Most common / Bread & Butter Shaders and Materials "techniques"?

Hi, hi!

I’m not even sure if this is a valid question, but bear in mind I’m a newbie D:

I just started on RTVFX world by taking this course on Udemy from Gabriel Aguiar:

Based on how much I’m enjoying it, I’m probably getting the other 2 courses he already launched there.
I already started checking the contents mentioned here on this page too:

Now to my question!

In this course I’m taking, Gabriel eventually presented this Scrolling “technique” that made the texture move. That alone wasn’t that cool, but he proceeded to combine it with a Noise texture and, at this moment, I got mind blown by the result (excuse my silliness if this is really basic stuff ><).

Later I stumbled on another thing that would blow my mind: Dissolve!

Well, with those 2 amazing discoveries, it came to me that there might be other cool techniques out there.

What are the most common ones that synergizes best when making RTVFX? By the way, I’m leaning into a more stylized/fantasy kind of effect - (LoL, Valorant, Smite, Genshin)

Thanks in advance :smiley:

PS: I don’t really use any kind of Forum or Social Media, let me know if this isn’t the place for this kind of post.


Distortion would be the last of the basic shader techniques - channel from -1 to +1 added to UV’s that causes the texture to wobble

A good showcase I found that shows it used for flow mapping

Bloom i’d leave out, though it is the ‘make awesome post-process’ button not all teams support it due to hardware (mobile obviously)

pre-multiplied blend mode …might be the only other ‘trick’ I’d suggest all RTVFX artist are comfortable using or at least understanding

tinting I didn’t consider to be an unknown, same for Hue shifting, gradient remapping/ LUTs (look up table)


@Torbach nailed it, I was thinking UV distortion as well when I was reading your post. The only other things I would say are pretty common are:
Vertex Displacement/World Position Offset

Color gradient look-up tables (LUTs)


Damn, the Displacement thing seems to be magical. I imagine this “magic” comes at a cost, since it seems to “create” a 3D detail where there were none, originally :open_mouth:

About the LUTs:
By the gifs on this post, this seems to be something that will come in handy soon in my creations.
I’m in the very beginning of this journey and I noticed that, so far in the course I’m taking, even though I can move stuff, make them fade in and out, mess with their scale and color over time and etc…it would still and look “static” while more advanced stuff seems to constantly “morph” or behave in more chaotic and almost shapeless way. It really conveys the magic/ethereal feeling I’m aiming for in the future.

Thanks for taking the time to drop it here :slight_smile:

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That’s cool indeed…but looks so complex :open_mouth:
Does it comes to you any stylized VFX that incorporate this on it? I want to see different uses for this.

Anyway, thanks for dropping it here.
I’ll surely take a deeper look once I feel like the time has come! :slight_smile:

yes - distortion is used on any texture and the texture can be painterly.

Don’t let the Scripting of a flow shader overwhelm you. the principal of pushing a texture is quite rudimentary and easy in terms of shader graph setup

it is ostensibly identical to a scrolling /panning texture parameter,

rather than unified value it is processed with grayscale range to pan at different values (it can be 2 channels Red to affect X and Green = Y independently). Here it’s been given noise

@simonschreibt just did a breakdown on a new effect that shows off some distortion : great detail


from his thread

I used it here for flowing clouds and to fake refraction on parallax mapping


Damn that gif is gold. Really cool to able to see the variety of possible uses.
Will check this link soon, thanks for dropping it :slight_smile:

Hmmm I’m trying to understand. So, in the first Gif, the image simply pans to the left.
On the second one, it’s essentialy the same, but the “panning amount” is different for each point of the texture at a given moment? And it does that based on the “amount” of gray it finds on that coordinate at that moment? Black = 0 and White = 1?

PS: That last water gif is so good too look at @_@

but the “panning amount” is different for each point of the texture at a given moment? And it does that based on the “amount” of gray it finds on that coordinate at that moment? Black = 0 and White = 1?

yes - well he is panning a texture across a distortion

here’s a very simple example

Sliding toward .1 moves UVs together (diagonal push)
But the more sophisticated your numbers, the center point, and with UV independence it can do far more :smiley:

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For the most important techniques are:


:open_mouth: Even though I understood it, this example made it so much more clear to me. I think it finally clicked for real.

Hey, I don’t wanna abuse your good will to help, but what are those last 2? The Center Point and UV Independence.

Have any cool/clear examples to show the logic behind it? I ask this because, due to the example you made for the Distortion + the gifs you already shared earlier…all this doesn’t look like weird complex stuff anymore.

It was very enlightening. Many thanks! :slight_smile:

this is polar coordinates to get something to radiate; the center of the ripples certainly can be repositioned as well as having 2 or more added together for wave interference.moreDistorts
it also has 1 noise for Red/U and another for Green/U so the X and Y motion can be non-uniform

here x2 noise nodes are moved in different directions from a time node; They get combined so that 1 adjusts the Red/U while the other controls Green/V channel to break uniformity.moreDistort2


So Displacement and Tessellation is probably expensive, but the basic World Position Offset (WPO) method is very cheap. It just relies on how many subdivisions you have in your geo, (vs displacement/tessellation which is making more geo) and how far you’re moving your verts.

A good example would be @simonschreibt 's Liquid Mesh project. In the second video from the top, it gives a very clear idea of what it does. That version has lots of subdivisions, but you get the idea, you can make your mesh move.

You can add a small amount of this in to even stylized effects for some nice extra detail and motion.
From afar, it’s not as noticeable, but I have some basic WPO moving the geo in these waterfalls I made. It’s more apparent close up, but the far shot was for the demo reel

Color LUTs are super powerful, and especially important for stylized vfx. They allow you to get more than a single color into one particle, and you can control how they are colored.
In this clip, I’m using a gradient with black and oranges to color the barrier around the boss. The main texture with the faces is just a grayscale image that was reused in a bunch of places.


Heeey, I was messing with it for about 2 hours now. I hooked things up as you did on the gifs and started tweaking the numbers to see how they interfere on the final result. Plus, I’m trying to make a more “humanized” sense out of it.

I think I don’t have issues with the radial one. I tweaked a lot and was able to represent various cool wavy jellies.

But the “regular” one…
I know it’s the same principle, but visually speaking…there is something off for me.
Something that my eyes couldn’t make sense. I bet there is logic behind it, otherwise it wouldn’t work.

0 Distortion applied…let’s gradually go all up to 1,5

0,5 Distortion applied.
Ok, we see the curve happening, and it slightly resembles the noise texture used.

1.0 Distortion applied
Well, at this moment I’m lost. I don’t get how the noise texture makes that to the checker. I do notice the black spot seem to work as an anchor for not letting the things around it move a lot, but the rest is going crazy D:

1,5 Distortion applied.
A circle has formed???

I don’t get how the image got to look like that D:

How do you go about picking a Noise texture for a certain VFX you want to make? Can you somewhat tell beforehand what Noise Texture will give you the result you want or is it all about trial and error?

PS: I was about to post and noticed the “Remap” node also interferes on the result. Is it the base “ratio” for the distortion? Because, well…it remaps the UVs?

Anyways, thanks for the attention you’ve been giving :slight_smile:

well i can’t figure out what exactly you might be doing.

  • I use remap to set the 0-1 range of black and white into a small output such as [-0.1] to [+0.1]
  • it means 50% gray now = 0 and we have negative and positive motion.
  • The other thing it does it sets the top and bottom values to only 1/10 what they use to be; that makes the distortion subtle, which it needs to be or you get wild distortion.

this remapped adjustment is added to UV, that means it will be combined into a UV layout rather than multiplying the UVs.

a value of +1 = +100% repositioning… it has left the image and come back on the other side. So that should tell you just a small .01 means the pixel has moved 1% of the image space and 5-10% is usually plenty of ‘wobble’

How do you go about picking a Noise texture for a certain VFX you want to make?

usually distortion is for randomness of a texture so that people can’t see it repeating; there was a time I needed a fish to swim and so I made a simple sine wave texture myself so that it was non-linear

It was this
that line just panned across X over infinity
a falloff *X so that the fish head was 0% distortion and the tail was 100%
black was -y
white +y

In order to know specific distortion you have to convert your minds artistic motion into the discrete numerics; That comes down to patience, practice and experience.

Unity URP (Universal Render Pipeline) has Simple (Perlin), Gradient and Voronoi

  • Most needs of noise is for randomness, so they can satisfy that… especially because you can always multiply two to get interference and process them with more calculation complexity.

  • a great deal of artistic RnD can be trial and error -

this particular thread was about trial and error, trying to understand boolean destructive & constructive texture motion and it broke my head without just seeing it.
video here

[edits, my bad gramer/spelling]

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So sorry for the extremely late reply. I had to go away from my city for a weekend…meaning no PC, no VFX.
When I got back, I went straight to a rabbit hole and…I simply forgot to reply.

I was just trying to wrap my head on what distortion works X just seing the final result.
The experiment made sense in my head, at least :sweat_smile:

I kept looking for stuff regarding different uses of gray scale and stumbled on this:

I really like how the air/dust dissolves on the explosion and wanted to make it on an effect I was working.

I finally made something I really like! Here it is:

Though it is still a WIP and I already spotted some stuff I want to change :sweat_smile:

Does it occurs to you any “technique” that would synergyze well with what I’ve been doing?
After I’m done with the explosion, I plan on checking out how to work with LUTs.

PS: I made this Lightning Projectile too!

the absolute last thing I consider in my wheelhouse would be specific to my process - Material Capture ‘mat cap’ and Fresnel if you feel like faking lighting / volume and soften edges with something either on the inside or outside of your shapes.

You can use a simple soft particle dot as the matcap to do most of what this is showing, but here I used both to give an idea of two different concepts working together

Mat caps are a view based way to apply an image that stays fixed to cam, it is like an environment map that always is projecting from your view.

The Fresnel node in shadergraph quickly lets you feather edges in other interesting ways based on the geo normal direction (used for rounded objects) and it can obviously be inverted


and of course the Fresnel can be isolated to apply noise for edge fun as well as have a separated color node to change the internal and external shading of an object : here It is simply added with the mat cap so it behaves like emissiveness

i will add that both these ideas are seldom used in RTVFX, it is more common in characters, but they certainly can create unique edge elements.

I’d also like to say your progress is going strong and keep up the good work.
Your projects are shaping up well.

Man, what the heck. What a weird thing to look at hahaha.

I believe I never seen it before in any game. Maybe it’s sublte or have been used in a way I’m not being able to make the connection. Anyway, it looks weird, but also cool. Though it really doesn’t come to my mind what are the possible uses for it. Like…when would I use it? Do you use it often? In what?

i used Fresnel here

the foam/brightness edges on the waterfall is controlled by Fresnel so that darker blue is in the middle.
also the noise only exists on edges or portions of the waterfall where I wanted to break the solid shape feel… i guess you could think of it as fake sub surface scattering to give the water the refraction light feel

mat caps I used a few times on smoke to apply a gradient that always faces cam. here is a quick dirty version on billboards
uses these two textures * noise distortion

when I use Fresnel and with normal faking I get more like this

without a stencil pass (can’t do that i shadergraph as far as I know) shapes clip, but a billboard won’t have that issue as long as it has a normals calc to make a billboard act like it is rounded.

when I need fake volumetric on a mobile game and still retain rotation i’d use matcap, also for mesh based energy or magic I would do this because it’d be hard pressed to use more advanced AAA lighting techniques and shader tricks

edit: hehe … now im playing around, this is 20 vs 12 spheres so it keeps the overdraw lowish



Hmmm, at first I was like “well, I don’t see myself using this anytime soon”, but then I stumbled on this:

Though it is the opposite, middle is brighter and borders are darker.

I believe this is a 2D animation, but it came to me it might be possible to achieve this on a sphere, what do you think?

I’m unhappy with the looks of my spherical shape on the explosion I did. :rage: It looks thin, packs no weight…I want to change that :slight_smile:

At first I thought of creating more spheres and layering it, but maybe shader trickiness might do as well.

Damn, both Water and Lava versions look so cool. Can I find it in a game scene?

perfect example, aura energy shields or magical shielding - the fresnel would be inverted and used additively to apply gradients that work around the geo

here I put some noise wisps on the previous examples
wrap trails, maybe darken the edges a bit and it’s almost there

water and lava are hobby work inspired by… not used for anything like a game or scene

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