PlaceholderTexture3D in Godot – Complete Guide

When delving into the world of 3D game development using Godot 4, you might stumble across an intriguing class named PlaceholderTexture3D. Why does it exist, and how can it benefit your projects? The key to efficient game development often lies in understanding not just the tools at hand but the purpose and applications of each component within your development ecosystem.

What is PlaceholderTexture3D?

The PlaceholderTexture3D is a class within the Godot game engine, specifically tailored for use with three-dimensional textures under certain conditions. It falls in the hierarchy of the engine’s classes, inheriting from Texture3D, and ultimately the Object class, representing its most basic form.

What is It For?

This class comes into play when a project utilizes a Texture3D subclass and faces one of two scenarios: running in dedicated server mode or encountering a missing subclass due to version discrepancies or disabled modules. Its design caters to maintaining vital texture dimensions while aiding in reducing memory footprint and package size.

Why Should I Learn It?

Understanding the PlaceholderTexture3D class is critical for developers who aim to optimize their games for performance-sensitive environments, such as servers, or ensure compatibility across different versions of the Godot engine. Learning to use PlaceholderTexture3D can make your game more robust and adaptable to various deployment situations.

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Creating a Placeholder Texture3D

To begin working with PlaceholderTexture3D in your Godot 4 project, you first need to create an instance of this class. This can be done using GDScript, the scripting language used by the Godot engine. We’ll start by creating a simple PlaceholderTexture3D.

var placeholder_texture =

Once created, you can set the placeholder’s size to ensure it matches the expected dimensions of the actual texture that will be replaced.

placeholder_texture.create(512, 512, 512, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)

Setting Up a Placeholder in an Environment Node

Usually, 3D textures are used in Environment nodes for various effects. Here’s how you can set a PlaceholderTexture3D as the sky for an Environment node.

var environment_node =
environment_node.background_sky = placeholder_texture

When your game runs on a dedicated server or a configuration without 3D rendering capabilities, the PlaceholderTexture3D will act in place of a real texture.

Working with Scenes and Export Variables

In Godot, you can also specify placeholder textures directly in scenes with export variables:

export(Texture3D) var my_texture =

func _ready():
    my_texture.create(256, 256, 256, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)

This code allows you to set and swap out the texture in the Godot editor, offering flexibility during the game development process.

Loading Placeholder Textures Conditionally

Sometimes you will want to conditionally load either a PlaceholderTexture3D or an actual texture, based on whether you are running a server or a client instance. Here’s how to handle that scenario:

var my_texture

if OS.has_feature("server"):
    my_texture =
    my_texture.create(256, 256, 256, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)
    my_texture = preload("res://path_to_your_real_texture.img")

This script checks if the game is running in server mode using OS.has_feature("server"). If it is, it creates a PlaceholderTexture3D. Otherwise, it loads an actual texture from the project’s resources.

Through these examples, we can see how PlaceholderTexture3D objects can be implemented in various scenarios within Godot to enhance game performance and resource management.

If you’re delving further into the Godot engine, the advanced usage of the PlaceholderTexture3D can give you a significant edge in developing complex 3D games. Let’s look at more complex implementations with detailed code examples that show the seamless integration and the power of PlaceholderTexture3D in various contexts within the game development process.

Suppose you’re creating a level that includes various materials with texture maps. Here’s how a PlaceholderTexture3D could be integrated within a material:

var my_material =
var my_placeholder =
my_placeholder.create(128, 128, 128, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)
my_material.albedo_texture = my_placeholder

By setting the albedo texture to a placeholder, you provide a temporary stand-in during the development phase or in server mode, which can later be swapped out for the full texture visually in the Godot editor or through script as needed.

When working with shaders that use texture inputs, you can also make use of PlaceholderTexture3D:

shader_material.set_shader_param("my_texture_param", placeholder_texture)

This sets the shader parameter my_texture_param to use a placeholder texture, allowing the shader to compile and run without the final texture while providing the capability to switch to the full texture in the future.

Another powerful feature within Godot is the ability to export arrays of textures for more complex materials. Consider a terrain shader that blends between various textures based on height or other factors. PlaceholderTexture3D objects can also be used in arrays:

export(Array, Texture3D) var terrain_textures = [,]

This script initializes an array terrain_textures with two placeholder textures. With this setup, you can seamlessly replace placeholder textures with actual textures on the fly, making your project more dynamic and manageable.

For conditional logic within your scripts to handle the replacement of placeholders only when they are present, you can include checks like so:

for texture in terrain_textures:
    if texture is PlaceholderTexture3D:
        # Would replace with the actual texture as needed
        texture = preload("res://path_to_actual_texture.img")

Placeholder textures help maintain references to texture locations in materials or shader parameters while providing a clear path to replace them with actual assets when appropriate. As the game transitions out of development, these placeholders can be dynamically replaced with the real textured assets with simple scripts like the one shown above.

Finally, let’s look at handling the freeing of resources. Once you’re done with a placeholder texture or replacing it with a real texture, it’s important to free the resource:

if my_placeholder:
    my_placeholder = null

Calling free() ensures that memory used by the placeholder is released, keeping your game’s footprint as light as possible.

In conclusion, PlaceholderTexture3D offers flexibility and optimisation when developing 3D applications in Godot. Whether streamlining server-side processes, maintaining compatibility between engine versions, or preparing for future asset integration, understanding and utilizing this class empowers developers to build better games.

To further illustrate the use of PlaceholderTexture3D in Godot, let’s consider its application in various scenarios. Here are more code examples alongside explanations to enhance your understanding:

Suppose you’re automating the process of swapping placeholder textures with real ones in a game that’s transitioning from a testing phase to production:

var placeholder =
placeholder.create(512, 512, 512, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)

# Suppose we have a dictionary mapping placeholder textures to actual textures
var texture_map = {
    placeholder: preload("res://textures/actual_texture.img")

func _ready():
    for node in get_tree().get_nodes_in_group("materials"):
        if node.material is SpatialMaterial and node.material.albedo_texture in texture_map:
            node.material.albedo_texture = texture_map[node.material.albedo_texture]

This script checks if the albedo_texture of each SpatialMaterial in the “materials” group is a placeholder and replaces it with the actual texture.

Now, let’s look at a function that loads different texture qualities based on the device’s hardware capabilities, using placeholder textures as the default choice:

func load_texture_for_quality(texture_path, low_quality_path):
    var texture
    if OS.get_device_name() == "Low-end Device":
        texture = preload(low_quality_path)
        texture = preload(texture_path)

    if texture == null:
        texture =
        texture.create(1, 1, 1, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)

    return texture

This function attempts to load either the high-quality or low-quality texture based on the device name, falling back to a 1×1 placeholder texture if neither are available.

One critical functionality within Godot is the ability to handle asynchronous loading, which can be combined with placeholders:

var texture_loader = ResourceLoader.load_interactive("res://textures/huge_texture.img")
var placeholder =
placeholder.create(128, 128, 128, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)

func _process(delta):
    if texture_loader.poll() == ERR_FILE_EOF:
        var actual_texture = texture_loader.get_resource()
        # Replace the placeholder with the actual texture in your game
        material.albedo_texture = actual_texture
        # Continue using placeholder until the actual texture is loaded
        material.albedo_texture = placeholder

This example uses asynchronous loading to load a large texture without freezing the game. While the texture is loading, a placeholder is used.

Finally, let’s consider a scenario where you have an array of textures for a model which could be loaded conditionally:

var player_textures = [preload("res://textures/player_texture_diffuse.img"),

# If running on a server, replace all with placeholders
if OS.has_feature("server"):
    for i in range(player_textures.size()):
        var placeholder =
        placeholder.create(4, 4, 4, Image.FORMAT_RGBA8)
        player_textures[i] = placeholder

In this instance, high-resolution textures for a player model are preloaded but replaced with placeholders when the game runs in server mode to save on unnecessary resource usage.

Mastering the use of PlaceholderTexture3D can lead to a flexible development workflow, allowing for smooth transitions between development, testing, and production environments in Godot. By integrating these practices, you can maintain control over your game’s performance and resource management, remaining adaptable in the face of varying project demands.

Where to Go Next

Your journey into the world of game development with Godot doesn’t have to end here. If you’re feeling inspired and ready to take the next step forward, our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree might be just the resource you need. In our comprehensive collection of courses, you’ll delve deeper into the capabilities of the Godot engine and expand your skillset by building a variety of cross-platform games.

From mastering 2D and 3D assets, to understanding game control flow and crafting engaging gameplay mechanics, the Mini-Degree caters to the learning needs of both beginners and more experienced developers. By the end of the program, you’ll have created tangible projects that serve to enhance your portfolio and solidify your status as a game developer.

For those eager to explore beyond and discover even more about Godot, be sure to check out our broad collection of Godot courses. Continue building upon your foundation and take advantage of our high-quality content to chart your path in the exciting world of game creation.


In conclusion, PlaceholderTexture3D is a powerful feature in Godot that allows developers to create more efficient and adaptable games. By understanding its functions and applications, you’re well-equipped to handle various scenarios that require resource optimization, especially in a server environment or during the iterative phases of development. Remember, these tools and techniques are stepping stones to elevating your game’s performance and your proficiency as a developer.

We at Zenva encourage you to continue exploring the vast potential of Godot and upskill yourself with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. Let’s turn your game development aspirations into reality together, one line of code at a time. Embrace the journey ahead, and happy coding!

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