What are the best Minecraft shaders? More importantly what are Minecraft shaders? The popular crafting game has a lot of things in its favour: infinite replayability, massively varied gameplay, and a constantly changing and improving online game. Where Minecraft draws criticism compared 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 Minecraft shaders.
From photorealistic lighting to uncanny motion blur, shaders are capable of bringing your Minecraft experience to life. Every Minecraft shader has its own unique qualities, whether that’s injecting some serious style or providing a boost to Minecraft’s base visuals without too much lag. So, in order to set you on your way to crystal-clear vistas we’ve put together a collection of the best Minecraft shaders out there.
Getting a Minecraft shader or shader pack up and running is a simple enough process. Before you get started trying to install a shader pack though, you’ll want to download and install either Forge or Optifine. Bear in mind that these aren’t always kept up to date, so your options are limited if you want to run shaders on the latest version of Minecraft Java. Likewise, you need to make sure whichever shaders you’re downloading are for the same version of Minecraft Java you’re running.
How to install Minecraft shaders in 1.18
Follow these steps to install the Minecraft shaders:
- Head to the Forge or Optifine 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 an install window up. Check it’s located in your Minecraft folders and then click ‘Install client’
- To check it’s working, run Minecraft and select Forge or Optifine as your profile at the bottom of the launcher. (Word to the wise, you may need to install Java to run Forge or Optifine)
If you need to locate the folder yourself to install either of these programs, click on the Cortana search bar, type %appdata%, and enter. Next, look for the .minecraft folder, click through to it and now drag and drop Forge or OptiFine into your ‘mods’ folder
Now you have everything you need to run Minecraft shaders. The install process is no different than the rest, except you want to place the shader packs into – you guessed it – ‘shaderpacks’ folder.
The best Minecraft shaders in 1.18
SEUS is the touchstone Minecraft shaders 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. It’s also constantly being updated, with a recent version equipping players with a faux Minecraft ray tracing effect, which is simply incredible in action.
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There are a few different SEUS versions on offer, but we advise grabbing SEUS Renewed, which has heaps of options and minimal impact on your PC. Honestly, for such little VRAM wear and tear, this transforms the look and feel of your Minecraft world completely.
Continuum was once the Sistine Chapel of Minecraft shaders but is now the default for realistic graphics mods. Upon installing this shader, you’ll be greeted with photo-realistic lighting effects: colour gradients across the skybox, 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 powerful 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 to the best gaming PC build, just for running a Minecraft shader, a little excessive.
If you still don’t think upgrading your PC is worth it, you can get some rather incredible results from the Lagless shaders mod. It’s a relatively simple-looking mod, but bright colours and beautiful textures just improve the default blocks rather than drastically changing them. We particularly like how the light shimmers off the horizon.
The KUDA Minecraft shaders make several 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, KUDA 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 of your latest Minecraft builds. KUDA strikes a pleasing balance between soft and realistic, and it’s not too demanding either.
Add some crisp, cartoony visuals to proceedings with this Borderlands-inspired, cel-shaded look. Naelego’s expertly crafted shader introduces bold colours and crisp outlines to emulate the look of a classic comic or cartoon. There’s a hefty caveat though: this shader isn’t very well optimised and will huff and puff if you’re flying around in Creative mode.
Perhaps the stunning Minecraft Shaders just deviate too much from how you want Minecraft to look. You may have a soft spot for the textures that came from the time when shaders were still new. The Nostalgia Minecraft shader has a retro vibe and plenty of upgrades for performance and new features. If you miss the ‘Super Duper Graphics Pack’, this shader accidentally has “some similarities”, according to the mod’s page. We particularly like how it looks at dawn and during sunsets.
BSL Minecraft shaders deliver some of the best visuals you can get in the game without breaking your rig. The lighting is warm and welcoming, the water is realistic without contrasting too much with the blocky environment, and there’s a tangible atmosphere wherever you look.
While BSL and SEUS are both fantastic all-rounders, but if you’re after a slightly more realistic shader, then BSL is the one to go for.
Clear, crisp graphics with some beautiful water effects and glowing lighting – Chocopic13’s Minecraft shaders are undoubtedly handsome. However, one of the main reasons to check out this shader is it comes in a range of versions based on what rig you have, from extremely demanding all the way down to toaster tier. The bottom end isn’t anywhere near as fetching, but for almost no performance impact it’s hard to beat.
Ebin Minecraft shaders were inspired by SEUS, although out of the box they look very different. The most noticeable change is that the clouds and foliage are impressively realistic, but there are some light visual improvements pretty much everywhere you look. Admittedly, it’s a little intense on your hardware, but can you really put a price on modifying Minecraft?
ProjectLUMA is the true successor to KUDA, re-written from scratch to offer the best possible visuals for as minimal a performance impact as possible. The result is stunning, though not quite the same as KUDA (so we’ve included both in this list for good measure). The water effects, colouring, and shading are jaw-dropping and do not affect playability whatsoever, unlike a realistic mod like Continuum. Also, the skyboxes are to die for.
No Minecraft shaders manage to make water look as irresistibly refreshing as Oceano. You’ll want to do nothing but sail around in a Minecraft boat watching the smooth waves lap at shores and staring deeply into the Spanish blue tint. Outside of the water effects, Oceano also manages to breathe life into the rest of Minecraft’s colour palette with fresh, bright colours and soft shading. This is the most tranquil shader out there.
Sildurs is another classic but still offers plenty for the budding graphics tweaker. At the high-end, you can grab the Vibrant shaders pack for extreme rigs, which overhauls the Minecraft lighting tech to add the holiest volumetric lighting imaginable, some gorgeous reflections, and bloom effects. Alternatively, there’s the Enhanced default shaders pack which has some neat effects and can be tuned right down in case your rig resembles a potato with some jump leads attached to it.
Short for too many effects, the TME Minecraft shaders pack lumps in more graphical tricks than your PC is ready for. This isn’t a shader pack for low-spec rigs, but the results are astonishing if you can run it with most of the settings cranked up high. Reflections and surfaces are arguably TME’s strongest asset, but it’s worth noting that the clouds are also gorgeous.
While most will rightly point out the impressive shadow work in this shader, it’s the water effects that merit its inclusion in this list of the best Minecraft shaders. The colour, the gentle waves, and the genuine sense of depth are hard to beat, and it runs on pretty much any PC, too. The lighting and shadows are at their best at night and make encountering a skeleton archer in the pitch-black truly terrifying.
This edit of the projectLUMA shader is simply breathtaking. The Sora Minecraft shader has all the fantastic skyboxes and lighting effects you’d expect, just like the shaders it’s based on, but it combines it with enhanced shadows and reflections. What makes it stand out is that the water effects are on par with the Oceano shaders. We think it looks even better in motion and the updates to other biomes also look fantastic!
Related: The best Minecraft texture packs for Java Edition
And there you go, the best Minecraft shaders to upgrade your graphics outlook. These are great if you want to lend your favourite Minecraft maps or your cool Minecraft houses for some extra atmosphere. The classic block and pixel laden style of the original will undoubtedly strike some nostalgia in some, but changing things up and trying out something weird is what Minecraft is all about. It’ll be great to see how these shaders look when the Minecraft 1.18 update release date rolls around.