Journal of Vision (JoV), 2021, Vol.21(5)

Perception of material appearance: a comparison between painted and rendered images

Johanna Delanoy1 Ana Serrano1,2 Belen Masia1 Diego Gutierrez1
1Universidad de Zaragoza, I3A 2Max Planck Institute for Informatics

Painters do not reproduce the exact optical behavior of materials. However, they can successfully reproduce the key visual cues that lead to the perception of material appearance. In this paper we explore and analyze the perception of material properties, correlating subjective judgments with objective image features in both paintings and renderings. a) A painting from the 17th century: the painter placed very bright spots over the surface, not necessarily aligning them with shape features, to hint the metallicity of the carafe. b) Samples of our stimuli (top: renderings, bottom: the corresponding paintings): paintings exhibit visual differences with the original renderings, such as differences in luminance or texture.


Painters are masters in replicating the visual appearance of materials. While the perception of material appearance is not yet fully understood, painters seem to have acquired an implicit understanding of the key visual cues that we need to accurately perceive material properties. In this study, we directly compare the perception of material properties in paintings and in renderings, by collecting professional realistic paintings1 of rendered materials. From both type of images, we collect human judgments of material properties and compute a variety of image features that are known to reflect material properties. Our study reveals that, despite important visual differences between the two types of depiction, material properties in paintings and renderings are perceived very similarly and are linked to the same image features. This suggests that we use similar visual cues independently of the medium and that the presence of such cues is sufficient to provide a good appearance perception of the materials.

1paintings from Georges Ward


	author={Delanoy, Johanna and Serrano, Ana and Masia, Belen and Gutierrez, Diego},
	title={Perception of material appearance: a comparison between painted and rendered images},
	journal = {Journal of Vision},
	volume = {21},
	number = {5},
	pages = {16-16},
	year = {2021},
	month = {May},
	doi = {10.1167/jov.21.5.16},
	url = {},