VisualShaderNodeSample3D in Godot – Complete Guide

Venturing into the realms of game development and visual programming can be an exhilarating experience. With tools such as the Godot Engine, creating immersive 3D worlds and the mechanics that drive them becomes a quest of creativity and logic. Among the myriad of functionalities that Godot offers, the VisualShaderNodeSample3D stands out as a class that facilitates the sampling of 3D textures, a powerful feature when you’re sculpting the aesthetics of your game environment. This tutorial will illuminate the use of VisualShaderNodeSample3D, gently guiding both novice and experienced developers through practical examples that not only aim to educate but also to inspire.

What is VisualShaderNodeSample3D?


is a class within the Godot Engine’s visual shader graph, designed to sample textures in a three-dimensional space. It operates as a base node for other nodes that work with 3D textures, such as VisualShaderNodeTexture2DArray and VisualShaderNodeTexture3D.

What is it used for?

Within the landscape of game development, 3D textures are akin to the very fabric that gives form and feeling to your virtual environment. The VisualShaderNodeSample3D enables you to interact with these textures dynamically, enhancing the realism and depth of your game’s graphics. This node is essential for generating intricate effects, such as realistic surfaces, complex lighting, and seamless animations.

Why Should You Learn It?

Mastering the VisualShaderNodeSample3D will empower you to take your game’s visual presentation to the next level. Understanding how to sample and manipulate 3D textures through Godot’s intuitive graph editor not only enriches the quality of your game but also elevates your skill set as a game developer. Whether you are at the start of your coding journey or an experienced coder looking to polish your craft, learning to leverage this node effectively is an investment that can drastically enhance the visual impact of your projects.

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Setting Up Your Godot Project

Before diving into the specifics of the VisualShaderNodeSample3D, you’ll need to set up a Godot project with a 3D environment. Here’s how to get started:

// Create a new project in Godot
// Add a new 3D Scene
// Add a MeshInstance node to your scene and assign a mesh to it
// For the purposes of this tutorial, use a simple cube or sphere mesh.

Once your 3D model is set, ensure it has a material where the visual shader will be applied.

// Select the MeshInstance node
// In the inspector under 'Material', create a new 'ShaderMaterial'
// Click on the newly created 'ShaderMaterial'
// Under 'Shader', create a new 'VisualShader'

With your project set up and your visual shader ready, it’s time to explore the power of the VisualShaderNodeSample3D.

Sampling 3D Textures

First, let’s cover how to sample a basic 3D texture. Open your visual shader editor by double-clicking the VisualShader resource in your ShaderMaterial:

// Add a VisualShaderNodeSample3D node to your graph
// Connect the Vector output of a VisualShaderNodeVec3 uniform to the UV input of the Sample3D node
// This will allow you to define the coordinates from which to sample your texture.

Next, link your texture to the VisualShaderNodeSample3D:

// Add a Texture Uniform to the shader graph
// In the Inspector, load your 3D texture into the Texture slot
// Connect the Texture output to the Texture input of your VisualShaderNodeSample3D

To visualize the effect of the texture on your model:

// Connect the RGB output of your Sample3D node to the Albedo input of the VisualShaderNodeOutput
// This will apply the sampled texture's colors to your mesh's surface.

Remember, after each change, you must click “Save” on the visual shader to update the material on your model.

Manipulating Texture Coordinates

An intriguing aspect of sampling is manipulating texture coordinates to create dynamic effects. Consider this example where we scale the UV coordinates to tile the texture across the object:

// Add a VisualShaderNodeVec3Uniform to your graph
// Set a default value for it, such as (1, 1, 1)
// Add a VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform (we will use this to scale the texture)
// Set the scale uniform's default value to 1

Now multiply the texture coordinates by the scale:

// Add a VisualShaderNodeVec3 operator
// Set the operation to 'Multiply'
// Connect your texture coordinate uniform to the first Vector input
// Connect your scale uniform to the Vector2 input of the Multiply node using a 'VisualShaderNodeScalarToVector' node
// Then, connect the output to the Sample3D UV input.

These examples set the stage for creating more advanced visual effects using the VisualShaderNodeSample3D. As you explore further, keep experimenting with the connection between nodes to understand the full capabilities of the visual shader graph in Godot.

Creating a 3D Noise Effect

To add complexity to your shaders, you can introduce noise into your textures. Noise can help to create realistic terrain, clouds, or other environmental effects. Here’s a basic way to add a noise texture to your 3D object:

// Ensure you have a 'VisualShaderNodeTexture3D' connected to your graph
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeNoiseTexture' node
// Connect the RGB output of the NoiseTexture node to the UV input of the Texture3D node

This will use the noise pattern as the coordinates from which to sample your 3D texture, creating a noisy effect.

Adjusting the Noise Parameters

To tailor the noise to your scene, you’ll need to adjust its parameters.

// Select the 'VisualShaderNodeNoiseTexture' node
// In the Inspector, you’ll see different settings like 'noise_type' and 'bump_strength'
// Experiment with these parameters to achieve your desired noise characteristic

For instance, increasing the ‘bump_strength’ can make the noise pattern more pronounced.

Implementing Light in Shaders

The visual shader graph also allows for lighting effects to be added to your materials. To react to light properly, you’ll need to pass the normal and the color information to the shader output:

// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeInput' node
// Connect the Normal output of the Input node to the Normal input of the ShaderOutput node
// Your texture will now respond to scene lighting

For more advanced light manipulation, consider using light functions:

// Add 'VisualShaderNodeLighting' to your shader graph
// Connect outputs such as Diffuse or Specular to your ShaderOutput
// The Lighting node will calculate lighting based on your light setup in the scene

Animating Textures Over Time

Animating textures adds a new dimension to your scenes. To animate the sampling coordinates over time, you can add a time variable to your shader.

// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeTime' node
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeScalarInterp' to interpolate the time signal
// Connect the output of Time to one of ScalarInterp's inputs
// Set the other inputs to customize the animation speed and range

Then, multiply your UV coordinates with this interpolated value:

// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeVectorOp' with the 'Multiply' operation
// Connect your coordinate output to one input and the ScalarInterp output to another
// Now the coordinates will animate over time

Remember, the possibilities within Godot’s visual shader graph are vast. Encourage yourself to mix different nodes, inspect their parameters, and don’t shy away from trying out new combinations. Each addition contributes to a richer learning experience, enhancing both your game’s visuals and your proficiency as a developer. We, at Zenva, believe in the power of hands-on learning, and by following these examples, you’re not just learning to code—you’re crafting experiences.Continuing with our exploration of the VisualShaderNodeSample3D, let’s delve into more nuanced ways in which we can control and refine our shader effects.

Combining Textures

Mixing different textures can create rich, layered surfaces. A fundamental way to combine textures is using a mix operation:

// Add a second 'VisualShaderNodeTexture3D' or 'VisualShaderNodeTexture2DArray'
// Ensure both textures have UV connected to them
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeMix' node
// Connect the RGB outputs of your two texture nodes to the 'Mix' node inputs
// Adjust the 'Mix' node's ratio parameter to blend between textures

The mix ratio can also be animated, resulting in dynamic transitions between textures.

Using Fresnel for Realistic Edges

To simulate the effect of light refracting around the edges of an object, we can implement a Fresnel effect using the shader graph:

// Add 'VisualShaderNodeFresnel'
// Connect the output of 'VisualShaderNodeFresnel' to the input of a 'VisualShaderNodeEmission'
// Then, connect the Emission node’s output to the 'Emission' input of 'VisualShaderNodeOutput'

The Fresnel node computes the angle of viewing to create a realistic edge highlight that simulates light bending.

Creating a Dissolve Effect

Dissolving textures over time provides a visual representation of objects transitioning states, such as materializing or dematerializing:

// Import a black and white 'dissolve mask' texture into your project
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeTexture' and load the mask into it
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform' and page it 'DissolveAmount'
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeThreshold' to compare the mask's intensity against 'DissolveAmount'

Now, let’s execute the dissolve comparison:

// Connect the RGB output of your dissolve mask to the 'Texture' input of the Threshold node
// Connect the 'DissolveAmount' output to the 'Threshold' input
// Connect the output of 'VisualShaderNodeThreshold' to the 'Alpha' input of your shader’s output

Animate the ‘DissolveAmount’ over time to see the effect in action.

Reflective and Refractive Surfaces

Creating surfaces that can reflect or refract the environment adds a level of depth and realism:

// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeCubeMapUniform' and load a suitable environment map
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeReflection', which will use scene data to simulate reflection
// Connect the 'CubeMap' output of your CubeMapUniform to the 'CubeMap' input of the Reflection node.

The Reflection node calculates the appropriate reflection vector, which can be utilized further:

// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeMix', which you'll use to mix between the base texture and reflection
// Connect the RGB output of your base texture to the first input of the Mix node
// Connect the RGB output of the Reflection node to the second input of the Mix node
// Connect the result to the 'Albedo' input of the shader output.

Adjust the mix ratio to control the strength of the reflection on your material.

Depth-based Effects

In Godot, you can utilize the depth buffer to create depth-based visual effects such as fog:

// Add 'VisualShaderNodeDepth'
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeVec3Uniform' for the fog color
// Add a 'VisualShaderNodeScalarUniform' to control the density of the fog

Combine the depth with the fog color:

// Use a 'VisualShaderNodeMix' to mix between your object's color and the fog color
// Connect the Depth node to one of the inputs of the Mix node
// Connect your object's color to another input and the fog color to the third
// The density can be linked to a 'VisualShaderNodeScalarInterp' before connecting to the Mix node

In summary, the VisualShaderNodeSample3D is just the starting point. By experimenting with various nodes and combining them in Godot’s powerful visual shader editor, you will uncover virtually limitless possibilities for visual expression in your games. Every line of code, every connection between nodes, brings you closer to the vivid visual experiences that resonate with players and distinguish great games from the good ones. Dive in, iterate, and watch your game worlds come to life with the skills you cultivate along the way.

Continue Your Game Development Journey

Embarking on the path of mastering game development is an adventure that continually unfolds new layers of understanding and skill. If you’ve enjoyed learning about the VisualShaderNodeSample3D and the world of visual programming in Godot, your journey doesn’t have to end here.

We encourage you to nurture your passion for creating immersive game experiences by exploring our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. This comprehensive collection of courses is crafted to deepen your expertise in building cross-platform games using the incredibly versatile and user-friendly Godot Engine. From the fundamental building blocks to complex game mechanics in 2D and 3D environments, these courses are designed to propel beginners and seasoned developers into the exciting realm of game creation.

Should you wish to expand your horizons even further, browse through our broader assortment of Godot courses. Each one is a stepping stone that helps you build a solid foundation, with flexible learning paths that fit into your unique rhythm of life. Your acquisition of new skills could open doors to numerous career opportunities in various industries.

The world of game development awaits you with boundless potential and thrilling challenges – take the next step with Zenva, and let your creativity flow into the games you dream of making.


The journey through game development is filled with endless discoveries and the joy of bringing your imagination to life. By mastering tools like the VisualShaderNodeSample3D in Godot, you unlock new realms of visual storytelling that can transform your games into captivating experiences. Remember, what you’ve learned here is just the tip of the iceberg; there’s a whole universe of knowledge and creativity waiting for you to explore.

Whether you’re just starting or looking to refine your existing skills, keep the momentum going with our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. Join us at Zenva, where we’re passionate about empowering you to reach new heights in your game development career. Step by innovative step, let us guide you through the intricate dance of code and design that brings games to life. Your next masterpiece awaits—let’s create it together!

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