ShaderMaterial in Godot – Complete Guide

Unlock the potential of custom graphics in your game or application with the power of Godot’s ShaderMaterial. Whether you’ve just embarked on your game development journey or you’re an experienced coder looking to widen your skill set, understanding how to harness Shaders in Godot 4 will escalate your creative capabilities to new heights. Let’s dive into the world of ShaderMaterial, where the only limit to what you can achieve is your imagination.

What Is ShaderMaterial?

ShaderMaterial is a vital class in the Godot Engine that allows developers to create visually stunning effects using custom shader programs. It’s a type of Material that gives you the flexibility to render items with highly customizable graphical properties. But what exactly is a shader? At its core, a shader is a type of computer program that runs on the GPU and controls the visual appearance of objects within a 3D or 2D space.

What Is ShaderMaterial Used For?

ShaderMaterial is used to bring bespoke visual effects to life in your games or applications. With it, you can tackle anything from simple tasks like changing the color of an object, to complex operations like simulating water, creating dynamic shadows, or even generating procedural textures.

Why Should I Learn About ShaderMaterial?

Diving into the world of shaders and ShaderMaterial unlocks a whole new level of customization for your projects. Creating custom effects with shaders can:
– Differentiate your work with unique visual styles.
– Optimize performance by leveraging the GPU for intensive graphics tasks.
– Increase your value as a developer with advanced rendering techniques in your toolkit.

Understanding shaders is like learning to paint; with each new technique, you add depth, nuance, and vibrancy to your work. Let’s get started on this exciting journey of visual exploration and creativity with Godot’s ShaderMaterial.

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Creating a Basic ShaderMaterial

To start working with ShaderMaterials in Godot, we first need to create one. This is done by creating a new ShaderMaterial resource and then applying it to a MeshInstance or Sprite, depending on if you’re working in 2D or 3D.

var material =
var shader =
shader.code = "shader code here"
material.shader = shader
mesh_instance.material_override = material

This code snippet creates a new ShaderMaterial and assigns an empty shader to it. We then take a `MeshInstance` and set its `material_override` property, applying our custom ShaderMaterial to the object.

Adding Simple Color with Fragment Shader

The next step is to add some color. Below is an example of how you might write a fragment shader to color your object with a solid red color:

shader_type spatial;

void fragment() {
    ALBEDO = vec3(1.0, 0.0, 0.0);

The `shader_type spatial;` line specifies that we’re writing a shader intended for 3D rendering. The `fragment` function is called for every pixel that Godot renders for the object. By setting the ALBEDO to a vector with RGB values, we give it a solid color; in this case, red.

Adding a Texture with Uniforms

Uniforms are a way to pass data from your Godot scenes into your shaders. Below, we apply a texture to our object using a uniform in our shader code:

shader_type canvas_item;

uniform sampler2D texture;

void fragment() {
    COLOR = texture(texture, UV);

By using `shader_type canvas_item;` we specify that it’s a shader for 2D rendering. The `uniform sampler2D texture;` line declares a texture uniform that we can set from our Godot material properties. Finally, we assign the texture’s color to the fragment’s `COLOR` using the UV coordinates provided by Godot.

Modifying Texture Coordinates

Now let’s alter the texture coordinates to create an effect, such as making the texture scroll across the object:

shader_type canvas_item;

uniform sampler2D texture;
uniform float time;

void fragment() {
    vec2 uv = UV;
    uv.x += time * 0.1;
    COLOR = texture(texture, uv);

This code introduces a new uniform `time`, which we can update every frame from a Godot script to create a scrolling effect. By adjusting the `uv.x` coordinate with time, the texture appears to move horizontally.

Changing Transparency

We can also control the transparency of an object. Below, we make the red color from our earlier example semi-transparent:

shader_type spatial;

void fragment() {
    ALBEDO = vec3(1.0, 0.0, 0.0);
    ALPHA = 0.5;

The `ALPHA` variable controls the transparency of the fragment being rendered. Here we’re setting it to 0.5, which results in semi-transparency.

These examples have covered creating a ShaderMaterial, coloring objects, applying textures, modifying UV coordinates, and controlling transparency—all fundamental aspects of working with ShaderMaterial in Godot. In the continuation, we’ll dive even deeper into the capabilities of shaders, including how to create animations and utilize lighting for more impactful visuals. Stick with us as we explore the expressive power of ShaderMaterials in Godot 4.Let’s delve further into the capabilities of Godot’s ShaderMaterial, exploring the realms of animation, lighting, and more complex effects.

Animating Shaders

Animation can be achieved within shaders by manipulating values over time. For example, you can create a pulsating effect on a 2D sprite with the following shader code:

shader_type canvas_item;

uniform float speed = 1.0;

void fragment() {
    float pulse = sin(TIME * speed) * 0.5 + 0.5;
    vec4 modulated_color = vec4(0.0, 1.0, 0.0, 1.0) * pulse;
    COLOR = modulated_color;

Here, `TIME` is a built-in uniform that provides the time since the start of the game. By multiplying `TIME` with a speed factor, and applying the `sin` function, we create a value that oscillates between -1 and 1, which we then adjust to oscillate between 0 and 1 and apply as a multiplier to our color.

Vertex Shader for Deforming Meshes

Shaders can also manipulate 3D geometry through the vertex function. The example below demonstrates a waving effect on a 3D mesh:

shader_type spatial;

void vertex() {
    VERTEX.y += sin(TIME + VERTEX.x * 2.0) * 0.5;

The `vertex` function alters the y-coordinate of each vertex by a sinusoidal amount, resulting in a wave-like animation across the mesh.

Using Lighting in Shaders

To respond to lighting within your scene, you can tap into Godot’s light processor function. The following example creates a simple lighting effect on a 3D surface:

shader_type spatial;
render_mode unshaded;

void light() {
    DIFFUSE_LIGHT = max(dot(NORMAL, LIGHT), 0.0) * vec3(1.0, 1.0, 1.0);

This snippet calculates the diffuse light component based on the angle between the surface normal and the light direction, resulting in a basic lit effect that corresponds with your scene lighting.

Procedural Textures

You can use shaders to create textures on-the-fly, which allows for highly dynamic and memory-efficient visuals:

shader_type canvas_item;

void fragment() {
    vec2 pos = FRAGCOORD.xy / SCREEN_SIZE;
    float noise = fract(sin(dot(pos.xy ,vec2(12.9898,78.233))) * 43758.5453);
    COLOR = vec4(vec3(noise), 1.0);

The `frac`, `sin`, and `dot` functions create a procedural noise pattern which can be further manipulated to simulate effects like fire, smoke, or water.

Implementing Normal Maps

Shaders can also use normal maps to simulate complex lighting details. Below, we combine a texture with a normal map to give the illusion of depth:

shader_type canvas_item;

uniform sampler2D texture_albedo;
uniform sampler2D texture_normal;

void fragment() {
    vec3 normal = texture(texture_normal, UV).rgb;
    normal = (normal - 0.5) * 2.0; // Re-map from [0, 1] to [-1, 1]
    vec3 light_dir = vec3(0.0, 0.0, 1.0); // Assuming light comes from the viewer
    float light_intensity = max(dot(normal, light_dir), 0.0);
    vec4 albedo = texture(texture_albedo, UV);
    COLOR = albedo * light_intensity;

This code combines the albedo and normal textures to calculate the intensity of light on each pixel, adjusting the color of the material accordingly, giving flat 2D sprites a sense of three-dimensionality.

Through these examples, you can see how Godot’s ShaderMaterial offers limitless possibilities to enhance the visual quality and performance of games and applications. From animated effects and custom lighting to procedural generation and complex material customization, shaders empower you to bring your creative vision to life. Embrace the power and flexibility of ShaderMaterial in Godot to make your project truly stand out.Now, let’s deepen our exploration of Godot’s ShaderMaterial with practical code examples that showcase some advanced uses of shaders.

Creating a Dissolve Effect

A popular VFX in games is the dissolve effect, where objects appear to disintegrate or materialize. Here’s how we might write a shader to achieve this:

shader_type spatial;
uniform float edge_width = 0.1;
uniform float amount = 0.0; // Dissolve amount from 0.0 to 1.0
uniform sampler2D noise_tex; // A noise texture

void fragment() {
    float noise_value = texture(noise_tex, UV).r;
    float edge = smoothstep(amount, amount + edge_width, noise_value);
    ALBEDO = mix(vec3(1.0), vec3(0.0), edge);
    ALPHA = 1.0 - edge;

The `smoothstep` function creates a gradual transition based on the noise value, and the `mix` function determines the color interpolation. The `amount` uniform controls the progression of the effect.

Simulating Water Surface

Simulating water, with its moving surface and reflections, is greatly enhanced by shaders. This example creates a simple animated water effect:

shader_type spatial;

uniform sampler2D reflection_tex; // An environment texture for reflection
uniform float wave_speed = 1.0;

void fragment() {
    vec2 offset = vec2(TIME * wave_speed, 0.0);
    vec3 reflected_color = texture(reflection_tex, REFLECTION_UV + offset).rgb;
    ALBEDO = mix(vec3(0.0, 0.3, 0.7), reflected_color, 0.5);

We use a timer and manipulate the reflection UV coordinates to simulate the motion of waves. The `mix` function then blends the water’s color with the reflected environment.

Creating a Glow Effect

Adding glow to objects can create a sense of energy and power. With shaders, this effect can be artistically stylized:

shader_type canvas_item;
uniform vec4 glow_color = vec4(1.0, 0.5, 0.0, 1.0);
uniform float glow_strength = 2.0;

void fragment() {
    float distance_to_center = length(UV - vec2(0.5, 0.5));
    float glow = 1.0 - smoothstep(0.3, 0.5, distance_to_center);
    COLOR = mix(texture(TEXTURE, UV), glow_color, glow * glow_strength);

This uses the distance from the object’s center in UV space to calculate a glow factor, which is then applied to the sprite’s texture.

Creating a Grid Overlay

For editor tools or certain game aesthetics, having a grid overlay can be useful. This is how we’d write a shader that produces a dynamic grid:

shader_type canvas_item;
uniform vec4 line_color = vec4(1.0);
uniform float line_width = 1.0;
uniform float line_spacing = 10.0;

void fragment() {
    vec2 grid_position = mod(FRAGCOORD.xy, line_spacing);
    float line_mask = step(line_width, min(grid_position.x, grid_position.y));
    COLOR = mix(line_color, texture(TEXTURE, UV), line_mask);

The `mod` function repeats the lines at regular intervals, and the `step` function sharpens the grid lines with the specified width.

Chromatic Aberration Effect

Chromatic aberration can add a sense of optics or imperfection to camera views. Below is an example shader that simulates this:

shader_type canvas_item;
uniform float offset = 0.01;

void fragment() {
    vec2 uv_offset = vec2(offset, 0.0);
    float r = texture(TEXTURE, UV + uv_offset).r;
    float g = texture(TEXTURE, UV).g;
    float b = texture(TEXTURE, UV - uv_offset).b;
    COLOR = vec4(r, g, b, 1.0);

This shader offsets the red and blue channels of the texture, creating the desired visual distortion.

By now, you’ve seen how Godot’s ShaderMaterial can take a project’s visual appeal to soaring heights. Whether it’s simple coloring, animated textures, or complex shader logic for water, glow, or dynamic effects, mastering shader writing allows you to truly personalize your game’s look and feel. As you continue to experiment and refine your skills, remember that the possibilities with shaders are boundless. Let your creativity and the power of Godot’s rendering engine guide you towards crafting truly memorable experiences.

Continue Your Game Development Journey with Zenva

Your adventure into the world of shaders and Godot’s powerful rendering capabilities has just begun. With the foundational knowledge you’ve acquired today, you’re well on your way to creating mesmerizing graphics and effects that will captivate your audience. But don’t stop here! To further elevate your game development skills, we invite you to explore our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. This comprehensive selection of courses will guide you in mastering the Godot 4 engine, covering a breadth of topics that will enrich your development toolkit.

At Zenva, we understand the importance of flexible learning that caters to both beginners and experienced developers. Our Godot courses are available around the clock, allowing you to learn on your schedule and at your own pace. From creating your first 2D platformer to crafting an immersive 3D RPG, our project-based curriculum will help you build a professional portfolio and arm you with in-demand skills. Take the leap and start building cross-platform games today with our wide range of Godot courses.

So press forward and continue to challenge yourself. With Zenva, you can transform your passion into expertise, creating the games you’ve always dreamed of. Let your creativity loose, and see where this exciting journey takes you!


In wrapping up our exploration of ShaderMaterial in Godot 4, we’ve merely scratched the surface of what’s possible with these potent tools. As you can see, the ability to create custom shaders is an indispensable skill in a developer’s arsenal, enabling a truly unique and mesmerizing gaming experience. The examples we’ve discussed illustrate just a fraction of the creative control you gain, empowering you to push the boundaries of traditional game graphics and design.

Ready to take your aspirations to the next level? Dive deeper with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree, where every lesson brings you one step closer to realizing your vision. Whether you aim to craft the next indie hit or aspire to develop visually intricate environments, Zenva is here to guide you through each line of code and every shader equation. Transform your passion into play with Zenva – where the future of game development awaits!

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