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HLSL (Pixel shader) effects tutorial

Recently, I already wrote about PixelShader effects, introduced in .NET framework 3.5 SP1 (WPF). However it looks like for most people this syntax is still hard to understand. Today we’ll try to lean it more. In order to do this, I wrote small program, that helps you to write and debug pixel shader effects quickly. This how it looks like


Hit Open to load image, Write your code and hit Execute to compile and apply bitmap dx effect to the image. Let’s start from very beginning. Effect, that does nothing:

sampler2D input : register(s0);
float4 main(float2 uv : TEXCOORD) : COLOR
    float4 Color;
    Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy);
    return Color;

This is the results:


What was done? We got pixel. Read it color and return it as it to the shader. Let’s do something more interesting.

Actually we can get float2 as coordinate, this means, that it can be spitted to uv.x and uv.y. Also color is float4 (argb), thus we can change color. Let’s multiply color by 3

Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy)*3;

And the result is bright image


We also can make operations with variables.

Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy)*uv.x;



We not have to change whole color. We can also change only its part. Blue for example

Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy);
Color.b = Color.b*2;



Or execute math operations

Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy);
Color.r = Color.r*sin(uv.x*100)*2;
Color.g = Color.g*cos(uv.x*150)*2;
Color.b = Color.b*sin(uv.x*50)*2;



Color is not only thing we can operate. Actually we’re sampling coordinates, so operations done with coordinates should work. Let’s try to stretch image

uv.x = uv.x * 0.5;
Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy);



Why 0.5? Should not it make it smaller? Actually not, you’re multiplying coordinates, so to make the image smaller, you should divide

uv.x = uv.x / 0.5;
Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy);



Some math could be fun here also

uv.y = uv.y  + (sin(uv.y*100)*0.03);
Color = tex2D( input , uv.xy);



There are a ton of interesting effects you can do by using pixel shaders. Here for example color shift

   Color = tex2D( input , uv);
Color.r -= tex2D( input , uv +(somevar/100)).r;
Color.g += tex2D( input , uv+ (somevar/200)).g;
Color.b -= tex2D( input , uv+ (somevar/300)).b;



Or, even cooler efects

Color -= tex2D(input , uv.xy-0.003)*2.7f;
Color += tex2D( input , uv.xy+0.003)*2.7f;
Color.rgb = (Color.r+Color.g+Color.b)/3.0f;



You can also use cases and ifs for even cooler effects

Color.rgb = (Color.r+Color.g+Color.b)/3.0f;
if (Color.r<0.2 || Color.r>0.9) Color.r = 0; else Color.r = 1.0f;
if (Color.g<0.2 || Color.g>0.9) Color.g = 0; else Color.g = 1.0f;
if (Color.b<0.2 || Color.b>0.9) Color.b = 0; else Color.b = 1.0f;



Other words, the sky is the limit.

Please note, that Pixel Shaders done in GPU only, thus it is the most efficient method to manipulate your images. Actually, you can apply effect to any UIElement, thus the sky is really the limit.

Have a nice day and be good people. Download code for this article. Notice, that you’ll need DirectX SDK to compile pixel shader files and use this program

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23 Responses to “HLSL (Pixel shader) effects tutorial”

  1. Rob Says:

    Hi Tamir/guys , you dont need to go re-inventing the wheel for the shader developer apps……/180

    I also did a full tutorial on code project using FX composer. ATI also has a comparable package, just incase you’re an ATI lover :)

    I’ll shortly be updating the project to use 3.5sp1, now my current contract has finished! . Whew. Spare time at last ;)


  2. Javaman Says:

    Pretty bad app . No error messages, none editing features.

  3. facelift resection dentist » Blog Archive » WPF 3.5 Sp1 - Now I’m Trying to Write Pixel Shaders :-S Says:

    Pingback from  facelift resection dentist  &raquo; Blog Archive   &raquo; WPF 3.5 Sp1 – Now I&#8217;m Trying to Write Pixel Shaders :-S

  4. Programming Languages and Prototyping in Beijing Says:

    This week I saw a great project, Bhrama , on expressing shader-based GPU computation in C#/LINQ. Using

  5. Pestilence Says:

    OK fixed this myself. The fxc.exe of the DirectX SDK was missing in the debug directory.

  6. Pestilence Says:

    Same Problem.

    Error in Line 62. Win32Exception that the system cannot find the file pointing at "Process p = Process.Start(psi)"

  7. kid Says:

    Could not get the example to work.

    It builds and runs but when executing code in the first example I get…

    The system cannot find the file specified

    Pointing at line 62 of Window1.xaml.cs


  8. Mike Taulty's Blog Says:

    I’ve been quite content up until today to say "I can’t write Pixel Shaders" and "I don’t know what High…

  9. Rakesh Ravuri Says:

    Tamir, based on the initial code from HLSLTester i wrote a application ShaderPad with support for animated input values and Texture inputs, check it out at

  10. Rakesh Ravuri Says:

    Thanks for the tool really helps in experimenting witn new ShaderEffects

    Used the shader snippet from this page to <a href="…/wave-reflection-shader-effect-in-wpf.html">create a wave reflection effect.. </a>

  11. Tamir Khason Says:

    Yes, you should compile shaders for 3.5 sp1.

  12. :) Says:

    Why do you precompile the shaders? Is it possible to load and compile them at run-time?

  13. Simon Says:

    Great post! The best post on WPF and Pixelshader i´ve seen so far!

  14. :) Says:

    Where are the docs for .NET 3.5 Sp1

  15. Ali Says:

    Thanks a lot for this useful post.

    I want to create a Line Art effect but as I got vertex shader is not supported by WPF now. Is there a way to create Line Art effect by Pixel Shader? Any idea?


  16. Raju Says:

    Nice sample……….

  17. Miivers Says:

    Thanks for the article.
    Easy to follow and thumbs up for showing code and screenshot side by side.

  18. Presenting LinqToShader « The Viking Programmer Says:

    [...] application which does a shader effect on an image. This demo basically follows Tamir Khason’s Pixel shader tutorial article. The demo copies code from his tutorial (why reinvent the wheel?). You can download this demo with [...]

  19. How to Create Your Own FireMonkey Image Effect | Australian Delphi User Group Members Says:

    [...] links may help you start writing HLSL shaders. – Programming Guide for HLSL, from Microsoft – HLSL (Pixel Shader) effects tutorial, Tamir [...]

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