Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 1997, 415–420. Google ScholarDigital Library
    28. Mitchell, J. L., Francke, M., and Eng, D. 2007. Illustrative rendering in Team Fortress 2. In NPAR 2007, 19–32. Google ScholarDigital Library
    29. Ohtake, Y., Belyaev, A., and Seidel, H.-P. 2004. Ridgevalley lines on meshes via implicit surface fitting. ACM Trans. Graph. 23, 3. Google ScholarDigital Library
    30. O’Shea, J. P., Banks, M. S., and Agrawala, M. 2008. The assumed light direction for perceiving shape from shading. In ACM Applied Perception in Graphics and Visualization (APGV) 2008, 135–142. Google ScholarDigital Library
    31. Pauly, M., Keiser, R., and Gross, M. 2003. Multi-scale feature extraction on point-sampled surfaces. Computer Graphics Forum 22, 3 (Sept.), 281–290.Google ScholarCross Ref
    32. Phillips, F., Todd, J. T., Koenderink, J. J., and Kappers, A. M. 2003. Perceptual representation of visible surfaces. Perception and Psychophysics 65, 5, 747–762.Google ScholarCross Ref
    33. Saito, T., and Takahashi, T. 1990. Comprehensible rendering of 3-d shapes. In SIGGRAPH 1990, 197–206. Google ScholarDigital Library
    34. Santella, A., and DeCarlo, D. 2004. Visual interest and NPR: an evaluation and manifesto. In NPAR 2004, 71–78. Google ScholarDigital Library
    35. Thirion, J.-P., and Gourdon, A. 1996. The 3d marching lines algorithm. Graphical Models and Image Processing 58, 6. Google ScholarDigital Library
    36. Todd, J. T., Koenderink, J. J., van Doorn, A. J., and Kappers, A. M. 1996. Effects of changing viewing conditions on the perceived structure of smoothly curved surfaces. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 22, 695–706.Google ScholarCross Ref
    37. Wallraven, C., Bülthoff, H. H., Cunningham, D. W., Fischer, J., and Bartz, D. 2007. Evaluation of real-world and computer-generated stylized facial expressions. ACM Trans. Appl. Percept. 4, 3, 16. Google ScholarDigital Library
    38. Waltz, D. L. 1975. Understanding line drawings of scenes with shadows. In The Psychology of Computer Vision, P. Winston, Ed. McGraw-Hill, 19–92.Google Scholar
    39. Willats, J. 1997. Art and Representation: New Principles in the Analysis of Pictures. Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
    40. Winnemöller, H., Feng, D., Gooch, B., and Suzuki, S. 2007. Using NPR to evaluate perceptual shape cues in dynamic environments. In NPAR 2007, 85–92. Google ScholarDigital Library

ACM Digital Library Publication:

Overview Page: