Creating cool shader backgrounds in react-three-fiber

July 24, 2021


Shaders are a fantastic way to create effects that would be impossible with regular CSS, such as exotic gradients or weird kaleidoscopic effects like the one below!


Based on Creation by Danilo Guanabara (Silexars) on Shadertoy.

I recently read an article about an easy way to display these shaders with THREE.js, and wanted to figure out how to do the same thing when using react-three-fiber inside a React app. I managed it, and decided to write down the basic process for anyone interested.

Note that you should probably be familiar with THREE, shaders, and react-three-fiber for any of this to make sense. The website from the article is a great resource!

The basic idea is to create a ShaderMaterial with your chosen shader, then use the material on a flat plane placed right infront of an orthographic camera in your scene (or Canvas in r3f).

We begin by creating the ShaderMaterial:

import { Vector3 } from 'three'
import { extend } from '@react-three/fiber'
import { shaderMaterial } from '@react-three/drei'

const CreationMaterial = shaderMaterial({
  time: 0.,
  resolution: new Vector3()
varying vec2 vUv;

void main()	{
  vUv = uv;

  gl_Position = projectionMatrix * modelViewMatrix * vec4(position, 1.);
uniform vec3 resolution;
uniform float time;

void mainImage( out vec4 fragColor, in vec2 fragCoord ){
	vec3 c;
	float l, z = time;

	for(int i=0;i<10;i++) {
		vec2 uv, p = fragCoord.xy/resolution.xy;
		uv = p;
		p -= .5;
		p.x *= resolution.x / resolution.y;
		z += 2.0;
		l = length(p);
		uv += p / l * (sin(z / 2.) + 1.) * abs(sin(l * 3. - z * .5));
		c[i] = .01 / length(abs(mod(uv, 1.) -.5));

	fragColor = vec4(c / l, time / 2.);

void main() {
  mainImage(gl_FragColor, gl_FragCoord.xy);

extend({ CreationMaterial })

Here we use drei’s shaderMaterial export to quickly create a ShaderMaterial, as it makes it easier to handle uniforms. We then use extend to register it as a react-three-fiber object, making it usable in the rest of our scene later.

We then move on to using our new material:

import { useRef } from 'react'
import { useThree, useFrame } from '@react-three/fiber'

const ShaderObject = () => {
  const mesh = useRef()

  const { size } = useThree()

  useFrame((state, delta) => {
    mesh.current.material.uniforms.time.value += delta

  return (
    <mesh ref={mesh}>
      <planeBufferGeometry args={[size.width, size.height]} />
      <creationMaterial resolution={[size.width, size.height, 1]} />

We create a plane mesh, setting the width and height to the same size as the canvas with use of the size variable destructured from useThree. Our particular shader also requires the current scene’s size as a uniform, so we pass that in also. Finally we use r3f’s useFrame to increment the time uniform with the delta time from the last frame, ensuring a smooth animation.

Finally we put it all together in a react-three-fiber canvas:

import { Canvas } from '@react-three/fiber'

const Background = () => {

  return (
        <ShaderObject />

export default Background

The only really important detail here is to set orthographic to true to avoid any issues related to perspective if you ever start moving parts of the scene around.

That’s it! You can of course take it further in many ways (we don’t have to use a plane, for example), and since we’re using react-three-fiber it’s very simple to hook up your shaders to the rest of your application.

Try clicking the swirly orb below! It uses a simple useState hook toggled by clicking to change the rate some of the shader uniforms animate.


Furthermore it demonstrates how you can use these shaders as elements on a page, they can be absolutely positioned behind other elements, and the canvas can be modified via CSS (transforms, probably clip-paths, etc.).

Performance is of course a consideration, but used sparingly and with fallbacks for weaker devices it should be no problem!