“The effect of warm and cool object colors on depth ordering” by Bailey, Grimm and Davoli

  • ©Reynold J. Bailey, Cindy M. Grimm, and Christopher Davoli




    The effect of warm and cool object colors on depth ordering



    Colors that appear closer to the red end of the visible spectrum are said to be warm while the colors that appear closer to the blue end are said to be cool. The phenomenon of warmer colors appearing  nearer in depth to viewers than cooler colors has been studied ex- tensively by psychologists and other vision researchers (see [Sundet  1978] for a summary). The vast majority of these studies have asked human observers to view physically equidistant, colored stimuli and  compare them for relative depth. However, in most cases, the stim- uli presented were rather simple: straight colored lines, uniform  color patches, point light sources, or symmetrical objects with uni- form shading. Additionally, the colors used were typically highly  saturated. Although such stimuli are useful in isolating and study- ing depth cues in certain contexts, they leave open the question of  whether the human visual system operates similarly for realistic ob- jects. This paper presents the results of an experiment designed  to explore the color-depth relationship for realistic, colored objects with varying shading and contours.  


    1. Bailey, R., Grimm, C., and Davoli, C. 2006. The real effect of warm-cool colors. Tech. Rep. 17, Washington University in St. Louis, www.cse.seas.wustl.edu/TechnicalReports.asp.
    2. Sundet, J. M. 1978. Effects of colour on perceived depth: Review of experiments and evaluation of theories. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 19, 2, 133–143.

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