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What Is Depth Stencil State?

Depth stencil state controls how the depth buffer and the stencil buffer are used.

The depth buffer stores floating-point depth or z data for each pixel while the stencil buffer stores integer data for each pixel. The depth-stencil state class, DepthStencilState, contains state that controls how depth and stencil data impacts rendering.

During rendering, the z position (or depth) of each pixel is stored in the depth buffer. When rendering pixels more than once -- such as when objects overlap -- depth data is compared between the current pixel and the previous pixel to determine which pixel is closer to the camera. When a pixel passes the depth test, the pixel color is written to a render target and the pixel depth is written to the depth buffer. For more information about a depth buffer, see What Is a Depth Buffer?.

A depth buffer may also contain stencil data, which is why a depth buffer is often called a depth-stencil buffer. Use a stencil function to compare a reference stencil value -- a global value you set -- to the per-pixel value in the stencil buffer to mask which pixels get saved and which are discarded. For more information about a stencil buffer, see What Is a Stencil Buffer?

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