An approach for eliminating unnecessary portions of a volume when producing a direct volume rendering is described. This reduction in volume size sacriices some image quality in the interest of rendering speed. Since volume visualization is often used as an exploratory visualization technique, it is important to reduce rendering times, so the user can eeectively explore the volume. The methods presented can speed up rendering by factors of 2 to 3 with minor image degradation. A family of decimation algorithms to reduce the number of primitives in the volume without altering the volume's grid in any way is introduced. This allows the decimation to be computed rapidly, making it easier to change decimation levels on the y. Further, because very little extra space is required, this method is suitable for the very large volumes that are becoming common. The method is also grid-independent, so it is suitable for multiple overlapping curvilinear and unstructured, as well as regular, grids. The decimation process can proceed automatically, or can be guided by the user so that important regions of the volume are decimated less than unimportant regions. A formal error measure is described based on a three-dimensional analog of the Radon transform. Decimation methods are evaluated based on this metric and on direct comparison with reference images.