VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract in Godot – Complete Guide

Shimmering water surfaces, gemstones casting fascinating refractions, or the bending of light as it passes through a glass – the world around us is filled with beautiful optical phenomena. In the realm of game development and immersive simulations, replicating these occurrences can bring your digital worlds to life. This is where the power of shaders comes into play, and specifically, the VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract in Godot 4, a game engine that continues to empower creators with accessible, open-source tools.

Understanding how to use the VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract enables you to simulate the way light refracts when it hits different materials in your games. This knowledge is not only a gateway to creating more visually engaging experiences but also serves as a stepping stone into the broader landscape of shading and visual effects.

What is VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract?

The VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract node in Godot 4 is a visual shader node that calculates the direction of a refracted vector. It essentially simulates the path light takes when it enters a new medium at an angle, which is commonly seen in everyday life – like a straw appearing to bend in a glass of water.

What is it For?

Making use of the VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract is critical when you’re trying to replicate the effects of light as it moves through transparent or translucent materials. This node plays a significant role in rendering convincing glass, water, or any other material where light refraction is essential for realism.

Why Should I Learn It?

Shader programming can be daunting, but learning about nodes like VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract is worthwhile for several reasons:

  • Realism: Games that feature realistic lighting effects can be much more immersive and visually appealing to players.
  • Control: Understanding refraction allows you to craft specific visual outcomes, giving you more control over the look and feel of your games.
  • Expand Knowledge: Delving into visual shaders hones your technical skills and can improve your overall understanding of game rendering techniques.

With these foundations laid out, let’s dive into the practical aspects of using VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract and how you can bring the magic of optical refraction to your game projects.

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Setting Up the Shader Environment

Before we delve into the examples, you’ll need to set up a basic shader environment in Godot 4. Begin by creating a new ShaderMaterial and assign it to the object that will have the refractive material. Next, within that ShaderMaterial, create a new shader resource, and change the shader mode to ‘visual’. This will allow us to use the visual shader editor.

// Create a ShaderMaterial
var shader_material =

// Assign it to your object, e.g., a MeshInstance
$MeshInstance.material_override = shader_material

// Create a new shader resource
var shader_resource =

// Set the shader mode to 'visual' - to use the visual shader editor
shader_resource.set_code("shader_type spatial; render_mode unshaded;")

Now, with the shader environment ready, we can start adding nodes to create the refraction effects using the VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract node.

Basic Refraction

The simplest implementation involves passing a view vector, a normal, and the index of refraction into the node. This will give us a basic refraction effect which we can then further tweak to fit our needs.

// After setting up your visual shader, add this in the visual shader editor
var refraction_node =

// Calculate the view vector
var view_vector =

// Fetch the normal vector
var normal_vector =
normal_vector.input_name = VisualShaderNodeInput.INPUT_NORMAL

// Set index of refraction (this can be tweaked to match real-world materials)
refraction_node.refraction = 1.45 // For example, the index for glass

// Now, connect these nodes together in the visual shader editor

After the nodes are connected, the shader will be ready to simulate a basic refraction effect. You should see the result immediately on your model in the Godot editor viewport.

Adding Textures for Enhanced Realism

You can enhance the realism by applying textures to the refraction effect. By using a bump map or normal map, you can simulate the intricate interactions of light with the material’s surface.

// Load your texture
var normal_map_tex = preload("res://path_to_your_normal_map.png")

// Create a NormalMap node 
var normal_map_node =
normal_map_node.texture = normal_map_tex

// Use a TextureUniform to make it accessible in the shader editor
var normal_map_uniform =
normal_map_uniform.texture = normal_map_tex

// Connect the TextureUniform to the NormalMap node in the visual shader editor

This will apply the texture to the object and enhance the refraction effect created, based on the surface details of the normal map.

Adjusting Refraction with Parameters

The refractive index can be dynamically adjusted to simulate different materials. You can add parameters to the shader to control the refraction index during gameplay or editor-time.

// In the visual shader editor, create a ScalarUniform
var refraction_index_uniform =

// You can now set a default value, let's say for water (1.333)
refraction_index_uniform.default_value = 1.333

// Connect this uniform to the refraction input of your Refract node

By doing this, you can create a shader material property that can be adjusted in the inspector to immediately see the changes to your refraction effect.

Combining Refraction with other Effects

For a truly convincing material, refractive effects should be combined with reflection and other shading aspects. Below is a basic setup for including a reflection component using the reflection vector.

// Create a Reflection node
var reflection_vector =

// Combine this with the view vector and the normal
reflection_vector.in_vec = view_vector
reflection_vector.in_normal = normal_vector

// Now mix the reflection and refraction
var mix_node =
mix_node.a = refraction_node
mix_node.b = reflection_vector
mix_node.mix = 0.5 // Adjust this value to change the balance

// Connect the Mix node to the shader’s fragment output

By combining reflection and refraction, you will achieve a richer, more complex effect that mimics how light interacts with surfaces in the real world. In the next part of this series, we’ll expand on these concepts, adding further complexity and realism to our refraction shaders.

To further elevate the visual fidelity of your materials with refraction effects, we need to consider additional aspects such as environmental influences, varying refraction indices, and even the inclusion of chromatic aberration for that extra level of detail. Let’s continue our exploration.

Adjusting refraction based on the environment can add a dynamic element to your materials. For instance, water’s appearance changes depending on depth or the angle at which it is viewed. To simulate this, one could use the scene’s depth and screen texture.

// Create a Depth node to get scene depth
var depth_node =
depth_node.viewport_name = "Depth"

// Sample the screen color, considering the depth
var screen_texture_node =
screen_texture_node.texture_type = VisualShaderNodeTexture.TYPE_2D
screen_texture_node.source = VisualShaderNodeTexture.SOURCE_SCREEN
screen_texture_node.texture_hint = VisualShaderNodeTexture.HINT_BLACK_ALBEDO

// Connect the Depth and Screen nodes in your visual shader
// Further calculation for influence on refraction can be done here

In addition to adapting to the environment, materials can have varying indices of refraction. This means that different wavelengths of light can bend at different angles, a phenomenon known as chromatic aberration. To replicate this, you could create multiple refraction shaders with slightly different indices and blend them.

// Create three separate VectorRefract nodes for red, green, and blue
var refraction_node_r =
var refraction_node_g =
var refraction_node_b =

// Assign indices for each (differentiate the values slightly)
refraction_node_r.refraction = 1.330 // Red
refraction_node_g.refraction = 1.333 // Green
refraction_node_b.refraction = 1.336 // Blue

// Combine the three refracted vectors for the RGB effect
var color_mix_node =
color_mix_node.set_input_port_value(0, refraction_node_r)
color_mix_node.set_input_port_value(1, refraction_node_g)
color_mix_node.set_input_port_value(2, refraction_node_b)

// Finally the output is connected to the Albedo or Emission of the shader

Furthermore, incorporating light into refraction heightens realism. We can factor in the light’s direction and intensity in our shader to better simulate how light would actually refract through the material.

// Capture the light direction
var light_dir_node =
light_dir_node.input_name = VisualShaderNodeInput.INPUT_LIGHT

// Factor in the light direction with the refractive vector
var light_influence =
light_influence.input1 = light_dir_node
light_influence.input2 = refraction_node

// Use the light influence in your shader logic as needed

Additionally, the refraction effect can be animated to further enhance the dynamism of your material. This could be achieved by adjusting parameters over time or using noise textures to vary the refraction across the material’s surface.

// Create a Time node
var time_node =

// Create a Noise Texture node
var noise_tex_node =
noise_tex_node.texture = preload("res://path_to_your_noise_texture.png")

// Animate the refraction index by multiplying time and noise
var animated_refraction =
animated_refraction.input1 = refraction_index_uniform
animated_refraction.input2 = noise_tex_node
animated_refraction.weight = time_node

// Now connect animated_refraction into your refraction node's refraction input

By integrating these techniques, you can create complex, dynamic refractive materials that add depth and realism to your game environments. The key is experimentation, and with Godot’s visual shader editor, you can immediately see the results of your changes, making the process intuitive and rewarding.

We at Zenva hope these insights spark your creativity and encourage you to delve deeper into the world of shaders. By learning and applying these concepts, you will undoubtedly elevate the visual quality of your game projects, creating immersive and stunning experiences for your players.

As you become more familiar with refraction shaders and how they can enhance your game’s visuals, experimenting with various inputs and functions can lead to even more captivating effects. Let’s explore some additional techniques and code examples to further enrich your shader material repertoire.

// JITTER EFFECT: Creating a shimmering, dynamic refractive surface
var time_node_jitter =
var sine_function_jitter =
sine_function_jitter.function = VisualShaderNodeScalarFunc.FUNC_SIN
sine_function_jitter.inputs[0] = time_node_jitter

// Use a ScalarUniform to control the intensity of the jitter
var jitter_intensity =
jitter_intensity.default_value = 0.1

// Multiply sine output with intensity to get the final jitter effect
var jitter_effect =
jitter_effect.op = VisualShaderNodeScalarOp.OP_MUL
jitter_effect.inputs[0] = sine_function_jitter
jitter_effect.inputs[1] = jitter_intensity

// Apply this effect to your refraction vector

This jitter effect can make the appearance of the surface seem to shimmer or vibrate slightly, similar to the way heat haze distorts light.

// FRESNEL EFFECT: Emphasize the outline of a transparent object
var fresnel_node =
fresnel_node.view_normal = view_vector

// Use a scalar to control the power of the Fresnel effect
var fresnel_power =
fresnel_power.default_value = 2.0 // Increase for a sharper outline

// Multiply Fresnel node with the refraction node
var fresnel_effect =
fresnel_effect.op = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OP_MUL
fresnel_effect.inputs[0] = refraction_node
fresnel_effect.inputs[1] = fresnel_power

// Now, use the result in your shader logic

The Fresnel effect increases the intensity of reflections and refractions at glancing angles, making the edges of transparent objects more pronounced.

// UNDERWATER CAUSTICS: Simulate light patterns caused by water ripples
var caustic_texture = preload("res://path_to_your_caustic_texture.png")
var caustic_tex_node =
caustic_tex_node.texture = caustic_texture

// Animate the caustics texture with the time node
var time_node_caustics =
var uv_scrolling =
uv_scrolling.function = VisualShaderNodeVec2Func.FUNC_ADD
uv_scrolling.inputs[0] =
uv_scrolling.inputs[1] = time_node_caustics

// Make sure to connect the scrolled UVs to your caustics texture node

Caustics are the patterns of light you often see at the bottom of a pool or when light shines through a glass object with an uneven surface.

// DEPTH-BASED DISTORTION: Change refraction based on the depth of the material
var depth_node =
depth_node.viewport_name = "Depth"

// Convert depth to a usable form for distortion
var depth_range_adjust =
depth_range_adjust.expression = "vec4(depth, 0.0, 0.0, 1.0) * vec4(10.0)"; // The multiplication factor can be a uniform for more control

// Apply the depth-based distortion to the refractive effect
var depth_refraction =
depth_refraction.op = VisualShaderNodeVectorOp.OP_MUL
depth_refraction.inputs[0] = refraction_node
depth_refraction.inputs[1] = depth_range_adjust

// The resulting vector can now be used in your shader logic

Modifying the distortion amount based on the material’s depth enhances the realism of underwater scenes or thick glass objects where refraction changes with thickness.

Combining these advanced techniques, you can develop intricate shaders that react and adapt to the in-game environment, providing players with a more dynamic and engaging visual experience. Remember, the key to mastering shaders is to play with the inputs, observe the outcomes, and continue iterating until you achieve the desired effect. We at Zenva encourage you to experiment with these snippets, tweak the parameters, and see how combining various effects can result in breathtaking visuals for your game projects.

Furthering Your Godot Expertise

Embarking on the journey of shader programming with Godot 4 is just the beginning of what can become an enriching path in game development. To continue building on your newfound skills and to delve deeper into creating engaging games, we invite you to explore our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree. With a curriculum designed for both newcomers and seasoned developers, this series of courses will guide you through the intricacies of the Godot 4 engine, covering a vast landscape from 2D and 3D game mechanics to intricate gameplay systems.

At Zenva, we are committed to providing high-quality content that caters to learning at your own pace, with a multitude of lessons that are valuable throughout your professional journey. To broaden your knowledge and for a selection of courses tailored to your specific interests, also check out our full range of Godot courses. Here, you’ll find resources that can help you solidify your expertise, enhance your portfolio, and prepare you for a successful career in game development.

We take pride in helping you go from beginner to professional, and our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree is just a taste of the comprehensive education Zenva offers. So, keep learning, creating, and achieving your dreams in game development with us – your next big game project awaits!


Mastering shaders, such as the VisualShaderNodeVectorRefract, is a transformative step in your game development journey with Godot 4. Not only does it enhance the visual appeal of your projects, but it also showcases your deep understanding of the game’s environmental physics. As you continue practicing and implementing the techniques we’ve shared, we’re excited to see the incredible worlds you’ll craft, the mesmerizing effects you’ll conjure, and the engaging stories you’ll tell through your games. And remember, each shader you create is not just a piece of code; it’s a brushstroke in your vast canvas of game design.

Whether you’re just starting out or looking to add another layer of polish to your developer’s toolkit, our Godot Game Development Mini-Degree is your companion in this adventure. It’s structured to scale with you as you grow from the basics to the peaks of creative game design. With Zenva, your potential is limitless, and your path to becoming a Godot guru is clear and achievable. So, what are you waiting for? Dive in, and let’s build the next generation of games together!

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