VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc in Godot – Complete Guide

Diving into the realm of visual shaders can be like exploring a new dimension where colors, shapes, and patterns bend to the will of your creativity and logic. One tool that offers a unique capability within this world is the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc class in Godot 4, a powerful game engine renowned for its simplicity and flexibility. In this comprehensive tutorial, we’re going to unravel the intricacies of the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc class and demonstrate how it can elevate the visual aesthetics of your Godot projects.

What is VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc?

The VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc is a feature of Godot 4’s visual shader graph system. It’s a node designed to calculate derivatives, a concept in mathematics that, in this context, relates to the way colors and textures change across the surface of a 3D model or 2D surface within your game.

What is it for?

By harnessing the power of derivatives, you can create dynamic visual effects that react to the contours and motion of objects. For instance, you can enhance the realism of materials by using this node to calculate how light should reflect off surfaces or add post-processing effects like edge detection for an artistic touch.

Why Should I Learn It?

Understanding how to use the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc is essential for any game developer looking to push the visual quality of their games. It opens up a plethora of possibilities for creating complex, attractive, and performance-friendly visual effects that can run in real-time. Whether you’re a beginner keen on shaping your first game or an experienced coder aiming to enhance your shader skills, this tutorial promises to expand your toolkit in the exciting arena of Godot game development.

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Creating a Simple Edge Detection Shader

Let’s begin with a simple yet effective visual effect: edge detection. This technique can make your game visuals pop by outlining objects. We’ll use the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc node in Godot 4 to achieve this.

// First, create a new VisualShader resource
var new_shader =
// Then, add a VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc to it
var derivative_node =
// Set the operation type to 'Sum' for edge detection
derivative_node.operation = VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc.OP_SUM
// Add the derivative node to the shader
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node, Vector2(100, 100))

With the above code, we’ve established the core node responsible for our edge detection effect.

Applying the Shader to a Material

Once our VisualShader resource is configured with the necessary nodes, we can apply it to a material to see the effects in action on a 3D object.

// Create a new shader material and assign the shader
var new_material =
new_material.shader = new_shader
// Assign the material to your MeshInstance
$MeshInstance.material_override = new_material

By assigning the shader material to a MeshInstance, the object will now have the edge detection effect applied to it.

Enhancing the Edge Detection

To sharpen the edges and control the effect further, we can modify the shader graph by adding nodes that allow us to manipulate the output color and contrast of the edge detection.

// Create a ColorRamp node to control the edge color
var color_ramp_node =
// Configure the ramp gradient as desired
color_ramp_node.ramp.add_point(Vector2(0.5, 0), // Edge color
color_ramp_node.ramp.add_point(Vector2(1.0, 0), // Non-edge color
// Create a scalar to control the edge thickness
var scalar_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, scalar_node, Vector2(200, 100))
scalar_node.default_value = 0.1 // Edge thickness
// Add the nodes to the shader and connect them
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, color_ramp_node, Vector2(200, 200))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(0), color_ramp_node.get_input_port(0))

In this snippet, we’ve introduced a ColorRamp node to allow customization of the edge colors and a ScalarUniform node to adjust the thickness of the edges.

Adjusting Edge Detection Sensitivity

To refine our edge detection further, we might want to control the sensitivity of the derivative calculation. This can be done by adding a ScalarUniform node, which then gets connected to the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc node.

// Create a ScalarUniform node for sensitivity
var sensitivity_node =
sensitivity_node.default_value = 1.0 // Default sensitivity
// Add the node to the shader
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sensitivity_node, Vector2(300, 100))
// Connect the sensitivity node to the derivative_node's input port
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sensitivity_node.get_output_port(0), derivative_node.get_input_port(0))

The ScalarUniform node allows you to easily adjust the sensitivity of the edge detection effect in your game’s materials, giving you precise control over the visual outcome. By experimenting with different values, you can fine-tune how pronounced you want the edges to be.

This concludes the second part of our tutorial on using the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc class in Godot 4. Remember, experimentation is key. The more you play with different node connections and settings, the more unique and tailored your visual effects will become. Stay tuned for the next installment, where we’ll explore even more capabilities of the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc!Continuing from where we left off, let’s delve further into how we can leverage the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc to create not just edge detection, but also to simulate other visual phenomena like bump mapping and procedural textures.

When it comes to bump mapping, we are essentially creating the illusion of depth on a texture by affecting its normal values based on a heightmap. The derivative function is pivotal here as it can help us to compute the rate of change in the heightmap, leading to a more realistic rendering of bumps and dents on surfaces.

// Create a TextureUniform node for the heightmap
var heightmap_node =
heightmap_node.texture_type = VisualShaderNodeTextureUniform.TYPE_DATA
// Add the heightmap node to the shader
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, heightmap_node, Vector2(100, 200))
// Connect the heightmap to the derivative's input
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, heightmap_node.get_output_port(0), derivative_node.get_input_port(0))
// Now, use the derivative node outputs to adjust the normals
var normalmap_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, normalmap_node, Vector2(250, 200))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(0), normalmap_node.get_input_port(0))

The above code will take your heightmap and use it to influence the normal values of your texture, making the surface of your material appear more detailed.

Next, let’s consider procedural texturing. For instance, we could generate a basic noise pattern and manipulate it with derivatives to create organic, fluctuating patterns.

// First, create a NoiseTexture node for procedural texturing
var noise_texture_node =
// Add the NoiseTexture node to the shader
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, noise_texture_node, Vector2(100, 300))
// Again, connect this to the derivative function
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, noise_texture_node.get_output_port(0), derivative_node.get_input_port(0))
// Extract the 'sum' derivative output for further processing
var derivative_output_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_output_node, Vector2(400, 300))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(1), derivative_output_node.get_input_port(0))

The connections made in this part of the shader are foundational for creating visually dynamic textures that would evolve over the surface dynamically based on the ‘noise’ input.

Let’s also consider how derivatives can play a role in implementing simple distortion effects, which can mimic heat haze, water ripples, or other types of environmental distortions.

// Add a ScreenTexture node to get the texture from the viewport
var screen_texture_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, screen_texture_node, Vector2(300, 400))
// As before, use the derivative to calculate distortion
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, screen_texture_node.get_output_port(0), derivative_node.get_input_port(0))
// Connect the derivative output to affect UVs
var uv_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, uv_node, Vector2(450, 400))
// Add and configure a VectorOp node to combine UVs and distortion
var vector_op_node =
vector_op_node.operation = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OPERATION_ADD
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, vector_op_node, Vector2(600, 400))
// Connect nodes for the final distortion effect
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, uv_node.get_output_port(0), vector_op_node.get_input_port(0))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(1), vector_op_node.get_input_port(1))

In this fragment of code, we’re using the UV coordinates of the ScreenTexture to apply a distortion effect via the derivatives calculated by our trusted VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc node. This will create a sense of distortion related to the original texture displayed on the screen.

Lastly, we can improve performance by employing a form of anti-aliasing through derivatives. Using the derivatives of a texture, we can soften the transitions between its different regions, effectively smoothing out jagged edges.

// Add an antialiasing effect by smoothing the color transitions
var texture_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, texture_node, Vector2(300, 500))
// Feed the derivative into a SmoothStep node, which will act as our anti-aliasing filter
var smoothstep_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smoothstep_node, Vector2(450, 500))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(1), smoothstep_node.get_input_port(1))
// Finally, adjust the smoothstep parameters via VectorUniform
var smoothstep_params =
smoothstep_params.default_value = Vector3(0.48, 0.52, 1.0) // Edge min, Edge max, and unused z component
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smoothstep_params, Vector2(600, 500))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smoothstep_params.get_output_port(0), smoothstep_node.get_input_port(0))

The VisualShaderNodeSmoothStep node works perfectly in conjunction with the derivative to offer a more refined and visually pleasing texture output that mitigates aliasing artifacts without compromising too much on performance.

Through these examples, we’ve seen just a few of the endless possibilities that the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc offers in Godot 4. As you grow more comfortable with shader programming and visual scripting in Godot, these fundamentals will pave the way for creating advanced and captivating visual effects in your games. Keep experimenting, and don’t be afraid to get creative with your shaders!In this fourth section, we’ll expand on the applications of the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc node by incorporating more code examples that highlight its versatility.

Exploring the world of shaders, we sometimes want to visualize the flow of a surface, which could be used to create a stylized wind effect on grass or simulate water currents. Using the derivative node, we can calculate the direction and intensity of flow across a texture.

// Extract the flow direction using derivatives
var flow_direction_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, flow_direction_node, Vector2(500, 100))
// Combine the flow direction with the texture's derivative
var multiply_node =
multiply_node.operation = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OPERATION_MULTIPLY
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, multiply_node, Vector2(650, 100))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(0), multiply_node.get_input_port(0))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, flow_direction_node.get_output_port(0), multiply_node.get_input_port(1))

This allows us to assign a direction to the texture’s flow, creating dynamic movement without the need for animated textures, saving on resources.

Moving forward, consider a scenario where we want to adjust the intensity of a texture based on the angle of a surface to the light, much like a fresnel effect commonly used in water or glass materials.

// Calculate angle to light for a fresnel-like effect
var light_dir_node =
light_dir_node.default_value = Vector3(0, 1, 0) // Represening a light coming from above
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_dir_node, Vector2(500, 200))
// Calculate fresnel effect using the dot product between light direction and normal
var dot_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, dot_node, Vector2(650, 200))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_dir_node.get_output_port(0), dot_node.get_input_port(0))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(0), dot_node.get_input_port(1))

This code calculates the dot product between the light direction and the surface normal, derived from the texture, and will produce a gradient effect that simulates the change in reflectivity at different angles.

Another practical use of the derivative function is in the domain of transitions and animations. Suppose you want to animate a texture wipe across an object’s surface over time.

// Animate a texture wipe using a time-driven scalar
var time_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, time_node, Vector2(500, 300))
// Adjust the time scalar to control wipe speed
var time_scalar_node =
time_scalar_node.default_value = 1.0 // Speed of the wipe
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, time_scalar_node, Vector2(650, 300))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, time_node.get_output_port(0), time_scalar_node.get_input_port(0))
// Use the adjusted time to animate texture coordinates
var uv_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, uv_node, Vector2(500, 400))
var mix_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, mix_node, Vector2(650, 400))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, time_scalar_node.get_output_port(0), mix_node.get_input_port(0))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, uv_node.get_output_port(0), mix_node.get_input_port(1))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, derivative_node.get_output_port(0), mix_node.get_input_port(2))

Here, the time node feeds into a scalar to control the speed of the wipe, and this scalar dictates the transition between two states of the texture, creating an animation effect purely through shader code.

Lastly, consider integrating a simple chromatic aberration effect, which simulates the prism-like color separation seen in lenses, especially around the edges of the screen.

// Distort UV coordinates for a chromatic aberration effect
var uv_distort_node =
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, uv_distort_node, Vector2(500, 600))
var chromatic_aberration_node =
chromatic_aberration_node.operation = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OPERATION_ADD
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, chromatic_aberration_node, Vector2(650, 600))
// Distort red, green, and blue channels separately
var distortion_amount_node =
distortion_amount_node.default_value = Vector3(0.012, 0, -0.012) // Distortions for RGB channels
new_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, distortion_amount_node, Vector2(800, 600))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, uv_distort_node.get_output_port(0), chromatic_aberration_node.get_input_port(0))
new_shader.connect_nodes(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, distortion_amount_node.get_output_port(0), chromatic_aberration_node.get_input_port(1))

Adding these snippets of code will simulate the separation of light into various colors at different intensities, based on the distortion amount you set for each color channel.

These examples offer just a glimpse at the creative ways one can utilize the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc in Godot 4’s shading language. By understanding and applying these concepts, a developer can create an array of effects that not only bring their game world to life but do so efficiently and with unique artistic flair. Keep experimenting with different settings, and you’ll surely find even more imaginative uses for this powerful node.

Continuing Your Game Development Journey

With the foundational knowledge of the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc in Godot 4, you’ve taken a significant step in understanding the power of shaders and their impact on game aesthetics. Your journey in game development doesn’t end here, though. We encourage you to keep learning, experimenting, and building upon what you’ve discovered.

To further your skills and bring your game development dreams to fruition, our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree is an excellent next step. It’s a comprehensive collection designed to teach you how to build cross-platform games from the ground up using the free and lightweight Godot engine. You’ll master a variety of topics, from working with 2D and 3D assets to controlling gameplay and implementing complex game mechanics. The self-paced curriculum lets you learn at your convenience, culminating in projects that not only solidify your understanding but also contribute to your portfolio.

For an even broader exploration of what Godot has to offer, take a look at our full collection of Godot courses. With these resources at your fingertips, you can start as a beginner and advance to a professional level, with Zenva providing over 250 supported courses to boost your career. Embrace the opportunity to learn coding, create games, and earn certificates at your own pace – your next groundbreaking project awaits!


Your adventure with the VisualShaderNodeDerivativeFunc in Godot 4 is just a preview of the vast creative potential that awaits you in the world of game development. We’ve peeled back the curtain on complex visual effects, showing you that with a little bit of knowledge and a lot of imagination, you can bring rich, dynamic visuals to life in your games. Remember, these shaders are your tools to paint with code, crafting experiences that can captivate, inspire, and entertain.

Don’t let the momentum stop here! Continue sculpting your skills and deepening your understanding with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. Whether you’re looking to refine your technical acumen or bring an artistic vision to life, Zenva is here to support you every step of the way. Embrace this journey, and let the power of Godot 4 and Zenva’s expert courses set your game development dreams in motion.


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