How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics

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How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
There are thousands of shader packs to choose from.Emma Witman/Insider
  • To install shaders in "Minecraft: Java Edition," you'll first need to download a free program called OptiFine.
  • Once OptiFine is installed, all you need to do is move the shader files into a specific folder on your computer.
  • Installing shaders in "Minecraft" can make your game more beautiful, but also harder to run.

At first glance, "Minecraft" is not a very pretty game. It looks more like a world of Legos than anything, with sharp blocks placed by large stick figures.

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That's why thousands of fans have put in the effort to make shaders. Shaders change how lighting works in "Minecraft," which sounds simple, but can completely transform what the game looks like. Once you start playing with shaders, you might wonder how you ever went without them.

Luckily, installing shaders in "Minecraft" is easy. Here's how to find shaders, download them, and install them into your game.

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Important: You can only install shaders if you're playing "Minecraft: Java Edition." This is the most popular version of "Minecraft" for PCs, and is the only version available for Mac and Linux users.

You can see more differences between "Java" and "Bedrock Edition" by checking out our article, "'Minecraft Java' vs. 'Bedrock:' A full breakdown of Minecraft's two major versions and which one you should buy."

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Where to find and download 'Minecraft' shaders

Shaders are some of the most popular downloads on the internet. There are dozens of websites to get them from.

We recommend CurseForge.com, possibly the most popular website for "Minecraft" shaders and mods. You can also check out ShadersMods.com, which sorts its files into helpful categories like "psychedelic," "popular" and "realistic."

Once you've found a shader that looks appealing, check that it's compatible with the version of "Minecraft" you run, download the file, and save it in a location where you can easily grab it later. Don't unzip the file.

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders

Installing shaders in "Minecraft" is a two-part process. Luckily, the first part - installing OptiFine - only needs to be done once, and you're good forever.

Set up OptiFine

OptiFine is a free third-party app that lets you finetune and customize "Minecraft's" graphics. The exact method to install and set it up will differ slightly depending on whether you use other "Minecraft" mods, but here are the general steps.

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1. Download OptiFine from the website's downloads page, making sure you select the OptiFine version that corresponds with the version of "Minecraft" you run. Save the file somewhere you'll be able to find it easily.

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
Download the version of OptiFine that matches your version of "Minecraft."Emma Witman/Insider

Important: If you want to use OptiFine with mods, save this file into your dedicated "mods" folder, and then skip to step #3.

2. Find the .jar file you downloaded and double-click it to run the installer. Click "Install." Afterward, you should see a message announcing OptiFine's successful installation.

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
OptiFine will only take a few moments to install.Emma Witman/Insider

3. Open the Minecraft Launcher app. In the drop-down menu to the left of the "Play" button, select OptiFine (or "Forge" if you want to run other mods), and click "Play."

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
You might see a warning about OptiFine not being supported the first time you run it - don't worry, it's given to all mods.Emma Witman/Insider

Now, we'll get the shader files installed.

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Move your shader files

1. From the familiar "Minecraft" intro screen, select "Options," and then "Video Settings."

2. On this page, you should see some new settings. Click "Shaders…"

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
OptiFine will add a few other options to this page too, which are great for customizing your experience.Emma Witman/Insider

3. At the bottom-right, select "Shaders Folder." This will open the folder where all your shader files will go.

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
Once they're installed, your shaders will live here.Emma Witman/Insider

4. Grab the shader files you've downloaded and move them into this folder. Again, don't unzip them.

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
There's no need to unzip the shader download, which "Minecraft" will do for you.Emma Witman/Insider

5. When you return to the Shaders page, you should see your newly-added shaders listed. If you don't, close"Minecraft"and open it again.

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How to enable or disable 'Minecraft' shaders while playing

If you find that certain shaders don't play well with your computer, or you simply don't like how they look, here's how to enable or disable shaders while you're playing, without deleting the files outright.

1. While playing, press the "Esc" key to pull up the Menu screen.

2. Just like how you added the shaders, select "Options…" then "Video Settings…" and "Shaders…"

3. To change between shaders - you can only have one shader pack enabled at once - select the shader you'd like from the list of available options. Then, click "Done."

4. To disable shaders entirely, select "OFF" at the top of the Shaders page, and click "Done."

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How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
Pick a new shader pack, or turn them all off.Emma Witman/Insider

What to do if your computer can't handle 'Minecraft' shaders

Shaders make "Minecraft" more graphically intensive, to the point where some older graphics cards might struggle to keep up. As you're upgrading "Minecraft," keep aware of how your computer is handling the new stress.

If you find that your computer doesn't play well with shaders, one potential solution is to allocate more RAM to "Minecraft." You can easily allocate more RAM using the"Minecraft"Launcher.

Another solution if you find your frame rates plummeting when running shaders is to modify other settings with OptiFine.

OptiFine gives you handy summaries when you hover your cursor over its additional video settings, explaining how various changes will affect your game, including which settings make gameplay the most efficient.

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
OptiFine will give you info on what the various options mean.Emma Witman/Insider

However, just note that not everything OptiFine suggests will necessarily be optimal for your type of computer and hardware. Test out changes one at a time, and pull up the debug menu with the F3 key (Fn + F3 on Mac) to monitor your frame rate as you try different settings.

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Finally, you can try to find a shader pack that's less memory intensive. Some savvy developers will release multiple versions of their shader packs, built for different types of computers.

If your computer is struggling to render mega-rich shaders, search around for shaders that offer a range of intensities, like the popular Sildur's Vibrant Shaders.

How to install 'Minecraft' shaders and transform the game's graphics
Sildur's Shaders offers multiple versions, depending on how good your computer is.Emma Witman/Insider
How to update 'Minecraft: Bedrock' or 'Java' on a computer, console, or phone How to download new Minecraft maps and add them to your game How to install Minecraft Forge and gain access to thousands of new 'Minecraft' mods How to add friends in 'Minecraft' so you can build and explore your digital world together
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