VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth in Godot – Complete Guide

Understanding the depth of a scene is vital in creating realistic and immersive 3D worlds in games. When manipulating depth in shaders, it’s essential to have precise control over how objects are rendered at different distances from the camera. This is where the VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth comes into play within the Godot 4 engine, unlocking new possibilities for developers in crafting their virtual landscapes.

What is VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth?

The VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth is a powerful node within the Godot 4’s visual shader system. It serves to provide the depth information of any pixel in a 3D scene, which is crucial for a variety of visual effects. This node operates within the fragment shader and reads the depth value from the DEPTH_TEXTURE in a linear space.

What is it Used For?

This node is primarily used to create effects that depend on the distance of objects from the camera. For instance:

  • Creating fog or depth of field effects.
  • Useful for post-processing effects such as SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion).
  • Enables developers to apply effects only at certain depths in the scene.

Why Should I Learn It?

Learning to use the VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth is beneficial because:

  • It provides essential groundwork for advanced visual effects in 3D games.
  • Understanding linear scene depth can greatly enhance the visual quality of your game.
  • It adds a level of polish to your game that can set it apart in a crowded market.

Depth manipulation is an integral part of a game developer’s toolkit, and mastering it can open doors to creative and technical innovation within your projects.

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Setting Up a Basic Depth Shader

To kick things off, we’ll start by setting up a basic shader that makes use of the VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth node to visualize the depth of the scene directly.

// The shader code
shader_type spatial; // Define the shader type

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    depth = depth * 2.0 - 1.0; // Remapping from [0,1] to [-1,1]
    ALBEDO = vec3(depth); // Assign the depth value to the albedo

In this example, depth information is remapped and showcased as a grayscale color. It’s a simple first step that provides immediate visual feedback on how depth is represented in the scene.

Creating a Depth-Based Fog Effect

Next, we’ll enhance our scene by adding a fog effect that increases with the scene depth. The following code snippet demonstrates how you can calculate fog density based on distance from the camera.

// The shader code for a depth-based fog effect
shader_type spatial;

uniform float fogDensity;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float fogAmount = 1.0 - exp(-depth * fogDensity);
    ALBEDO = mix(ALBEDO, vec3(0.8), fogAmount); // Fog color is set to a light grey

By controlling the `fogDensity` uniform, you can adjust the intensity of the fog to best suit your scene.

Implementing a Depth of Field Effect

A depth of field (DoF) effect can be used to create focus on a particular object, blurring out the rest. Here’s how you can apply a basic DoF using VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth.

// Shader code for depth of field
shader_type spatial;

uniform float focusDepth;
uniform float focusRange;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float blur = smoothstep(focusDepth - focusRange, focusDepth + focusRange, depth);
    // Apply your blur effect based on the 'blur' variable

The `focusDepth` uniform sets the distance from the camera where objects are in focus, while `focusRange` determines the range around the focus distance where objects start to blur.

Visualizing Object Distance Using Color Gradients

To provide a clear visual indicator of distance in a debug shader, we can map depth information to a color gradient where objects closer to the camera are one color and objects further away are another.

// Shader code for visualizing object distance
shader_type spatial;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    vec3 nearColor = vec3(1.0, 0.0, 0.0); // Red color for near objects
    vec3 farColor = vec3(0.0, 0.0, 1.0); // Blue color for far objects
    float gradient = depth * depth; // Quadratic gradient for a non-linear transition
    ALBEDO = mix(nearColor, farColor, gradient); // Lerp between colors based on depth

This technique can not only help during development and debugging but could also be stylized for certain artistic effects within a game.Visual shaders in Godot allow us to create complex effects with nodes. Let’s dive deeper with more examples, incorporating the VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth to create advanced visual effects.

Advanced Visual Effects with Depth Information

Warming Up Color as Objects Recede

Creating a warm-to-cool transition based on depth can give the impression of atmospheric perspective—an effect often seen in nature.

// Shader code for warming up colors with depth
shader_type spatial;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    vec3 warmColor = vec3(1.0, 0.5, 0.0); // Warm color
    vec3 coolColor = vec3(0.0, 0.0, 1.0); // Cool color
    float colorMix = depth; // Linear interpolation based on depth
    ALBEDO = mix(coolColor, warmColor, colorMix);

Simulating Underwater Caustics

Adding a caustic effect to simulate light patterns underwater can create an immersive aquatic environment. Here’s how one might calculate caustic intensity based on depth.

// Shader code for underwater caustics
shader_type spatial;

uniform sampler2D causticTexture;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float causticsStrength = 1.0 - depth; // Caustics fade with depth
    vec2 causticsUV = SCREEN_UV * (1.0 + depth * 10.0); // Scale the UVs based on depth
    vec4 caustics = texture(causticTexture, causticsUV);
    ALBEDO = mix(ALBEDO, caustics.rgb, causticsStrength * caustics.a);

Displaying Heat Haze at a Distance

Heat haze effects can add a touch of realism to a hot environment. Depth may be used to intensify this effect further into the scene.

// Shader code for distance-based heat haze
shader_type spatial;

uniform float hazeStart;
uniform float hazeEnd;
uniform sampler2D noiseTexture; // A noise texture for distortion

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float haze = smoothstep(hazeStart, hazeEnd, depth);
    vec2 distortedUV = SCREEN_UV + (texture(noiseTexture, SCREEN_UV).rg * 0.02 - 0.01) * haze;
    ALBEDO = texture(SCREEN_TEXTURE, distortedUV).rgb;

Enhancing Edges with Depth-Based Outlines

Outlines around objects can enhance visibility or stylistic choice. With depth data, one can make these outlines depth-sensitive, varying their visibility or thickness.

// Shader code for depth-based outlines
shader_type spatial;

uniform float outlineSize;
uniform vec3 outlineColor;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float edge = fwidth(depth) * outlineSize;
    float outlineFactor = smoothstep(0.5 - edge, 0.5 + edge, depth);
    ALBEDO = mix(outlineColor, ALBEDO, outlineFactor);

By utilizing the VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth in intelligent ways, we can unlock a world of visual storytelling elements, elevating game environments to new heights. These examples should serve not only to show what is possible with Godot’s shader system but also to inspire you to explore and create your own unique visual effects. With each new technique learned, you have a chance to captivate your players with stunning visuals made possible through mastery of depth-based shader effects.Certainly. Let’s delve into utilizing VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth in Godot to create a few more sophisticated visual effects. These examples will showcase the versatility of depth information when crafting shaders.

Mimicking Water Reflections on Surfaces

Simulating reflections can give the illusion of wet or reflective surfaces. By using depth data, you can modulate these reflections to be more prominent at certain distances.

// Shader code for water reflections based on depth
shader_type spatial;

uniform sampler2D reflectionTexture;
uniform float reflectionStrength;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float reflectionFactor = clamp((1.0 - depth) * reflectionStrength, 0.0, 1.0);
    vec2 reflectionUV = SCREEN_UV + vec2(0.01, 0.0); // Slight horizontal offset for reflection
    ALBEDO = mix(ALBEDO, texture(reflectionTexture, reflectionUV).rgb, reflectionFactor);

Depth-Adaptive Glowing Effect

Adding an adaptive glow to objects based on their distance can make certain elements within a game really stand out.

// Shader code for a depth-adaptive glowing effect
shader_type spatial;

uniform vec3 glowColor;
uniform float glowStart;
uniform float glowEnd;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float glow = smoothstep(glowStart, glowEnd, depth);
    EMISSION = glowColor * glow;

Depth Cuing for Object Highlighting

Depth cuing can be used to highlight objects at a certain range from the camera, making them easier to identify.

// Shader code for depth cuing object highlighting
shader_type spatial;

uniform vec3 highlightColor;
uniform float highlightDepth;
uniform float highlightRange;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    bool isHighlighted = depth > highlightDepth - highlightRange && depth < highlightDepth + highlightRange;
    ALBEDO = isHighlighted ? highlightColor : ALBEDO;

Manipulating Object Opacity Based on Depth

This snippet demonstrates how one could fade objects into the background based on their distance to create a sense of depth in dense scenes like a forest or crowd.

// Shader code for depth-based object opacity
shader_type spatial;

uniform float fadeStart;
uniform float fadeEnd;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float alpha = 1.0 - smoothstep(fadeStart, fadeEnd, depth);
    ALPHA = alpha;

Creating a Depth-Driven Snow Accumulation Effect

In cold environments, you might want to simulate snow accumulation. With depth, one can control where the snow appears, such as on top of surfaces.

// Shader code for depth-driven snow accumulation
shader_type spatial;

uniform float snowLevel;
uniform vec3 snowColor;
uniform float snowFalloff;

void fragment() {
    float depth = textureLod(DEPTH_TEXTURE, SCREEN_UV, 0.0).r;
    float snowAmount = smoothstep(snowLevel - snowFalloff, snowLevel, depth);
    ALBEDO = mix(ALBEDO, snowColor, snowAmount);

Each code snippet presents a way to leverage depth information to enrich visual experiences in Godot, enhancing gameplay and player immersion. These effects can be combined and modified to suit the specific needs of your game, providing a comprehensive set of tools for visual storytelling. Remember, the true power of shaders comes out when developers use them creatively, pushing beyond the norms to achieve unique and captivating effects in their games.

Where to Go Next with Godot Game Development

If you’re feeling energized by what you’ve learned so far and are eager to dive deeper into the world of Godot and game development, we’ve got just the path for you. Continue to expand your expertise with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree, a comprehensive curriculum designed to take you through the ins and outs of creating cross-platform games using the Godot 4 engine.

With our Mini-Degree, you can transform from a beginner into a skilled game developer capable of building your own impressive projects. Whether you’re interested in understanding the fundamentals or ready to tackle more complex concepts such as 3D asset manipulation and multiplayer game mechanics, our courses will serve as your step-by-step guide to mastering Godot.

We understand that learning doesn’t stop there. That’s why we also invite you to check out our broad collection of Godot courses, catering to a range of experiences and interests. With Zenva, you can go from beginner to professional, solidifying your skills, expanding your portfolio, and gaining the know-how to stand out in the vibrant field of game development. Start your learning adventure today and begin creating the games you’ve always dreamt of!


Mastering depth in shaders opens a whole new dimension to your game development journey. Armed with the knowledge of VisualShaderNodeLinearSceneDepth, imagine the worlds you’ll build and the experiences you’ll craft. As you continue to innovate and weave depth into the fabric of your 3D environments, your games will not only look more polished but also feel more alive and immersive.

Don’t let your learning stop here—take the next step with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree and gain the expertise needed to turn your game development aspirations into reality. Share your vision, build your dream, and create the unforgettable with Zenva. Rise to the challenge, and let’s make something amazing together!

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