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How to Install Shaders for Minecraft

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at how to install Shaders for Minecraft. This guide is suitable for all Minecraft versions, such as old 1.12.2 Versions, all the way up to 1.16, 1.17 and beyond. 

shaders before and after
Comparison of Vanilla Minecraft & Shaders

Shaders are the easiest way to completely change the appearance of Minecraft. Different packs will change the look of Minecraft, with some even changing the animations of trees and plants. We’ve covered many more Minecraft Guides here at PwrDown!

What Are Shaders

Shaders are packs that you install to your Minecraft directory. After doing so, the Shaders will completely change the appearance of your Minecraft world. You’ll see all new lighting, shadows, reflections and more.

Shaders are very resource intensive, so if you are running lower end hardware, you might lag quite a bit. There are some shader packs though which are designed for lower systems such as laptops.

How to Install Shaders

To install Shaders in Minecraft, do the following steps:

  1. Install Optifine and run Minecraft at least once.
  2. Head to the Minecraft directory, and look for the Shaders folder.
  3. Drag and drop a Shaders zip file into the Shaders folder.
  4. Shaders will be installed, run Minecraft again.
  5. Open the Settings menu, choose your Shaders.

Detailed Instructions

If you don’t have much experience with installing Optifine or browsing Minecraft directories, then follow the more detailed steps below.

Install Optifine

To get started, you’ll need to Download Optifine. Search for Optifine that matches your version of Minecraft. If you’re playing on a new version of Minecraft, then you’ll need to press the ‘Preview Versions’ button at the top of the screen.

If instead you are playing Modded Minecraft (with the Forge Mod Loader), then you’ll need to follow our guide for using Optifine & Forge together. Once Optifine is downloaded, you’ll receive a .JAR file which you should open.

For some people, the Optifine JAR might not open, so make sure that you have Java installed. In the installer, make sure it’s pointing to your Minecraft directory, and simply hit ‘Install’.

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Run Optifine

Now that Optifine is installed, open up the Minecraft Launcher. In the bottom left corner of the screen, select the drop-down menu and choose ‘Optifine’ from the list of presets, then press PLAY in the launcher to run Minecraft.

run the Optifine mod

All we’re doing in this step is letting Optifine create all the necessary configuration files, including the ‘Shaders’ folder. Once you’re in the main menu of Minecraft, we just need to head to the default installation directory.

There are two ways to get there:

  1. In your Windows start menu, type %AppData% and then head to the Minecraft folder, then into the Shaders folder.
  2. Head to the main menu in Minecraft, then Options > Video Settings > Shaders and press the ‘Open Shaders Folder’ button in the bottom left corner of this window.
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Now all we have to do is download a Shaders pack and install it.

Choose Shaders

Everything is setup and you’re ready to install some Shaders. All you have to do is decide which ones you want to use. I’ll recommend two different packs below, which are some of the best and most popular choices:

Once you download these Shaders, you’ll receive a .ZIP file. You don’t need to open this or extract it anywhere. Instead, simply place the. ZIP folder inside the Shaders folder, which is found inside the Minecraft directory.

Enable Shaders

In Minecraft, go to the Shaders settings. These are in Options > Video Settings > Shaders. The .ZIP folder you just installed should show up in this list, simply select it.

shader packs list
Enable a Shader Pack

When enabling the Shaders, Minecraft might freeze for a few moments (or minutes, depending on your system). Though when it’s done, head back into Minecraft and the world should look completely different.

Phillip Anderson
Hey, I'm Phillip Anderson! After studying Video Game Design at University, I began writing articles at PwrDown in my free time. I currently play my games on PC, but also own a PS4 & Nintendo Switch. I'm also a VR enthusiast, owning an Oculus Rift S where you might find me playing Beat Saber or Skyrim VR!