VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch in Godot – Complete Guide

Welcome to the world of Godot Engine’s latest feature, the powerful VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch in Godot 4. In this tutorial, we’ll take an in-depth look at this new class, explore its functionalities, and demonstrate how it can be a game-changer for creating stunning visual effects through SDF raymarching within your projects. Whether you’re just starting off in the Godot universe or polishing your shader-writing skills, this article promises to be a valuable resource packed with insights and practical examples.

What is VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch?

VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch is a class within the Godot 4 engine that brings together the power of visual shaders and the geometric finesse of Signed-Distance Fields (SDFs). It enables developers and artists to cast rays against a screen-space SDF to create complex 3D objects and intricate visual scenes based on the distance a ray travels within the field.

What is it for?

This node is used to implement the SDF raymarching algorithm that’s central to rendering intricate 3D shapes and elaborate effects directly within the shader graph. The process of raymarching using SDFs offers a unique method of drawing complex graphics without the need for traditional geometric meshes, often leading to more computationally efficient renderings.

Why Should I Learn It?

SDF raymarching is a cutting-edge technique, especially useful in the arena of procedural content generation and real-time effects. By learning how to wield the VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch:

– You unlock the ability to render smooth and organic-looking 3D models with less computational load compared to polygon-based models.
– You empower yourself with a non-traditional way of creating visual content, elevating your shader programming skills to a new level.
– You stand at the forefront of shader programming, open to exploring boundless creative possibilities.

With these compelling reasons, let’s dive into the world of SDF raymarching in Godot 4 and unravel the mysteries of creating visually stunning effects utilizing the capabilities of VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch.

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Setting Up Your Godot Project

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of using VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch, let’s set up a basic Godot project that will serve as our testing ground.

func _ready():
    # Create the environment for SDF raymarching
    var environment =
    self.environment = environment

This snippet ensures you have an environment node in your scene. The VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch relies heavily on the environment for rendering the effects correctly.

Creating the Shader Material

The first step is to create a Shader Material where our VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch will live.

var shader_mat =
var visual_shader =

# Load the VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch
var sdf_raymarch_node =

visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, Vector2(0, 0))
shader_mat.shader = visual_shader

This code initializes the ShaderMaterial and then creates a VisualShader and our main SDFRaymarch node within it.

Configuring the SDFRaymarch Node

Next, we need to dial in the settings for our SDFRaymarch node to define the shape we wish to render.

# Example of creating a simple sphere SDF
func create_sphere_sdf():
    var sdf_sphere_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_sphere_node, Vector2(-200, 0))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_sphere_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, "SDF")

Ensure your new node is connected to the SDFRaymarch. The connection sends the sphere’s SDF information to the main node.

Building the Scene Node

Now let’s attach the shader to a MeshInstance node:

var mesh_instance =
mesh_instance.mesh =  # Any mesh can be used, as the actual shape will be rendered by the shader
mesh_instance.material_override = shader_mat

This snippet creates a default CubeMesh instance, but our shader material overrides its appearance with the SDF sphere we configured just before.

Debugging the Output

Raymarching might sometimes not produce the expected results on the first go. Use debug outputs to better understand what’s happening:

# Add a debug node to the visual shader
var output_node =
visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, output_node, Vector2(200, 0))

# Connect the Albedo output for a simple color debugging
visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, "Albedo", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, output_node, "Vec3")

This configuration sends the color output from our SDFRaymarch node directly to the shader’s output to visualize the result.

Finalizing and Running

After all the configurations:

func _ready():
    # We call all the previous functions to set up the environment

This should be your final `_ready()` function, which brings together all the components we’ve created so far. It’s time to run your scene and witness the magic of SDF raymarching in Godot 4!

Remember that this is a very basic setup meant to get you started. In the next part of the tutorial, we will dig deeper into more advanced shapes and effects using VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch, elevating your graphics to the next level.Expanding upon our foundational knowledge of VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch, we can start experimenting with more complex shapes and combine them to create stunning visuals. Let’s illustrate how you can construct a more elaborate scene by adding and blending different SDFs.

Combining Multiple SDFs

To create a complex shape, we can combine multiple SDFs using various operations. Here’s how you can add a torus SDF to the scene and blend it with our sphere:

func create_torus_sdf():
    var sdf_torus_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_torus_node, Vector2(-400, 0))
    # Blending SDFs using a smooth-min operation:
    var smooth_min_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smooth_min_node, Vector2(-200, 200))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_sphere_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smooth_min_node, "a")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_torus_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smooth_min_node, "b")

    # Connect the blended SDF to the raymarch node
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smooth_min_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, "SDF")

In this function, we introduce a box SDF, which represents a torus’s mathematical formula, and a smooth minimum node that combines two SDFs in a way that smoothens their intersection.

Applying Transformations

SDFs can be transformed – translated, rotated, scaled – using the `VisualShaderNodeSDFTransform` node. Here’s an example of scaling and rotating our sphere SDF:

# Example of creating and applying a transformation
func apply_transformations_to_sphere():
    var transform_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, transform_node, Vector2(-400, 200))
    # Set scale and rotation values
    transform_node.setScale(Vector3(0.5, 0.5, 0.5))  # Half the size
    transform_node.setRotate(Vector3(0, 1, 0), 45)   # 45 degrees around the Y axis
    # Apply transformation to the sphere SDF
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_sphere_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, transform_node, "input")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, transform_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, smooth_min_node, "a")

This code scales down our sphere to half its original size and rotates it around the vertical axis by 45 degrees, then the transformed SDF is connected back into the smooth blending operation.

Adding Color and Lighting

To breathe life into the scene, we need to add colors and simulate lighting. Here’s how you add a simple normal calculation for lighting and apply a color to our SDF:

# Example of generating normals and applying color
func create_lighting_and_color():
    var normal_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, normal_node, Vector2(0, 200))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, normal_node, "SDF")

    # Use the normals for lighting calculation
    var light_calculation_node =
    # Set up your light direction, color, and intensity here
    light_calculation_node.set_default_value(Vector3(1.0, 1.0, 1.0))

    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, normal_node, "Normal", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_calculation_node, "Vec3")
    # Apply the color to the output
    var color_node =
    color_node.set_default_value(Color(0.2, 0.6, 1.0))   # A nice shade of blue

    var multiply_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, multiply_node, Vector2(200, 400))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, color_node, "Vec3", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, multiply_node, "a")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_calculation_node, "Vec3", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, multiply_node, "b")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, multiply_node, "Vec3", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, "Albedo")

This code creates a normal map for the SDF surface, which is essential for lighting. Then we define our light direction and properties, as well as the color for our objects. We use a multiply node to combine the effects of lighting with the color.

Remember that the VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch can unleash a world of possibilities. Experiment with different SDFs, transformations, colors, and lighting to create unique visuals all within the power of shaders. The more you play with these settings, the more astounding your visuals will become. Dive in, get creative, and start crafting incredible shader effects with Godot 4!Building upon our established shader foundation, we’re now going to delve deeper into creating more visually intricate effects. Let’s explore rendering techniques, animation incorporation, and the manipulation of SDF parameters for dynamic scenes.

Animating SDF Objects

Animating SDFs can create dynamic scenes that respond to time or user input. Here, we animate the rotation of our SDF sphere by connecting it to a time-based function.

func animate_sphere():
    var time_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, time_node, Vector2(-600, 400))
    var sin_node =
    sin_node.function = VisualShaderNodeScalarFunc.FUNC_SIN
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sin_node, Vector2(-400, 400))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, time_node, "Time", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sin_node, "scalar")
    var transform_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, transform_node, Vector2(-200, 400))
    transform_node.setRotate(Vector3(0, 1, 0), sin_node)   # Rotate the sphere over time
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sin_node, "scalar", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, transform_node, "RotateY")
    # Continue the existing connections...

This code snippet sets up a timer to quantitatively change the rotation angle over time, effectively making the sphere rotate.

Manipulating SDF Parameters with User Input

Connecting user input to SDF properties can make your visuals interactive. Here we provide an example of changing the size of an SDF box based on keyboard input.

var size = Vector3(0.5, 0.5, 0.5)  # Initial size of the box

func _process(delta):
    if Input.is_action_just_pressed("ui_up"):
        size += Vector3(0.1, 0.1, 0.1)
    elif Input.is_action_just_pressed("ui_down"):
        size -= Vector3(0.1, 0.1, 0.1)
    # Pass the value to the shader
    shader_mat.set_shader_param("box_size", size)

While this code shows how to change a parameter via script, you must also set up the shader to accept this parameter and apply it to the SDF box.

Conditional Rendering Based on Distance

Sometimes, you’ll want to render elements conditionally based on their distance from the camera or other objects. Here’s a basic implementation:

# Example of distance-based conditional rendering
func setup_distance_rendering():
    var distance_limit_node =
    # Set up the maximum distance for rendering
    var distance_condition_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, distance_condition_node, Vector2(200, 600))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, "Distance", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, distance_condition_node, "condition")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, distance_limit_node, "Scalar", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, distance_condition_node, "a")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, sdf_raymarch_node, "SDF", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, distance_condition_node, "b")
    # Provide further connections and logic to render based on this check...

This particular setup sets up a uniform to control the maximum distance at which objects are rendered, and then uses a conditional node to check against it.

Blending Between Multiple Materials

Blending different materials can create mesmerizing transitions between them. Here’s how you could blend between two color materials based on SDF.

func setup_material_blending():
    var color_material_1 =
    color_material_1.set_default_value(Color(1.0, 0.0, 0.0))  # Red color
    var color_material_2 =
    color_material_2.set_default_value(Color(0.0, 0.0, 1.0))  # Blue color
    var blend_factor_node =
    blend_factor_node.set_default_value(0.5)  # 50% blend to start
    var blend_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, blend_node, Vector2(200, 800))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, color_material_1, "Vec3", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, blend_node, "a")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, color_material_2, "Vec3", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, blend_node, "b")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, blend_factor_node, "Scalar", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, blend_node, "weight")
    # Connect the result back to the 'Albedo' port of the raymarch node...

This code creates two color materials and then uses a blend node to transition between them based on a blend factor. You can animate or modify this factor over time or in response to user inputs to create dynamic effects.

Reacting to Environmental Factors

Environmental factors, like the presence of lights or shadows, can greatly affect the appearance of objects in-game. Let’s illustrate how to react to a light’s position:

func setup_light_reactivity():
    var light_position_node =
    light_position_node.set_default_value(Vector3(10, 10, 10))  # The position of the light
    var light_reactivity_node =
    visual_shader.add_node(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_reactivity_node, Vector2(400, 600))
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, normal_node, "Normal", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_reactivity_node, "vec1")
    visual_shader.node_connect(VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_position_node, "Vec3", VisualShader.TYPE_FRAGMENT, light_reactivity_node, "vec2")
    # Utilize the output of `light_reactivity_node` for creating effects that depend on light position

In the given code, we calculate the dot product between the light’s position and the object’s normal, which could be used to simulate the angle at which light hits the object and reflectivity.

Each of these examples further demonstrates the flexibility and creativity Godot’s VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch affords. By integrating these techniques, you’ll be well-equipped to shape truly interactive and engaging visual experiences. Keep experimenting with these building blocks to sculpt your graphics and gameplay to full effect!

Continuing Your Godot Journey

You’ve seen firsthand the creativity and power that Godot 4’s VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch holds. Yet, this is only a glimpse into the colossal world of game development with Godot. Whether you’re a curious beginner eager to start your game development odyssey or a savvy developer looking to refine your skills, your journey doesn’t have to end here.

To further fuel your passion for game development and to equip yourself with a wealth of knowledge, our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree is your next stop. This is a curated learning path for building cross-platform games from the ground up. You’ll dive into a comprehensive study of both 2D and 3D game development, mastering GDScript, and bringing game mechanics to life, spanning RPGs to survival games. Don’t let your potential lie dormant; put your talent to the test, create your own projects, and build a portfolio that stands out.

For those who wish to explore an even broader spectrum of Godot content, our selection of Godot courses is the perfect resource. Designed to fit around any schedule, allowing you to learn at your own pace, these courses are accessible 24/7, complete with practical coding exercises and quizzes to consolidate your learning.

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As we wrap up our exploration of the VisualShaderNodeSDFRaymarch in Godot 4, it’s evident that the capabilities for creating immersive and visually stunning effects are boundless. The journey through shaders and raymarching not only enhances the aesthetics of your projects but also sharpens your technical prowess as a developer. The worlds you can build and the experiences you can craft with these tools are limited only by your imagination.

Remember, every great journey begins with a single step. Continue to build upon the knowledge you’ve gained here by diving into our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree, where opportunities to grow and innovate await you at every turn. Whether you’re envisioning the next indie hit or an immersive 3D world, Zenva is by your side, helping to turn your dreams into reality. So take that next step, join us, and let’s bring your vision to life together!

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