How To

Customize Particle System

How To Customize Particles

As you can find in Babylon101 there are many properties of the particle system that can be tweaked to control the look of a particle system. Babylon.js allows you even more customization to obtain the system you want. These can be split into into two types custom functions and custom effects.

Custom Functions

There are three methods you can customize:

  • startDirectionFunction: specifies the direction for each new particle;
  • startPositionFunction: specifies the start position for each new particle;
  • updateFunction: provides an update to each particle each frame and can effect position, color, age, size etc. Try to keep it simple and fast.

You can directly attach all these functions to the particleSystem.

Since Babylon.js V3.2 you can use the first two, startDirectionFunction and startPositionFunction, in creating a new particle emitter type as was done with the createBoxEmitter, createSphereEmitter and createConeEmitter.


The start direction function has the default form

particleSystem.startDirectionFunction = (emitPower: number, worldMatrix: Matrix, directionToUpdate: Vector3) {
    var randX = randomNumber(this.direction1.x, this.direction2.x);
    var randY = randomNumber(this.direction1.y, this.direction2.y);
    var randZ = randomNumber(this.direction1.z, this.direction2.z);

    Vector3.TransformNormalFromFloatsToRef(randX * emitPower, randY * emitPower, randZ * emitPower, worldMatrix, directionToUpdate);

The start position function has the default form

particleSystem.startPositionFunction = (worldMatrix: Matrix, positionToUpdate: Vector3): void => {
    var randX = randomNumber(this.minEmitBox.x, this.maxEmitBox.x);
    var randY = randomNumber(this.minEmitBox.y, this.maxEmitBox.y);
    var randZ = randomNumber(this.minEmitBox.z, this.maxEmitBox.z);

    Vector3.TransformCoordinatesFromFloatsToRef(randX, randY, randZ, worldMatrix, positionToUpdate);

The update function has the default form

updateFunction = function(particles) {
    for (var index = 0; index < particles.length; index++) {
        var particle = particles[index];
        particle.age += this._scaledUpdateSpeed;

        if (particle.age >= particle.lifeTime) { // Recycle
            particles.splice(index, 1);
        else {
            particle.colorStep.scaleToRef(this._scaledUpdateSpeed, this._scaledColorStep);

            if (particle.color.a < 0)

                particle.color.a = 0;

                particle.angle += particle.angularSpeed * this._scaledUpdateSpeed;

                particle.direction.scaleToRef(this._scaledUpdateSpeed, this._scaledDirection);

                this.gravity.scaleToRef(this._scaledUpdateSpeed, this._scaledGravity);

Two simple examples of customising the update function

Randomise the Particle's Color per Frame

Add the line in the else section

particle.color = new BABYLON.Color4(Math.random(), Math.random(), Math.random(), 1)

Grow Particles from Size 0 to a Final Size

A little trickier since the particles are to start from size 0 both min and max sizes must be 0 and a new property must be added to give the final size.

Add in main body of code

particleSystem.minSize = 0;
particleSystem.maxSize = 0;

particleSystem.finalSize = 1;

And the in the else section, to get the particle to final size by 35% of life time add

if (particle.age < particle.lifeTime * .35) {
    particle.size = particleSystem.finalSize * particle.age / (particle.lifeTime * 0.35);

Particle Emitter Type

Starting from Babylon.js V3.2 you can create a new object of type IParticleEmitterType into the particle system. Examples of this type of object are sphereParticleEmitter and coneParticleEmitter which are produced by using createSphereEmitter and createConeEmitter.

These objects are assigned to a new property particleEmitterType of the particleSystem.

You use the startDirectionFunction and startPositionFunction as methods for objects of this type to determine the region of space that the particles are emitted from and their direction of travel.

You can create your own ParticleEmitterType by extending IParticleEmitterType and assigning it to particleEmitterType, overiding the default methods startDirectionFunction and startPositionFunction.

Below is an example to create a new cylinder emitter which will send streams of particles out of the top, bottom and sides of the cylindrical region.

Create Cone Emitter

In order to determine where a particle is emitted from the cylinder is divided into two regions as in the diagram below.

cylinder emitter

Any particle with a start position inside the red region is emitted in the direction from the center to the particle. Any particle with a start position inside the blue region is emitted horizontally.

The createCylinderEmitter method sets the radius and height of the cylinder, creates a new CylinderParticleEmitter object which is assigned to the 'particleEmitterType` property.

BABYLON.ParticleSystem.prototype.createCylinderEmitter = function (radius, height) {
    if (radius === void 0) { 
        radius = 0.5;
    if (height === void 0) { 
        height = 1;
    var particleEmitter = new BABYLON.CylinderParticleEmitter(radius, height);
    this.particleEmitterType = particleEmitter;
    return particleEmitter;

The CylinderParticleEmitter class is formed with two methods startDirectionFunction and startPositionFunction and Babylon.js takes care of the rest.

var CylinderParticleEmitter = (function () {

    function CylinderParticleEmitter(radius, height, directionRandomizer) {
        if (radius === void 0) { radius = 0.5; }
        if (height === void 0) { height = 1; }
        if (directionRandomizer === void 0) { directionRandomizer = 0; }
        this.height = height;
        this.directionRandomizer = directionRandomizer;
        this.radius = radius;

    CylinderParticleEmitter.prototype.startDirectionFunction = function (emitPower, worldMatrix, directionToUpdate, particle) {
        var direction = particle.position.subtract(worldMatrix.getTranslation()).normalize();
        var randX = BABYLON.Scalar.RandomRange(0, this.directionRandomizer);
        var randY = BABYLON.Scalar.RandomRange(0, this.directionRandomizer);
        var randZ = BABYLON.Scalar.RandomRange(0, this.directionRandomizer);
        if(direction.x * direction.x + direction.z * direction.z > 0.1 * this.radius && Math.abs(direction.y) > 0.1 * this.height / 2) {
            direction.x += randX;
            direction.y = randY;
            direction.z += randZ;
        else {
            direction.x += randX;
            direction.y += randY;
            direction.z += randZ; 
        BABYLON.Vector3.TransformNormalFromFloatsToRef(direction.x * emitPower, direction.y * emitPower, direction.z * emitPower, worldMatrix, directionToUpdate); 

    CylinderParticleEmitter.prototype.startPositionFunction = function (worldMatrix, positionToUpdate, particle) {
        var s = BABYLON.Scalar.RandomRange(0, Math.PI * 2);
        var h = BABYLON.Scalar.RandomRange(-0.5, 0.5);             
        var radius = BABYLON.Scalar.RandomRange(0, this.radius);
        var randX = radius * Math.sin(s);
        var randZ = radius * Math.cos(s);
        var randY = h * this.height;
        BABYLON.Vector3.TransformCoordinatesFromFloatsToRef(randX, randY, randZ, worldMatrix, positionToUpdate);
    return CylinderParticleEmitter;
BABYLON.CylinderParticleEmitter = CylinderParticleEmitter;

Custom Effects

A custom effect is achieved via a fourth parameter when creating a new particle system

var particleSystem = new BABYLON.ParticleSystem("particles", 2000, scene, customEffect);

The customEffect is a type of BABYLON.Effect used to target a valid shader program and is created with the createEffectForParticles method of the engine object.

This method takes three parameters

var customEffect = engine.createEffectForParticles(fragment, uniforms, samplers);
  • fragment: string, the name of the fragment shader which can be in the shaders store or the id of a DOM element;
  • uniforms: [strings], array of uniforms used in the shader;
  • samplers: [strings], array of names of samplers for additional textures!

Fragment Shader Assignment

When assigning a fragment shader to the shader store the name should have FragmentShader appended. So for example the creation of a custom effect using fragment name myParticle would require a myParticleFragmentShader added to the shader store

BABYLON.Effect.ShadersStore["myParticleFragmentShader"] = [...]
var customEffect = engine.createEffectForParticles("myParticle", [...]);

Uniforms Assignment

By default Babylon.js will give you a vUV and a vColor varying parameter. It will also transmit you the particle texture.

You can add further uniform variables, for example to pass a uniform variable such as time, put it into the uniforms array

var customEffect = engine.createEffectForParticles("myParticle", [time]);

then pass it using setFloat with an onBind method for customEffect.

    var time = 0;
    var order = 0.1;

    customEffect.onBind = function () {
        customEffect.setFloat("time", time);

        time += order;

        if (time > 100 || time < 0) {
            order *= -1;

you can see an example of the above in this playground

Particle Effect Object

The particle effect object is a slightly-modified Babylon Effect Object. Also notice that the ShadersStore is a namespace upon this special effect-object.

Further Reading

Basic - L1

Particles Overview

Particles 101

How to Create Animated Particles
How to Use Sub Emitters

Solid Particle System