Build your own shaders in Unity

Feb 28, 2018 at 04:31 pm by SchelleFire

A Shader Graph enables you to build your shaders visually. Instead of hand writing code you create and connect nodes in a graph network. You can do things like:

  • Procedurally alter your surface appearance
  • Warp and animate UVs
  • Modify the look of your objects using familiar image adjustment operations
  • Change your object's surface based on useful information about it; its world location, normals, distance from camera, etc.
  • Expose Properties to the Material Inspector, so that you can quickly tweak a shader's visuals in the context of a scene.
  • Share node networks between multiple graphs and users by creating subgraphs
  • Create your own custom shader graph nodes through C# and HLSL

The graph framework gives instant feedback on the changes, and it's simple enough that new users can become involved in shader creation.

The Shader Graph is now available in beta! To get started, download the sample project, open it with Unity 2018.1 beta, and start exploring. You can also get Shader Graph via the Package Manager.

Shader Graph is designed to work with another Unity 2018.1 feature: Scriptable Render Pipeline (SRP). Therefore, you can't use it with the Built-In Unity Renderer. It will come with support for:

  • The High-Definition Render Pipeline
  • The Lightweight Render Pipeline.

You will also be able to extend the system to export shaders for any custom SRP you write.

How do you create Shader Graphs?

In Unity 2018.1, a Shader Graph appears as a normal shader. To create a Shader Graph you click the Create menu, and select 'Shader Graph' from the dropdown. This will create a Shader Graph asset in the project. You can double click on the asset or select the Open Graph button to bring up the Shader Graph Edit window.

When you open the Shader Graph you start with the 'Master Node'. You connect nodes into the Master Node to create the look of your surface. To learn more about the underlying material models check out the existing Unity Standard Shader documentation.

You can quickly edit your surface by changing the default values! But, you know what's even more exciting? Adding textures and other complex interactions. To add a node simply right click and select 'Create Node'.

Each included Shader Graph node has a number of inputs, we've included default values that you can customize however you like.

Adding in a texture (or other assets) is also really easy, just create a node of that asset type and connect it!

Your Shader Graph shader is just like a normal shader in Unity. Right click on any object in the Inspector and choose Create Material. You can create multiple materials from the same shader.

You can easily expose parameters in your shader so they can be overwritten in each material you create from your shader. In the Shader Graph, right lick on any variable node and select 'Convert to Property'. These exposed parameters appear in the material inspector for each material you create from your shader.