Specifying Root Signatures in HLSL

Specifying root signatures in HLSL Shader Model 5.1 is an alternative to specifying them in C++ code.

An example HLSL Root Signature

A root signature can be specified in HLSL as a string. The string contains a collection of comma-separated clauses that describe root signature constituent components. The root signature should be identical across shaders for any one pipeline state object (PSO). Here is an example:

Root Signature Version 1.0

                         "DENY_VERTEX_SHADER_ROOT_ACCESS), " \
              "CBV(b0, space = 1), " \
              "SRV(t0), " \
              "UAV(u0, visibility = SHADER_VISIBILITY_GEOMETRY), " \
              "DescriptorTable( CBV(b0), " \
                               "UAV(u1, numDescriptors = 2), " \
                               "SRV(t1, numDescriptors = unbounded)), " \
              "DescriptorTable(Sampler(s0, numDescriptors = 2)), " \
              "RootConstants(num32BitConstants=1, b9), " \
              "DescriptorTable( UAV(u3), " \
                               "UAV(u4), " \
                               "UAV(u5, offset=1)), " \

              "StaticSampler(s2)," \
              "StaticSampler(s3, " \
                             "addressU = TEXTURE_ADDRESS_CLAMP, " \
                             "filter = FILTER_MIN_MAG_MIP_LINEAR )"

Root Signature Version 1.1

Root Signature Version 1.1 enables driver optimizations on root signature descriptors and data.

                         "DENY_VERTEX_SHADER_ROOT_ACCESS), " \
              "CBV(b0, space = 1, flags = DATA_STATIC), " \
              "SRV(t0), " \
              "UAV(u0), " \
              "DescriptorTable( CBV(b1), " \
                               "SRV(t1, numDescriptors = 8, " \
                               "        flags = DESCRIPTORS_VOLATILE), " \
                               "UAV(u1, numDescriptors = unbounded, " \
                               "        flags = DESCRIPTORS_VOLATILE)), " \
              "DescriptorTable(Sampler(s0, space=1, numDescriptors = 4)), " \
              "RootConstants(num32BitConstants=3, b10), " \
              "StaticSampler(s1)," \
              "StaticSampler(s2, " \
                             "addressU = TEXTURE_ADDRESS_CLAMP, " \
                             "filter = FILTER_MIN_MAG_MIP_LINEAR )"

This definition would give the following root signature, noting:

  • The use of default parameters.
  • b0 and (b0, space=1) do not conflict
  • u0 is only visible to the geometry shader
  • u4 and u5 are aliased to the same descriptor in a heap

a root signature specified using the high level shader language

The HLSL root signature language closely corresponds to the C++ root signature APIs and has equivalent expressive power. The root signature is specified as a sequence of clauses, separated by comma. The order of clauses is important, as the order of parsing determines the slot position in the root signature. Each clause takes one or more named parameters. The order of parameters is not important, however.


The optional RootFlags clause takes either 0 (the default value to indicate no flags), or one or several of predefined root flags values, connected via the OR ‘|’ operator. The allowed root flag values are defined by D3D12_ROOT_SIGNATURE_FLAGS.

For example:

RootFlags(0) // default value – no flags

Root Constants

The RootConstants clause specifies root constants in the root signature. Two mandatory parameters are: num32BitConstants and bReg (the register corresponding to BaseShaderRegister in C++ APIs) of the cbuffer. The space (RegisterSpace in C++ APIs) and visibility (ShaderVisibility in C++) parameters are optional, and the default values are:

RootConstants(num32BitConstants=N, bReg [, space=0, 
              visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL ])

For example:

RootConstants(num32BitConstants=3, b3)


Visibility is an optional parameter that can have one of the values from D3D12_SHADER_VISIBILITY.

SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL broadcasts the root arguments to all shaders. On some hardware this has no cost, but on other hardware there is a cost to fork the data to all the shader stages. Setting one of the options, such as SHADER_VISIBILITY_VERTEX, limits the root argument to a single shader stage.

Setting root arguments to single shader stages allows the same bind name to be used at different stages. For example, an SRV binding of t0,SHADER_VISIBILITY_VERTEX and SRV binding of t0,SHADER_VISIBILITY_PIXEL would be valid. But if the visibility setting was t0,SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL for one of the bindings, the root signature would be invalid.

Root-level CBV

The CBV (constant buffer view) clause specifies a root-level constant buffer b-register Reg entry. Note that this is a scalar entry; it is not possible to specify a range for the root level.

CBV(bReg [, space=0, visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL ])    //   Version 1.0
CBV(bReg [, space=0, visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL,      // Version 1.1

Root-level SRV

The SRV (shader resource view) clause specifies a root-level SRV t-register Reg entry. Note that this is a scalar entry; it is not possible to specify a range for the root level.

SRV(tReg [, space=0, visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL ])    //   Version 1.0
SRV(tReg [, space=0, visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL,      // Version 1.1

Root-level UAV

The UAV (unordered access view) clause specifies a root-level UAV u-register Reg entry. Note that this is a scalar entry; it is not possible to specify a range for the root level.

UAV(uReg [, space=0, visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL ])    //   Version 1.0
UAV(uReg [, space=0, visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL,      // Version 1.1
            flags=DATA_VOLATILE ])

For example:


Descriptor Table

The DescriptorTable clause is itself a list of comma-separated descriptor table clauses, as well as an optional visibility parameter. The DescriptorTable clauses include CBV, SRV, UAV, and Sampler. Note that their parameters differ from those of the root-level clauses.

DescriptorTable( DTClause1, [ DTClause2, … DTClauseN,
                 visibility=SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL ] )

The Descriptor Table CBV has the following syntax:

CBV(bReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND ])   // Version 1.0
CBV(bReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND      // Version 1.1

For example:

DescriptorTable(CBV(b0),SRV(t3, numDescriptors=unbounded))

The mandatory parameter bReg specifies the start Reg of the cbuffer range. The numDescriptors parameter specifies the number of descriptors in the contiguous cbuffer range; the default value being 1. The entry declares a cbuffer range[Reg, Reg + numDescriptors - 1], when numDescriptors is a number. If numDescriptors is equal to "unbounded", the range is [Reg, UINT_MAX], which means the app must ensure it is not referencing an out-of-bounds area. The offset field represents the OffsetInDescriptorsFromTableStart parameter in the C++ APIs, that is, the offset (in descriptors) from the start of the table. If the offset is set to DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND (the default), it means the range is directly after the previous range. However, entering specific offsets does allow for ranges to overlap each other, allowing register aliasing.

The Descriptor Table SRV has the following syntax:

SRV(tReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND ])    // Version 1.0
SRV(tReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND,      // Version 1.1

This is similar to the descriptor table CBV entry, except the specified range is for shader resource views.

The Descriptor Table UAV has the following syntax:

UAV(uReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND ])    // Version 1.0
UAV(uReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND,      // Version 1.1
            flags=DATA_VOLATILE ])

This is similar to the descriptor table CBV entry, except the specified range is for unordered access views.

The Descriptor Table Sampler has the following syntax:

Sampler(sReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND ])  // Version 1.0
Sampler(sReg [, numDescriptors=1, space=0, offset=DESCRIPTOR_RANGE_OFFSET_APPEND,    // Version 1.1
                flags=0 ])

This is similar to the descriptor table CBV entry, except the specified range is for shader samplers. Note that Samplers can’t be mixed with other types of descriptors in the same descriptor table (since they are in a separate descriptor heap).

Static Sampler

The static sampler represents the D3D12_STATIC_SAMPLER_DESC structure. The mandatory parameter for StaticSampler is a scalar, sampler s-register Reg. Other parameters are optional with default values shown below. Most fields accept a set of predefined enums.

StaticSampler( sReg,
              [ filter = FILTER_ANISOTROPIC, 
                addressU = TEXTURE_ADDRESS_WRAP,
                addressV = TEXTURE_ADDRESS_WRAP,
                addressW = TEXTURE_ADDRESS_WRAP,
                mipLODBias = 0.f,
                maxAnisotropy = 16,
                comparisonFunc = COMPARISON_LESS_EQUAL,
                borderColor = STATIC_BORDER_COLOR_OPAQUE_WHITE,
                minLOD = 0.f,         
                maxLOD = 3.402823466e+38f,
                space = 0, 
                visibility = SHADER_VISIBILITY_ALL ])

For example:

StaticSampler(s4, filter=FILTER_MIN_MAG_MIP_LINEAR)

The parameter options are very similar to the C++ API calls, except for borderColor, which is restricted to an enum in HLSL.

The filter field can be one of D3D12_FILTER.

The address fields can each be one of D3D12_TEXTURE_ADDRESS_MODE.

The comparison function can be one of D3D12_COMPARISON_FUNC.

The border color field can be one of D3D12_STATIC_BORDER_COLOR.

Visibility can be one of D3D12_SHADER_VISIBILITY.

Compiling an HLSL root signature

There are two mechanisms to compile an HLSL root signature. First, it is possible to attach a root signature string to a particular shader via the RootSignature attribute (in the following example, using the MyRS1 entry point):

float4 main(float4 coord : COORD) : SV_Target

The compiler will create and verify the root signature blob for the shader and embed it alongside the shader byte code into the shader blob. The compiler supports root signature syntax for shader model 5.0 and higher. If a root signature is embedded in a shader model 5.0 shader and that shader is sent to the D3D11 runtime, as opposed to D3D12, the root signature portion will get silently ignored by D3D11.

The other mechanism is to create a standalone root signature blob, perhaps to reuse it with a large set of shaders, saving space. The Effect-Compiler Tool (FXC) supports both rootsig_1_0 androotsig_1_1 shader models. The name of the define string is specified via the usual /E argument. For example:

fxc.exe /T rootsig_1_1 MyRS1.hlsl /E MyRS1 /Fo MyRS1.fxo

Note that the root signature string define can also be passed on the command line, e.g, /D MyRS1=”…”.

Manipulating root signatures with the FXC compiler

The FXC compiler creates shader byte-code from HLSL source files. There are a lot of optional parameters for this compiler, refer to the Effect-Compiler Tool.

For managing HLSL authored root signatures, the following table gives some examples of using FXC.

Line Command line Description
1 fxc /T ps_5_1 shaderWithRootSig.hlsl /Fo rs1.fxo Compiles a shader for the pixel shader 5.1 target, the shader source is in the shaderWithRootSig.hlsl file, which includes a root signature. The shader and root signature are compiled as separate blobs in the rs1.fxo binary file.
2 fxc /dumpbin rs1.fxo /extractrootsignature /Fo rs1.rs.fxo Extracts the root signature from the file created by line 1, so the rs1.rs.fxo file contains just a root signature.
3 fxc /dumpbin rs1.fxo /Qstrip_rootsignature /Fo rs1.stripped.fxo Removes the root signature from the file created by line 1, so the rs1.stripped.fxo file contains a shader with no root signature.
4 fxc /dumpbin rs1.stripped.fxo /setrootsignature rs1.rs.fxo /Fo rs1.new.fxo Combines a shader and root signature that are in separate files into a binary file containing both blobs. In this example rs1.new.fx0 would be identical to rs1.fx0 in line 1.
5 fxc /T rootsig_1_0 rootSigAndMaybeShaderInHereToo.hlsl /E RS1 /Fo rs2.fxo Creates a stand-alone root signature binary file from a source that may contain more than just a root signature. Note the rootsig_1_0 target, and that RS1 is the name of the root signature (#define) macro string in the HLSL file.


The functionality available through FXC is also available programmatically using the D3DCompile function. This call compiles a shader with a root signature, or stand-alone root signature (setting the rootsig_1_0 target). D3DGetBlobPart and D3DSetBlobPart can extract and attach root signatures to an existing blob.  D3D_BLOB_ROOT_SIGNATURE is used to specify the root signature blob part type. D3DStripShader removes the root signature (using the D3DCOMPILER_STRIP_ROOT_SIGNATURE flag) from the blob.



Whereas the offline compilation of shaders is strongly recommended, if shaders have to be compiled at runtime, refer to the remarks for D3DCompile2.



Existing HLSL assets do not need to be changed to handle root signatures to be used with them.


Dynamic Indexing using HLSL 5.1

HLSL Shader Model 5.1 Features for Direct3D 12

Resource Binding

Resource Binding in HLSL

Root Signatures

Shader Model 5.1

Shader Specified Stencil Reference Value

Typed Unordered Access View Loads