VisualInstance3D in Godot – Complete Guide

Welcome to a journey through the spaces of 3D rendering with Godot 4! If you have ever dreamed of bringing virtual worlds to life, then understanding the intricacies of the VisualInstance3D class is a pivotal step in your game development adventure. This essential building block of 3D environments helps connect the raw data of your game’s resources — whether they be meshes, decals, or lights — to the vibrant, visual representations that players will admire and interact with. So, let’s embark on an exciting exploration of this fundamental aspect of game creation, unlocking the potential to craft stunning scenes and immersive gameplay experiences.

What is a VisualInstance3D?

VisualInstance3D is a node within the Godot game engine, specifically tailored for 3D rendering tasks. It essentially acts as a parent class for all the visual 3D nodes used in your games. A node like this one is important because it bridges the gap between the engine’s backend rendering logic and the digital assets visible on screen.

What is VisualInstance3D for?

Billing as the linchpin for pretty much anything that wants to make a visual cameo in your game, it manages resources such as textures and shaders and determines how they are rendered in the game space. The properties of a VisualInstance3D can control aspects like which layers an object appears on and the order of rendering, thereby affecting how your game looks and feels.

Why Should I Learn About VisualInstance3D?

By gaining knowledge of the VisualInstance3D class, you empower yourself to:

– Optimize your game’s visual performance by understanding how Godot manages rendering.
– Craft detailed and interactive environments through precise control over visibility and rendering of objects.
– Utilize advanced features such as custom shaders and lights to elevate your game’s aesthetic.

No matter where you are on your game development journey, a solid grasp of concepts like VisualInstance3D will not only amplify your skillset but also enhance the overall quality and playability of your creations. Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and start delving into the nitty-gritty of this key game development ingredient!

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Creating a VisualInstance3D

To begin with, let’s create a basic VisualInstance3D in Godot 4. Start by adding a new node to your scene, and make sure to select the appropriate subclass that best represents the visual element you want to create. For general purposes, we’ll start with MeshInstance3D, which is a common type of VisualInstance3D.

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

This code snippet creates a new MeshInstance3D object, assigns a mesh resource to it, and adds it to your scene.

Adjusting Visibility and Layers

Once you have your VisualInstance3D in the scene, you may want to control its visibility or which layers it belongs to. Here’s how you can adjust its visibility:

mesh_instance.visible = false  # To hide the mesh
mesh_instance.visible = true   # To show the mesh

And here’s how to set the layers. Godot allows for 20 different rendering layers, and each VisualInstance3D can belong to one or more of these layers.

mesh_instance.layers = 1    # Assigns to the first layer
mesh_instance.layers = 1 | 2  # Assigns to both the first and second layers

Manipulating Materials and Shaders

Now, to truly make your scene come to life, you may want to play around with materials and shaders. Assigning a material to your mesh gives you control over its appearance.

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

And if you want to get even more creative, you can create a ShaderMaterial with a custom shader script.

var shader_material =
var shader = preload("res://path_to_your_shader.shader")
shader_material.shader = shader
mesh_instance.set_surface_material(0, shader_material)

Adding Lighting to Your 3D Scene

VisualInstance3D nodes act as the perfect partners for light nodes in creating a mood or highlighting elements in your scene. Adding a directional light is a straightforward way to illuminate your mesh instances.

var light =
light.direction = Vector3(1, -1, 1)

Just remember to adjust the direction vector to point the light in the direction you want.

Continue to experiment with these examples, modifying properties, and observing how they affect your visual instances. By mastering these basics, you can start building the foundations of an engaging and visually appealing 3D game. Stay tuned, as we will explore more capabilities of the VisualInstance3D in the next part of the tutorial.Building on the foundation we have set with VisualInstance3D objects, let’s explore more advanced features that will further bring our 3D scenes to life.

Refining Mesh Instances

Sometimes you may want to adjust the transform of your mesh to change its position, rotation, or scale within the world. To do this, you can manipulate the transform property.

mesh_instance.transform = Transform.IDENTITY.scaled(Vector3(2, 2, 2))  # Doubles the size of the mesh
mesh_instance.transform = Transform.IDENTITY.rotated(Vector3(0, 1, 0), PI/2) # Rotates the mesh 90 degrees on the Y-axis
mesh_instance.transform = Transform.IDENTITY.translated(Vector3(0, 5, 0))   # Moves the mesh 5 units up

Applying Multiple Materials

If your mesh has more than one surface, you can apply different materials to each. For instance, if you have a two-sided signpost, you can have distinct textures on each side.

var material_front = preload("res://path_to_front_material.tres")
var material_back = preload("res://path_to_back_material.tres")
mesh_instance.set_surface_material(0, material_front)  # Apply to the front surface
mesh_instance.set_surface_material(1, material_back)   # Apply to the back surface

LOD and Distance Fade

To optimize performance, you can set up Level of Detail (LOD) using the lod_min_distance and lod_max_distance properties. This will determine the detail of the mesh based on the camera’s distance to the mesh.

mesh_instance.lod_min_distance = 10  # Minimum distance for LOD
mesh_instance.lod_max_distance = 100 # Maximum distance beyond which LOD decreases

Additionally, you can use the distance_fade_min and distance_fade_max properties for a fading effect as the camera gets further away from the object.

mesh_instance.distance_fade_min = 50  # Start fading at this distance
mesh_instance.distance_fade_max = 100 # Completely faded out at this distance

Casting and Receiving Shadows

Shadows add depth and realism to scenes. You can control shadow casting and receiving properties on your VisualInstance3D nodes.

mesh_instance.cast_shadow = GeometryInstance.CAST_SHADOW_OFF    # Disable shadow casting
mesh_instance.cast_shadow = GeometryInstance.CAST_SHADOW_ON     # Enable shadow casting

# To make a mesh not receive shadows, you'd work with the material:
var material = mesh_instance.get_surface_material(0)
material.set_shader_param("receive_shadows", false)

Utilizing GIProbes for Global Illumination

For an even more lifelike lighting effect, you can use Global Illumination Probes (GIProbes). They capture the lighting information of a scene to calculate how light interacts within that space.

var gi_probe =

This adds a GIProbe to your scene and bakes the lighting data. Include your VisualInstance3D within the probe’s extents for it to affect the lighting of the mesh.

By implementing these techniques, you can inject more dynamism and life into your Godot 4 3D projects. Experiment with these commands, discover their impact on your visual instances, and continue on your path to becoming a proficient 3D game developer with Godot 4!

Dynamic Reflections with ReflectionProbes

For objects that need to reflect their surroundings, ReflectionProbes are your go-to tool. They simulate reflective surfaces by capturing the environment and using that information for reflections on your material.

var reflection_probe =
reflection_probe.intensity = 0.8
reflection_probe.cull_mask = Layer1  # Set the layers you want the probe to reflect

This snippet creates a new ReflectionProbe, adds it as a child of the current node, sets the intensity of the reflections, and defines which layers it affects.

Enhancing Realism with Depth of Field

Adding depth of field (DoF) effects can greatly enhance the visual quality of your game by simulating the focusing characteristics of a camera lens. The WorldEnvironment node in Godot controls various environmental effects including DoF.

var world_environment =
var environment =
environment.background_color = Color(0.0, 0.0, 0.0)
environment.dof_blur_far_enabled = true
environment.dof_blur_far_distance = 20.0
environment.dof_blur_far_amount = 0.5
world_environment.environment = environment

This code sets up a WorldEnvironment node with a new Environment resource. It enables the far DoF blur and configures the distance at which objects start to blur and the intensity of the blur effect.

Using Decals for Detailing

Decals are useful for adding specific details like scars, graffiti, or signage to surfaces without needing a unique texture for each object.

var decal =
var decal_material = preload("res://path_to_your_decal_material.tres")
decal.decal_material = decal_material
decal.set_texture_scale(Vector2(0.5, 0.5))  # Scale down the decal texture size

With this snippet, you can create a new Decal node, set its material, scale the decal texture, and add the node to the scene.

Animating Properties with Tween

Animating properties of VisualInstance3D nodes can add motion and life to your game. For this purpose, the Tween node is incredibly helpful.

var tween =
tween.interpolate_property(mesh_instance, "transform:origin", mesh_instance.transform.origin, Vector3(10, 2, 5), 1.0, Tween.TRANS_LINEAR, Tween.EASE_IN_OUT)

This will create a simple animation moving the origin of your mesh_instance from its current location to the coordinates (10, 2, 5) over the span of 1 second.

Remember, the power of Godot engine lies in the combination of its nodes and your creativity. Mix and match these techniques, try out new configurations, and see for yourself what amazing visuals you can create with VisualInstance3D in Godot 4.

Continuing Your Godot Journey

Setting sails on your game development journey with Godot 4 can be both thrilling and challenging. But like all great quests, the path to becoming adept in crafting immersive game experiences is ongoing. If your passion for game creation burns strong and you’re eager to continue expanding your skills, we’ve got the perfect next steps for you!

We warmly invite you to dive deeper into the world of game development with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. This tailored series of courses is designed to take you from the foundational principles of game design right through to advanced projects that will enrich your portfolio and game development prowess. You’ll not only explore the nuances of Godot 4 but will also learn to create cross-platform games that can captivate audiences anywhere.

More learning adventures await with our broad collection of Godot courses, covering various topics and levels. Whether you’re at the starting line or ready to leap into more complex game mechanics and concepts, our content is here to guide you, ensuring each step you take is one of progress and discovery. So, keep on building, learning, and playing — with Zenva, you’re on the right track to master the art and science of game development.


Embarking on the path of 3D game development with Godot 4 is an extraordinary journey. By mastering elements like VisualInstance3D, you’ve taken a huge leap forward in bringing your imaginative worlds to life. It’s powerful nodes like these that give you the creative freedom to realize your vision and craft experiences that resonate with players. But remember, this is only the beginning; there’s an entire universe of knowledge waiting for you to explore.
Continue to challenge your skills, stretch the limits of your creativity, and grow with us at Zenva. Dare to dream big, code boldly, and transform your game development dreams into reality. Dive into our comprehensive Godot Game Development Mini-Degree and let us be the wind in your sails as you navigate the expansive seas of game creation. Together, we’ll ride the waves to success. Happy developing!
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