Different quality metrics have been proposed in the literature to evaluate how well a visualization represents the underlying data. In this paper, we present a new information-theoretic framework that quantifies the information transfer between the source data set and the rendered image. This approach is based on the definition of an observation channel whose input and output are given by the intensity values of the volumetric data set and the pixel colors, respectively. From this channel, the mutual information, a measure of information transfer or correlation between the input and the output, is used as a metric to evaluate the visualization quality. The usefulness of the proposed observation channel is illustrated with three fundamental visualization applications: selection of informative viewpoints, transfer function design, and light positioning.