I am not good with shaders. But for a 2D prototype I wanted to have a nice water effect. Something with reflection, deformation of what is underwater and coloration.

The result:

Shader in action

I made an easy-to-use unity package if you’d like to use it too:

It has been made with Unity 5.4.2f1 and has been tested on PC and mobile. But I don’t guarantee crazy performances or compatibility everywhere.

How it works

1/ Transparent bumped colored shader

  • a GrabPass, so it can display everything that has been drawn before
  • a Color to apply to the grabbed texture
  • bump mapping
  • an additional sinusoïdal deformation with the magnitude parameter

So it’s a simple transparent shader that applies a color and a light deformation, yep.

2/ Reflection

The reflection is just a simple trick. For every object we want to reflect in the water, we create a new mirroded sprite!

Step 1

The WaterReflectableScript will do it automagically. Simply add it to a sprite that should be reflected and, on runtime, a mirroded sprite will appear.

Step 2

And that’s it!

Step 3

The shader

As I say, I am not skilled in shader creation.

Please feel free to contribute and to correct all my mistakes, I’m sure this could be optimized.

Shader "Custom/Water2D Surface" {
Properties {
  _Color("Color", Color) = (1,1,1,1)
	_MainTex ("Normalmap", 2D) = "bump" {}
  _Magnitude("Magnitude", Range(0,1)) = 0.05

Category {

	Tags { "Queue"="Transparent" }

	SubShader {

		// This pass grabs the screen behind the object into a texture.
		// We can access the result in the next pass as _BackgroundTex
		GrabPass { "_BackgroundTex" }

		// Main pass: Take the texture grabbed above and use the bumpmap to perturb it
		// on to the screen
		Pass {
			Name "BASE"

      #pragma vertex vert
      #pragma fragment frag
      #include "UnityCG.cginc"

      struct vertexInput {
	      float4 vertex : POSITION;
	      float2 texcoord: TEXCOORD0;

      struct vertexOutput {
	      float4 vertex : SV_POSITION;
	      float4 uvgrab : TEXCOORD0;
	      float2 uvmain : TEXCOORD2;

      fixed4 _Color;
      sampler2D _MainTex;
      float4 _MainTex_ST;
      float _BumpAmt;
      float4 _BumpMap_ST;
      float  _Magnitude;

      vertexOutput vert (vertexInput v)
	      vertexOutput o;
	      o.vertex = mul(UNITY_MATRIX_MVP, v.vertex);
	      float scale = -1.0;
	      float scale = 1.0;
	      o.uvgrab.xy = (float2(o.vertex.x, o.vertex.y*scale) + o.vertex.w) * 0.5;
	      o.uvgrab.zw = o.vertex.zw;
	      o.uvmain = TRANSFORM_TEX( v.texcoord, _MainTex );
	      return o;

      sampler2D _BackgroundTex;
      float4 _GrabTexture_TexelSize;
      sampler2D _BumpMap;

      half4 frag (vertexOutput i) : SV_Target
	      // Calculate perturbed coordinates
        half4 bump = tex2D(_MainTex, i.uvmain);

        half2 distortion = UnpackNormal(bump).rg;
        i.uvgrab.xy += distortion * _Magnitude;

        // Get pixel in GrabTexture, rendered in previous pass
	      half4 col = tex2Dproj(_BackgroundTex, UNITY_PROJ_COORD(i.uvgrab));

        // Apply color
	      col *= _Color;

	      return col;



Thanks to Branden for the height map and inspiration. Check out his article for a similar solution with more details on the shaders.

Thanks to the Superpowers team for the demo assets.