The best Minecraft shaders will completely change the way the game looks, altering light and shadow with either realistic or heightened, stylised elements. Want a scarier experience? Find a Minecraft shader that deals in deep, oppressive shadows in which anything could be lurking. Want something more fanciful? There are shaders that’ll dapple the world in beams of coloured, hypnotic luminosity, making your server feel like a fairy tale wonderland.
Keep in mind that shaders are completely different from the best Minecraft texture packs, which alter the appearance of existing blocks and items within your world. Textures change what a block look likes, while shaders change the way it’s lit and presented to you. Make sense? With that in mind, we’ll cover all of Minecraft’s best shaders individually below (all of which are up to date with current versions of the game), as well as go through a basic tutorial on how to install shaders in Minecraft to begin with.
How to install Minecraft shaders
You’ll need to use Minecraft Forge for shaders; check the link to set it up easily!
In order to get your shader packs up and running, you’ll want to start off by downloading the Forge (opens in new tab) if you haven’t played around with any sort of modding before, as this makes adding and installing mods a whole lot easier. Once you’ve downloaded Forge, run the installation process and make sure it’s located in your Minecraft folder. The next time you start up Minecraft, the Forge profile should be available to you, which you can select to run your shaders packs.
Then you’ll want to download Optifine (opens in new tab), which makes Minecraft look better and run faster (and is so useful as a Mod it made it to our best Minecraft mods list), and also supports all manner of configurations, including texture packs and most importantly, in this instance, shaders. On the Optifine page, hit the preview button at the top of the page to find the latest version. Once you’ve downloaded the Optifine.Jar, you’ll want to pop it in your mods folder, which you’ll find in your Minecraft file. Some shaders also require the GLSL Shaders Mod (opens in new tab), so it could be worth downloading it and dropping it in your mods folder, too. Then you simply download the shader pack you’re after and put the zip.file in your Minecraft shaderspack folder. Once you’re in the game, go to options and then video settings, where you should see a shaders tab. Click on that to set which shader you want to add to the world.
The best Minecraft shaders
Sildurs Vibrant World
Sildurs Vibrant World (opens in new tab) is a great place to start if you’re getting into the shaders world. It’s an extension of the GLSL Shaders Mod, and revamps the lighting system to add more ambience and reflections to your minecraft world. It also stays up to date with the latest version of Minecraft and has configurations for those running older versions. The pack is specifically designed to run on any graphics card and computer, so everyone can enhance their Minecraft world with pretty lighting. The sun is a lot more vibrant, with crimson rays of light streaming through the trees, to shining reflections bouncing off rivers – it gives Minecraft a colourful makeover that just makes everything so much nicer.
The BSL Shaders (opens in new tab) pack is a high-performance shader that adds lots of colour and lighting effects that elevate the Minecraft world. Everything looks fancier, with reflectively realistic water and a richer more saturated colour palette. The way the light streams through the trees is just the icing on the shader cake. It really does bring the world to life in a pretty, picturesque sort of way. The puffy clouds look almost like our very own skies but in the Minecraft setting, and indoor areas like the homes you construct, or the caverns you dig down to, look punchier.
If you’re after something with more ambiance and mood lighting, you can’t go wrong with Chocapic13’s Shader (opens in new tab). Since it also enables you to make tweaks of your own, it has also spawned many great shaders others have created. It adds some fantastic effects to enhance the atmosphere of your world – such as fog – and it also brings in more shadows and lighting that really work their magic on the landscapes. The shader looks especially good at night.
Not everyone has high-performance machines that can bear the brunt of some of the more taxing shaders, so if you’re looking for a simple enchantment that will still take Vanilla Minecraft to the next level, Lagless Shaders (opens in new tab) is a great option. It’s already become a firm favourite for many as it adds some pretty effects to your world like waving grass without compromising your frame rate.
Sushi Slader (opens in new tab) is based on the above Chocapic13’s Shader and it makes the world feel more alive with its vibrant colours and sparkling waters. It also adds in coloured shadows to make translucence objects like windows look much more realistic. The colours really do pop from the screen with this shader with the added bonus of a richer level of detail when it comes to reflective surfaces – water will distort your reflection just like it does in the real world.
Continuum’s Shader (opens in new tab) adds an impressive amount of lighting and detail, with configurable colour grading to boot. Everything looks very professional from the clouds, to the shining rippling waters, and the light flitting through the trees. It’s definitely on the higher-end performance wise, but if you’ve got the specs to take it, this shader really steps up the look and feel of the game. Snowfall and rain looks more dynamic too, and the trees will swish in the wind.
Sonic Ether’s Unbelievable Shaders (SEUS)
Another high-performance shader, Sonic Ether’s Unbelievable Shaders (opens in new tab) pack adds some really impressive shadows and lighting to the world. It especially looks great indoors, with the light shining through the windows, or peaking in above a cave. The textures of the grass and sand looks very appealing, and the sky looks incredibly realistic.
The KUDA shader (opens in new tab) is another great pick that brings more detail and makes for a richer Minecraft experience. Everything looks glossier and refined, with shiny water, more shadows, light rays and yet more puffy clouds in the sky. It’s a very solid shader that will neatly makeover the world without being too over the top. It might not be as show stopping as some of the other shaders, but it still livens up the world with some very appealing features.