I have a few HLSL files that I'd like to add into a DLL project so that I don't have to keep adding these same shader files into a new Content project every time I want to use them. Is this possible, or does the XNA framework have to compile the shader files beforehand?


3 Answers 3


I have another solution in addition to Russell's which allows you to use the content manager and allows you to embed all of the types of content XNA supports.

XNA supports the ContentManager though a resource instead of a content project. To use it do the below. Of course you will need to pass a reference of your game's services at some point.

ResourceContentManager Content = new ResourceContentManager(game.Services, Resource1.ResourceManager);

Use this to compile the shader or anything to a xnb.

Add any and all of the XNB to your resources. Them simply load your content as usual.


You don't actually need to have an actual content project: all you need to do is copy the effect XNBs to your output directories.

However, if you really want to embed them in a DLL first create a .resx in your DLL and add all the compiled effects to it (you can use fxc to make these - which can be found in the DirectX SDK, it's also available in the Content Pipeline API). At runtime use the byte array effect constructor to create effect from the resources. For example:

new Effect(GraphicsDevice, MyEffectResources.Blur, CompilerOptions.None, null);

Or for XNA 4.0:

new Effect(GraphicsDevice, MyEffectResources.Blur);

Keep in mind that you won't get the resource sharing that ContentManager does: you will have to roll your own mechanism to ensure that you only instantiate the effects once (e.g. a static Dictionary<string, Effect>).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have the CompilerOptions or the last parameter. Also, MyEffectResources.Blur the actual value needs to be byte[] and not a path to the Shaders .xnb file? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 11:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, so when you use a .resx file it will embed the byte[] in your assembly (as a ManifestResourceStream) - there are ways to get to embedded resources without using .resx, but .resx is far easier. Short article. All you need is the byte[] constructor - I just MSDN'd - I don't have XNA here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 12:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Does that really work from an XNB? I would have expected it to require a compiled shader (output from fxc) without the XNB wrapper. Also that's the pre-XNA 4.0 constructor you've posted (here it is for XNA 4.0). Shader compiling was actually included before XNA 4.0 (the Effect.CompileEffectFromSource method). [edit: seems I was slightly ninja'd] \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AndrewRussell I think you might be right about needing to use fxc instead of content projects. I never actually tried loading an effect from an XNB directly - but the same principle applies: embed it as a resource and load it at runtime. I'll update the link, thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ No problem. Should also note that fxc can be found in the DirectX SDK (I don't think we've mentioned that yet :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2011 at 13:07

I used the Stock Effects Sample to do just this, which also allows you to create a wrapper class that works like the standard effects.

There is a readme inside the sample download that explains exactly what to do. The sample contains a project that compiles shaders to a binary using the EffectProcessor class. You add the shader and subclass Effect in your library, build the binary and add it as a resource. Your Effect subclass then passes the binary into the Effect constructor.

So I just reference the library from my game project and go var effect = new AwesomeEffect()

  • \$\begingroup\$ Howdy LukeN, this answer would be great if you went into some details about how you performed the modification. I know the question asks "Is is possible?" So technically (since you're essentially just saying "Yes") this is correct, but might as well go the extra mile right? Especially since it's already been shown to be possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – House
    Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 22:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Enough extra explanation? There's an explanation in the sample, but I neglected to actually mention that it was in there \$\endgroup\$
    – LukeN
    Commented Jul 12, 2012 at 1:19

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