A common problem in visualization applications is the display of one surface overlying another. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to do this clearly and effectively. Stereoscopic viewing can help, but in order for us to be able to see both surfaces simultaneously, they must be textured, and the top surface must be made partially transparent. There is also abundant evidence that all textures are not equal in helping to reveal surface shape, but there are no general guidelines describing the best set of textures to be used in this way. What makes the problem difficult to perceptually optimize is that there are a great many variables involved. Both foreground and background textures must be specified in terms of their component colors, texture element shapes, distributions, and sizes. Also to be specified is the degree of transparency for the foreground texture components. Here we report on a novel approach to creating perceptually optimal solutions to complex visualization problems and we apply it to the overlapping surface problem as a test case. Our approach is a three-stage process. In the first stage we create a parameterized method for specifying a foreground and background pair of textures. In the second stage a genetic algorithm is applied to a population of texture pairs using subject judgments as a selection criterion. Over many trials effective texture pairs evolve. The third stage involves characterizing and generalizing the examples of effective textures. We detail this process and present some early results.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Proceedings of the Working Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces



Conference Date

May 22 - May 24, 2002

Publisher Place

St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada


Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding