ImporterMeshInstance3D in Godot – Complete Guide

As we embark on the journey into understanding the intricate world of 3D game development in Godot 4, we’re diving into a specific aspect that might seem small but plays a crucial role in bringing game assets to life: the ImporterMeshInstance3D class. This class is a cornerstone for those who wish to manipulate 3D models within the engine directly and is an essential piece of knowledge for anyone aiming to master game development in Godot.

What is ImporterMeshInstance3D?

Understanding ImporterMeshInstance3D

ImporterMeshInstance3D is a class in the Godot 4 engine that allows developers to interact with 3D mesh assets within their game. It inherits from Node3D, which means it possesses all the functionalities of a 3D node while introducing specific features related to handling imported 3D meshes.

What is it for?

This class serves as a powerful tool for developers to set and manipulate 3D mesh assets dynamically. Through properties such as a mesh, a skeleton path, and a skin, it gives developers fine control over how 3D assets appear and interact with other elements in the game.

Why Should I Learn It?

Understanding the ImporterMeshInstance3D class is crucial for customizing 3D models, creating dynamic game environments, and optimizing the assets for performance. By learning how to utilize this class effectively, you can take your 3D game creation skills to the next level, ensuring your game assets are not just visually stunning but also well integrated within your game’s ecosystem.

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Creating a Basic ImporterMeshInstance3D

To get started with the ImporterMeshInstance3D class in Godot 4, let’s dive into creating a simple instance within our game scene. This first example assumes you already have an imported 3D model.

var mesh_instance =
mesh_instance.mesh = preload("res://path_to_your_mesh.tres") 

The code above creates a new instance of ImporterMeshInstance3D, assigns a mesh resource to its mesh property, and finally, adds it to the current scene.

Adjusting Mesh Properties

Now that you have a basic mesh instance in your scene, you might want to adjust its properties to suit your needs, such as modifying its transform to change its position, rotation, or scale.

mesh_instance.transform = Transform(Basis(), Vector3(0, 0, -10)) // Position 10 units back

To adjust the rotation or scale, you can modify the transform basis and origin accordingly:

mesh_instance.transform.basis = Basis().rotated(Vector3.UP, PI / 4) // Rotate 45 degrees
mesh_instance.transform = mesh_instance.transform.scaled(Vector3(2, 2, 2)) // Scale by a factor of 2

Remember, whenever you rotate or scale an object, order matters due to how transformations are applied.

Associate a Skeleton to MeshInstance

With 3D models that contain animations, you’ll need to associate a skeleton to your mesh instance. For this purpose, Godot provides a ‘skeleton’ property.

var skeleton_path = preload("res://path_to_your_skeleton.tres")

// First, ensure that the skeleton instance exists and is added to the scene
var skeleton_instance =
skeleton_instance.resource = skeleton_path

// Then, set the mesh instance's skeleton property
mesh_instance.skeleton = skeleton_instance

Setting up a skeleton ensures your 3D models are rigged correctly and that animations can be applied to them.

Applying Skins to MeshInstance

If your model uses skinning for animations, you can apply a skin resource to it. This Skin resource contains information on how the vertices of your mesh move with the skeleton’s bones.

var skin = preload("res://path_to_your_skin.tres") = skin

This code snippet loads a Skin resource and applies it to your mesh instance which allows for proper deformation based on the skeleton’s movement.

Remember, these code snippets are meant to introduce you to the core functionalities of the ImporterMeshInstance3D class. They provide a foundation on which you can build more advanced and complex features within your 3D Godot projects. In the next part of our tutorial, we’ll delve even deeper into advanced usage scenarios and optimization techniques for meshes in Godot 4.Utilizing materials is a key part of bringing your 3D models to life, giving them color, texture, and other visual properties. You can assign a material to a specific surface of your mesh instance like so:

var material = preload("res://path_to_your_material.tres")
mesh_instance.set_surface_material(0, material)

This will apply the material resource to the first surface of the mesh. If your mesh has multiple surfaces, each representing different parts that might require unique materials, you would repeat this for each surface with the appropriate index and material.

To further enhance your 3D models, Godot provides functionality to add lights that interact with your mesh instance materials. Adding a directional light could be as simple as:

var light =
light.direction = Vector3(-1, -1, -1) // Adjust the direction as needed

This places a directional light in the scene, casting shadows and affecting how materials appear based on the light’s properties and direction.

Now, let’s say you want to create an animation on the mesh. You can manipulate the mesh instance’s transformation over time. Here’s an example using `_process` to rotate your mesh continually:

func _process(delta):
    var rotation_speed = 1.0 // radians per second
    mesh_instance.rotate_y(rotation_speed * delta)

With a simple process function like the one above, your mesh will rotate around the Y-axis, creating a spinning effect.

What if your mesh requires more involved animation such as bouncing? You might want to adjust its vertical position based on a sine wave:

var bounce_height = 2.0
var bounce_speed = 2.0
func _process(delta):
    var new_y = bounce_height * sin(bounce_speed * OS.get_ticks_msec() / 1000.0)
    mesh_instance.translation = Vector3(mesh_instance.translation.x, new_y, mesh_instance.translation.z)

This piece of code makes your mesh instance move up and down, creating a bouncing effect by dynamically altering the `y` component of its translation based on the sine of time.

Finally, if you’re working on a game that involves changing the visibility of certain objects at runtime (like an item that can be hidden or shown), you can easily toggle the visibility of the mesh instance like this:

func toggle_mesh_visibility():
    mesh_instance.visible = !mesh_instance.visible

This toggles the mesh instance’s visibility whenever the function is called.

These examples showcase the versatility of the ImporterMeshInstance3D class in Godot 4. The ability to control materials, lighting, transformations, and visibility adds depth and interactivity to your game world. As we continue exploring Godot’s capabilities, remember that experimentation is key. Try combining these examples to discover unique effects and gameplay mechanics that can elevate your game development skills.Let’s proceed by exploring how you can manage multiple materials on your mesh instance. For a model with various materials, you might set them using a loop:

var materials_array = [

for i in range(mesh_instance.get_surface_count()):
    mesh_instance.set_surface_material(i, materials_array[i])

This iterates over each surface of the mesh and applies a corresponding material from the materials_array based on the index.

One great feature Godot 4 provides is the ability to create and modify materials in code. Suppose you want to change the albedo (the base color) of a material at runtime:

var new_material =
new_material.albedo_color = Color(1, 0, 0) // Red color
mesh_instance.set_surface_material(0, new_material)

This code snippet creates a new instance of StandardMaterial3D with a red albedo color and sets it to the first surface of the mesh.

If you’re building games with procedural elements or customizations, you might generate meshes through code. Here’s a simple example of creating a QuadMesh and applying it to your mesh instance:

var procedural_mesh =
procedural_mesh.size = Vector2(2, 2)

var mesh_instance =
mesh_instance.mesh = procedural_mesh

In the example above, we’re creating a QuadMesh programmatically, setting its size, and then creating a MeshInstance3D to display the mesh in the scene.

Now let’s consider that you want to interact with this mesh through user input. You can change its color when the player presses a key:

func _input(event):
    if event is InputEventKey and event.pressed and event.scancode == KEY_SPACE:
        var new_material =
        new_material.albedo_color = Color(randf(), randf(), randf())
        mesh_instance.set_surface_material(0, new_material)

In the `_input` function, every time the space key is pressed, the mesh’s material’s color changes to a random color.

Controlling the environment and its reflections on your mesh can also be vital for realism. Here’s how you might add a ReflectionProbe to enhance the visual quality:

var reflection_probe =
reflection_probe.translation = Vector3(0, 1, 0) // Adjust to place it above the mesh

Adding a ReflectionProbe node to your scene can provide realistic reflections which are particularly important for metallic or shiny surfaces.

Furthermore, let’s say you want to adjust a material’s metalness or roughness in real-time to simulate different physical materials reacting to in-game events:

mesh_instance.material_override = preload("res://path_to_your_material.tres")

func make_material_metallic():
    mesh_instance.material_override.metallic = 1.0

func make_material_rough():
    mesh_instance.material_override.roughness = 1.0

The `material_override` property allows you to provide a single material that will be applied to all surfaces of the mesh instance. You can then tweak properties like `metallic` and `roughness` to achieve the desired effect.

By integrating these code examples into your Godot 4 games, you’re not only adding sophistication to the gameplay but also deepening your understanding of how to control and enhance 3D environments programmatically. It’s essential to experiment with these examples, combine them in different ways, and see how they can lead to unique interactions and experiences for your players.

Continuing Your Godot Journey

Congratulations on diving into the world of 3D game development with Godot 4! By learning about the ImporterMeshInstance3D class, you’ve taken a crucial step in mastering this powerful engine. However, your journey doesn’t stop here. To further your skills and build a portfolio of real-world projects, we invite you to explore our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. This comprehensive collection of courses will guide you through the 2D and 3D capabilities of Godot, GDScript fluency, gameplay mechanics, and more.

Whether you’re starting without any programming experience or you’re looking to sharpen your game development skills further, our curriculum adapts to your needs, learns at your own pace, and fits easily into your busy schedule. For those of you interested in a broader range of Godot courses, check out our full suite at Zenva’s Godot Courses. Our high-quality content ensures that by learning with us, you’re on the path to becoming a professional game developer. So, keep learning, keep creating, and keep pushing the boundaries of what you can build with Godot.


Embarking on the path of 3D game development is an exhilarating and rewarding venture, and understanding the intricacies of Godot’s ImporterMeshInstance3D only amplifies your creative potential. As you’ve seen, the power to craft, manipulate, and animate 3D worlds lies at your fingertips. This is just the beginning, though; there’s a universe of possibilities and techniques waiting for you in our expertly curated Godot Game Development Mini-Degree, where we turn budding game creators into proficient developers.

At Zenva, we pride ourselves on equipping you with the practical skills and knowledge to bring your game ideas to life. So don’t stop here. Keep leveraging the knowledge you gain through our courses to build engaging, interactive worlds that tell stories, challenge players, and most importantly, reflect your unique vision as a game developer. Let your game development journey continue with the support of our comprehensive resources and a community passionate about learning and innovation. Your next game could be the one that captivates the gaming community, and we can’t wait to see what you create!

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