Minecraft shaders. What is a Minecraft shader? Why is it? And for how long? Well, Minecraft has a lot of things in its favour: infinite replayability, massively varied gameplay and a constantly changing and improving online game. Where Minecraft falters in comparison to other modern games is its graphics. Fortunately, as with everything in Minecraft, the graphical fidelity can be tweaked to incredible effect with the help of mods called shaders.
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From photorealistic lighting to uncanny motion blur, shaders are capable of bringing your Minecraft experience to life. Every shader has its own unique qualities, whether that’s injecting some serious style or providing a lag-free boost to Minecraft’s base visuals. So, in order to set you on your way to crystal-clear vistas we’ve put together a collection of the top Minecraft shaders out there.
How to install Minecraft shaders
Getting a shader or shader pack up and running on Minecraft is a simple enough process. Before you get started trying to install a shader pack though, you’ll want to download and install Forge and Optifine and GLSL Shaders Mod.
Head to Forge’s download page and select the download for the version of Minecraft you’re running. Once downloaded, locate the file and run it, which should bring a install window up. Check it’s located your Minecraft folders and then click ‘Install client’. To check it’s working, run Minecraft and select Forge as your profile - this should give you a new screen with your mods and programs listed in the bottom left-hand corner.
Optifine will require roughly the same procedure, but after downloading you’ll have to locate the Minecraft folder yourself. To do so hit [Windows key]+ R and type %appdata%\.minecraft into the run prompt. Now just drag and drop OptiFine into your ‘mods’ folder.
Finally, it’s time to grab the GLSL Shaders Mod. Head to their page and download the correct version before once again dragging and dropping it into the ‘mods’ folder. Now you have everything you should need to run shaders. The install process in no different than the rest except you’ll want to place the shader packs into… you guessed it… ‘shaderpacks’ folder.
Waving Plants Shaders
Breathing a little more life into Minecraft in a much less in-your-face photogenic way is Waving Plants Shaders, a nature centric graphics mod that lends subtle animations to all things green. This shader has been made to be compatible with the major shader packs such as SEUS, making the final effect even more impressive. It’s not just grass that’s been given some motion either, this shader gives every piece of vanilla fauna - from lilies to nether warts - a visual boost.
Sonic Ether’s Unbelievable Shaders
The touchstone shader pack for anyone wanting to feel like they’ve entered an entirely different game. Named SEUS for short, this pack is a modification on another much-loved shader pack, and as such it’ll have your Minecraft world looking about as good as you can ever expect it to. Soft natural lighting, rain that adds a glossy sheen to every surface it touches, procedurally generated clouds and much more await you.
An unofficial add-on to the already dazzling SEUS Shader Pack, this graphics overhaul is the modder’s equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. Upon installing this shader you’ll be greeted with photo-realistic lighting effects: colour gradients across the sky box, true-to-life clouds, and shadows that adjust in shape and angle with the sun’s position. Everything here is top-notch. Unfortunately, such results come with the caveat of needing a mighty rig, but when visual fidelity like this is on the line it’s worth it. There’s a lite version available as well if you consider upgrading your PC for the sake of running a Minecraft shader a little excessive. Wuss.
The CUDA shader makes a number of notable improvements to natural lighting in Minecraft, but this shader’s pièce de résistance is its gloriously enhanced sun rays. Resembling those benevolent beams of light you only seem to get at the least sociable hours of daylight, CUDA shader turns any rural scene into a masterpiece. There’s an impressive depth of field effect too, making this a solid shader for Minecraft artwork and screengrabs.
Light yellow tones, a subtle depth of field effect and pristinely rendered water make Super Shaders an ideal graphics mod for lending Minecraft a serene and idyllic atmosphere. It comes with some of the most realistic clouds and lighting available too, which is fantastic for capturing your creations at their very best.
Experimenting, tinkering and modding like the mad scientists we are comes with the cost of severely reduce performance - not every budding Minecraft engineer has a computer rig capable of dealing with the demands of high-fidelity visuals. Thankfully, some clever so-and-so made lagless shaders, giving everyone a taste of jaw-dropping visuals with no framerate drops to speak of.
Few things compare to the warming glow of a summer sunset. That’s why this Minecraft modder decided to make a shader capable of bestowing all of those feelings of nostalgia and carefree-living upon your Minecraft world. Perfect for getting you through a dark and gloomy January afternoon or convincing yourself you’ve spent time outside on a hot June day.
Naelego’s Cel Shaders
Add some crisp, cartoony visuals to proceedings with this Borderlands-inspired, cel-shaded look. This expertly crafted shader introduces bold colours, crisp outlines and solid shadows in order to emulate the look of a classic comic or cartoon.
itsMagicMelon Shader Pack
Specially made for low-end setups, this humble shader gives lighting, effects and animations a dramatic boost with little to no toll on how well the game will run for you. Staggeringly, the itsMagicMelon Shader Pack still manages to include all the features of its performance-draining counterparts, such as water reflections, natural shadows and hosts of animations.
Flawless visuals and breathtaking sunsets are one thing, but if you want to make your Minecraft session a little psychedelic there are few shaders as effective as this aptly named mind-bender. Looking towards the horizon will cause everything in view to twist and distort, folding the world in on itself and falling away in a single motion - it’s stomach-churning stuff. Load up a horror map with this shader turned on and you’re all set for a Minecraftian nightmare.
Every shader has its best feature, this one has lots of them. Arresting sunsets, swaying foliage and vibrant colours are just some of the additions that make RudoPlays’ pack so great. This shader rests somewhere between photorealistic and classic Minecraft, making it an ideal bolt-on for anyone looking to add an aesthetic kick to the vanilla game.
Ziipzaap’s Shader Pack
Sure, Ziipzaap’s Shader pack provides a hearty boost to Minecraft’s general lighting, but it’s the quality of the reflections that have been added to water which make this shader stand out. Our recommendation: find a large body of water, sit back and bask in the glory of those pristine reflections until the sun sets and it’s time to return to the safety of your hut.
Hexagon’s Night Owl Shader Pack
Survival mode places a great amount of emphasis on surviving the night, which means attempting to adequately light a pitch-black world while defending yourself. This useful shader lights the night up with a convincing moonlight glow, making slaying mobs and exploring your surroundings considerably easier in early game.
The Wave is another hypnotic shader that’ll give VR a run for its money where motion sickness is concerned. Stirring your vision as much as it stirs your stomach, The Wave makes the world around you roll about like… well… waves. It’s off-putting, nauseating, but totally awesome, especially when the sun’s setting.
That's it - Minecraft shaders aplenty. If you've found any more that you think belong in the list then let us know in the comments.