Design a title screen

In the next two tutorials, you will build two responsive UI (user interface) scenes step-by-step using the engine’s UI system:

  1. A main menu
  2. A game UI with a health bar, energy bar, bomb and money counters

You will learn how to design game UI efficiently, and how to use Godot’s Control nodes. This page focuses on the visual part: everything you do from the editor. To learn how to code a life bar, read Design the GUI

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The GUI you’re going to create

Download the project files: ui_main_menu_design.zip and extract the archive. Import the start/ project in Godot to follow this tutorial. The end/ folder contains the final result.

How to design your game UI

To design a good UI, you want to come up with a rough mockup first: a plain drawing version that focuses on the placement of your UI components, their size, and user interaction. Pen and paper is all you need. You shouldn’t use fancy and final graphics at this stage. Then, you only need simple placeholder sprites and you’re good to jump into Godot. You want to make sure the players can find their way around the interface using those placeholders.

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The UI’s rough plan or mockup

Placeholder doesn’t have to mean ugly, but you should keep the graphics simple and clean. Avoid special effects, animation, and detailed illustration before you had players playtest your UI. Otherwise:

  1. The graphics might skew the players’ perception of the experience and you’ll miss out on valuable feedback
  2. If the User Experience doesn’t work, you’ll have to redo some sprites

Tip

Always try to make the interface work with simple text and boxes first. It’s easy to replace the textures later. Professional UX designers often work with plain outlines and boxes in greyscale. When you take colors and fancy visuals away, it’s a lot easier to size and place UI elements properly. It helps you refine the design foundation you’ll build upon.

There are two ways to design your UI in Godot. You can:

  1. Build it all in a single scene, and eventually save some branches as reusable scenes
  2. Build template scenes for reusable components and create specific components that inherit from your base scenes

We will use the first approach, because the first version of your UI may not work as well as you’d like. You’re likely to throw parts away and redesign components as you go. When you’re sure everything works, it’s easy to make some parts reusable, as you’ll see below.

Please download ui_main_menu_design.zip. It contains all the files you’ll need to follow along. You’ll find all the sprites in the start/assets/main_menu folder.

../../_images/ui_main_menu_placeholder_assets.png

The files you’ll find in Godot. The graphics look cleaner than on the rough design, but they’re still placeholders

Design the main menu

Before we jump into the editor, we want to plan how we’ll nest containers based on our mockup image.

Break down the UI mockup

Here are my three rules of thumb to find the right containers:

  1. Break down the UI into nested boxes, from the largest that contains everything, to the smallest ones, that encompass one widget, like a bar with its label, a panel or a button
  2. If there’s some padding around an area, use a MarginContainer
  3. If the elements are arranged in rows or columns, use an HBoxContainer or VBoxContainer

These rules are enough to get us started, and work well for simple interfaces.

For the main menu, the largest box is the entire game window. There’s padding between the edges of the window and the first components: this should be a MarginContainer. Then, the screen is split into two columns, so we’ll use an HBoxContainer. In the left column, we’ll manage the rows with a VBoxContainer. And in the right column, we’ll center the illustration with a CenterContainer.

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Interface building blocks, broken down using the three rules of thumb

Tip

Containers adapt to the window’s resolution and width-to-height ratio. Although we could place UI elements by hand, containers are faster, more precise, and responsive.

Prepare the Main Menu scene

Let’s create the main menu. We’ll build it in a single scene. To create an empty scene, click on the Scene menu -> New Scene.

We have to add a root node before we can save the scene. Your UI’s root should be the outermost container or element. In this case it’s a MarginContainer. MarginContainer is a good starting point for most interfaces, as you often need padding around the UI. Press Meta+S to save the scene to the disk. Name it MainMenu.

Select the MarginContainer again, and head to the inspector to define the margins’ size. Scroll down the Control class, to the Custom Constants section. Unfold it. Set the margins as such:

  • Margin Right: 120
  • Margin Top: 80
  • Margin Left: 120
  • Margin Bottom: 80

We want the container to fit the window. In the Viewport, open the Layout menu and select the last option, Full Rect.

Add the UI sprites

Select the MarginContainer, and create the UI elements as TextureRect nodes. We need:

  1. The title, or logo
  2. The three text options, as individual nodes
  3. The version note
  4. And the main menu’s illustration

Click the Add Node button or press Meta+A on your keyboard. Start to type TextureRect to find the corresponding node and press enter. With the new node selected, press Meta+D five times to create five extra TextureRect instances.

Click each of the nodes to select it. In the inspector, click the Icon to the right of the Texture property, and click on Load. A file browser opens and lets you pick a sprite to load into the texture slot.

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The file browser lets you find and load textures

Repeat the operation for all TextureRect nodes. You should have the logo, the illustration, the three menu options and the version note, each as a separate node. Then, double click on each of the nodes in the Inspector to rename them

../../_images/ui_main_menu_6_texturerect_nodes.png

The six nodes, with textures loaded

Note

If you want to support localization in your game, use Labels for menu options instead of TextureRect.

Add containers to place UI elements automatically

Our main menu has some margin around the edges of the screen. It is split in two parts: on the left, you have the logo and the menu options. On the right, you have the characters. We can use one of two containers to achieve this: HSplitContainer or HBoxContainer. Split containers split the area into two: a left and a right side or a top and a bottom side. They also allow the user to resize the left and right areas using an interactive bar. On the other hand, HBoxContainer just splits itself into as many columns as it has children. Although you can deactivate the split container’s resize behaviour, I recommend to favour box containers.

Select the MarginContainer and add an HBoxContainer. Then, we need two containers as children of our HBoxContainer: a VBoxContainer for the menu options on the left, and a CenterContainer for the illustration on the right.

../../_images/ui_main_menu_containers_step_1.png

You should have four nested containers, and the TextureRect nodes sitting aside from it

In the node tree, select all the TextureRect nodes that should go on the left side: the logo, the menu options and the version note. Drag and drop them into the VBoxContainer. Then, drag the illustration node into the CenterContainer. The nodes should position automatically.

../../_images/ui_main_menu_containers_step_2.png

Containers automatically place and resize textures

We’re left with two problems to solve:

  1. The characters on the right aren’t centered
  2. There’s no space between the logo and the other UI elements

To center the characters on the right, we’ll use a CenterContainer. Add a CenterContainer node inside the VBoxContainer, then drag and drop the Characters into it. The Characters element will center automatically.

../../_images/ui_main_menu_containers_step_3.png

The character node centers inside the right half of the screen as soon as you place it inside the CenterContainer

To space out the menu options and the logo on the left, we’ll use one final container and its size flags. Select the VBoxContainer and press Meta+A to add a new node inside it. Add a second VBoxContainer and name it “MenuOptions”. Select all three menu options, Continue, NewGame and Options, and drag and drop them inside the new VBoxContainer. The UI’s layout should barely change, if at all.

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Place the new container between the other two nodes to retain the UI’s layout

Now we grouped the menu options together, we can tell their container to expand to take as much vertical space as possible. Select the MenuOptions node. In the Inspector, scroll down to the Size Flags category. Click on the field to the right of the Vertical property, and check Expand. The container expands to take all the available vertical space. But it respects its neighbors, the Logo and Version elements.

To center the nodes in the VBoxContainer, scroll to the top of the Inspector and change the Alignment property to Center.

../../_images/ui_main_menu_containers_step_5.png

The menu options should center vertically in the UI’s left column

To wrap things up, let’s add some separation between the menu options. Expand the Custom Constants category below Size Flags, and click the field next to the Separation parameter. Set it to 30. Once you press enter, the Separation property becomes active and Godot adds 30 pixels between menu options.

../../_images/ui_main_menu_design_final_result.png

The final interface

Without a single line of code, we have a precise and responsive main menu.

Congratulations for getting there! You can download the final menu to compare with your own. In the next tutorial, you’ll create a Game User Interface with bars and item counters.

Break down the UI mockup

Responsive User Interface is all about making sure our UIs scale well on all screen types. TV screens and computer displays have different sizes and ratios. In Godot, we use containers to control the position and the size of UI elements.

The order in which you nest matters. To see if your UI adapts nicely to different screen ratios, select the root node, press the Q key to activate the Select Mode, select the container and click and drag on one of the container’s corners to resize it. The UI components should flow inside of it.

You’ll notice that although containers move sprites around, they don’t scale them. This is normal. We want the UI system to handle different screen ratios, but we also need the entire game to adapt to different screen resolutions. To do this, Godot scales the entire window up and down.

You can change the scale mode in the project settings: click the Project menu -> Project Settings. In the window’s left column, look for the Display category. Click on the Window sub-category. On the right side of the window, you’ll find a Stretch section. The three settings, Mode, Aspect, and Shrink, control the screen size. For more information, see Project Settings.