What are OSL shaders?

OSL is an acronym for Open Shading Language.
Developed Originally at Sony Pictures Imageworks for the Arnold render engine, Open Shading language is a C like programming language with which custom material, textures and shading effects can be developed OSL shaders (*.osl files), that are supported many by popular render engines.

OSL allows development of complex texturing and shading effects using scene input parameters like the shading point’s world position vector, normal vector, UV coordinates etc., and optical ray-tracing  functions – BSDF*’s or “Color Closures” as they are called in OSL, like Diffuse, Glossy, Refraction light scattering etc. that can be combined with C  logic and math programming.

*.osl files are compiled to *.oso file for rendering.
Most render engines supporting OSL shaders ship with an OSL compiler.


Useful OSL shader libraries found on the web:

> OSL Shaders for download on the Chaos Group website:

> OSL Shaders for download at the Autodesk Developer Network Github repository:
These are the OSL shaders that ship with 3ds max 2019 or newer, and are providing texture and pattern processing tools, but not materials.
* Material shaders or “Closures” as they are referred to in OSL are not supported by 3ds max’s native implementation of OSL.

> A library of OSL shaders collected by Shane Ambler:



  1. In general, OSL shaders are supported only in CPU Rendering, but not supported by GPU renderers. There are some attempts to develop OSL support for GPU renderers, But as far as I know they are limited.
  2. Some OSL shaders will work on one or more render engines, and not work as expected on other render engines. the reason being that each render engine has it’s own implementation of OSL.
    These differences may show in a different rendered result and also compile failure.


Basic example:
The following example renders show how a combination of two basic OSL shaders iv’e written, one of which is a dielectric material shader, and the other a color/angle blend procedural texture, produce fairly consistent results when rendered in different render engines.
* note the difference in specular glossy roughness interpretation for the same 0.1 value..

> You’r welcome to download these two basic OSL shaders here.

Arnold for Maya:
Annotation 2020-05-22 213609

V-Ray for 3ds max:
Annotation 2020-05-22 213629

Cycles for Blender:
Annotation 2020-05-22 213723



  1. Using OSL shaders in Arnold for Maya
  2. Using OSL shaders in V-Ray for 3ds max
  3. Using OSL shaders in Blender & Cycles
  4. Writing a basic OSL color shader