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Custom Post Effects

In this tutorial, you'll learn how to create a custom watercolor post effect in PlayCanvas that applies a softening filter and a paper grain texture to your scene. By the end of this guide, you'll have a visually appealing watercolor effect that you can apply to any 3D scene.

Step 1: Setting Up Your Shaders

First, we need to create the shaders that will define our watercolor effect. You'll create two shader assets: a vertex shader and a fragment shader.

Vertex Shader (watercolor.vert)

The vertex shader will pass the UV coordinates from the vertices to the fragment shader. Create a new shader asset in PlayCanvas and name it watercolor.vert. Then, copy and paste the following code:

attribute vec2 aPosition;

varying vec2 vUv0;

void main(void)
gl_Position = vec4(aPosition, 0.0, 1.0);
vUv0 = (aPosition.xy + 1.0) * 0.5;

Fragment Shader (watercolor.frag)

The fragment shader will apply the watercolor effect using the color buffer texture and UV coordinates. Create another shader asset named watercolor.frag and insert the following code:

precision mediump float;

// The texture containing our rendered scene
uniform sampler2D uColorBuffer;

// The UV coordinates passed from the vertex shader
varying vec2 vUv0;

// Function to create a simple paper grain texture
float paperTexture(vec2 uv) {
// Create a pseudo-random pattern based on UV coordinates
float grain = fract(sin(dot(uv, vec2(12.9898, 78.233))) * 43758.5453);
// Modulate the grain intensity
grain = smoothstep(0.3, 0.7, grain);
return grain;

void main(void) {
// Sample the color from the scene texture at this fragment's UV coordinates
vec4 sceneColor = texture2D(uColorBuffer, vUv0);

// Apply a softening filter to mimic watercolor fluidity
// Blend with neighboring pixels (basic blur)
vec4 blurColor = vec4(0.0);
float offset = 0.003; // Offset for neighboring pixels; adjust for blur amount
for (int x = -1; x <= 1; x++) {
for (int y = -1; y <= 1; y++) {
blurColor += texture2D(uColorBuffer, vUv0 + vec2(x, y) * offset);
blurColor /= 9.0;

// Mix original color with blurred version
vec4 mixedColor = mix(sceneColor, blurColor, 0.5);

// Overlay the paper texture
float grain = paperTexture(vUv0 * 10.0); // Tiling of the grain texture
mixedColor.rgb += mixedColor.rgb * grain * 0.1; // Modulate to adjust intensity

// Output the final color
gl_FragColor = mixedColor;

Step 2: Creating the Watercolor Effect Script

Now, you'll create a script to apply the shaders to your scene. Create a new script in PlayCanvas and name it watercolor.js. Paste in the code provided:

//--------------- POST EFFECT DEFINITION------------------------//
class WatercolorEffect extends pc.PostEffect {
constructor(graphicsDevice, vs, fs) {

this.shader = new pc.Shader(graphicsDevice, {
attributes: {
vshader: vs,
fshader: fs

// Every post effect must implement the render method which
// sets any parameters that the shader might require and
// also renders the effect on the screen
render(inputTarget, outputTarget, rect) {
// Set the input render target to the shader. This is the image rendered from our camera

// Draw a full screen quad on the output target. In this case the output target is the screen.
// Drawing a full screen quad will run the shader that we defined above
pc.drawFullscreenQuad(this.device, outputTarget, this.vertexBuffer, this.shader, rect);

//--------------- SCRIPT DEFINITION------------------------//
var Watercolor = pc.createScript('watercolor');

Watercolor.attributes.add('vs', {
type: 'asset',
assetType: 'shader',
title: 'Vertex Shader'

Watercolor.attributes.add('fs', {
type: 'asset',
assetType: 'shader',
title: 'Fragment Shader'

// initialize code called once per entity
Watercolor.prototype.initialize = function() {
const effect = new WatercolorEffect(, this.vs.resource, this.fs.resource);

// add the effect to the camera's postEffects queue
const queue =;

// when the script is enabled add our effect to the camera's postEffects queue
this.on('enable', function () {
queue.addEffect(effect, false);

// when the script is disabled remove our effect from the camera's postEffects queue
this.on('disable', function () {

Remember to parse the script so that the Editor knows about the script's attributes!

Step 3: Applying the Effect to a Camera

To see your watercolor effect in action, you need to apply it to a camera in your scene:

  • Create a new entity with a camera component if you haven't already.
  • Add a script component to the camera entity and assign the watercolor script to it.
  • Assign the watercolor.vert and watercolor.frag shader assets to the corresponding attributes in the watercolor script component.

Now, when you play your scene, you should see the watercolor effect applied, giving your scene a soft, artistic look.

See the Custom Post Effects project here.