updated February 3rd, 2016
Maybe you've gotten sick of textures being really blurry when you smoosh your telescopically enhanced eyeballs against your computer monitor. Maybe you think that there's not enough bloom and god rays for that "cinematic feel" you want. Maybe you think that what a small city out on the open plains really needs is more trees. Maybe Skyrim's women just don't look enough like Barbie Dolls or that one crackwhore you fapped to on Xhamster a week ago. Whatever the case, you want graphics mods! Well we've piled through the piles of alleged 2k textures (which is, honestly, just somebody resizing the existing textures in GIMP and using a sharpen filter), found the least-bad ones, and put them all here for you to peruse, choose, and relentlessly abuse.
In this section, we will discuss:
-Armor, Weapons, and Clothes
-Creatures and Clutter
-Food and Potions
-Lights and Magic
-Caves and Terrain
This is not the BEST guide to having the BEST looking game. This is just a LIST of mods that will make your game look better and not a step by step modding process. The guide can be confusing for beginners because of all of the textures, meshes, and in which order you install them. We recommend you fiddle around with some of these mods first to understand the basics. I̶f̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶ ̶w̶a̶n̶t̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶-̶d̶e̶p̶t̶h̶ ̶g̶u̶i̶d̶e̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶g̶r̶a̶p̶h̶i̶c̶s̶,̶ ̶c̶h̶e̶c̶k̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶K̶n̶o̶t̶s̶'̶ ̶S̶k̶y̶r̶i̶m̶ ̶g̶u̶i̶d̶e̶,̶ ̶S̶T̶E̶P̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶T̶e̶x̶t̶u̶r̶e̶ ̶C̶o̶m̶b̶i̶n̶e̶r̶.̶ Actually nevermind, those guides have not been updated in YEARS. So don't even look at them anymore.
If you read the Essentials guide (as you should have) it says that you should get an ENB. If you haven't gotten an ENB or read the ENB page, you should do that now before moving on.
Mods for NPCs and characters are located in the Waifu and Husbando guides and are NOT in this one.
This might seem out of place, but we also recommend you to check out Hodilton's channel. He showcases many mods and ENBs. but what seperates him from every other person who does this is that his rig is AMAZING and it shows in his videos. He has one of the BEST looking modded Skyrim games out there and his videos will help find you new mods and give you inspiration to make your game look as good as his!
These mods are MASSIVE texture packs that hold many refurbished, redone, and even reimagined textures. They can range from the smallest of things like a cup to the largest of landscapes like a castle wall! Here we have listed the best overhauls to start off with. You can customize and switch between textures to find the best looking one's that fit your taste. Don't forget that these are just general texture packs. There are smaller one's that sometimes look better than the overhaul's but don't have a lot included since the packs are only for a specific item or area. If you want the BEST results don't use the official 2k textures by Bethesda.
Skyrim Ultra HD Pack
A fairly new and a fairly big clusterfuck of a texture overhaul. This mod adds new textures to a bunch of weird and random things. Tiny pieces of clutter like mushrooms are retextured as well as armor pieces like the chitin armor set from the Dragonborn DLC. There is no coherent pattern here and the textures are all over the place. They all look good and well made nonetheless.
Skyrim HD - 2k Textures
One of the biggest texture overhauls out there. This retextures everything from grass to buildings and ups the size of each texture to 2k resolution.
Serious HD Retexture Skyrim
A big texture pack like Skyrim HD, only this one focuses more on terrain....and Riften for some reason.
These are non-specific collections of mods that you can use to customize your game. You can interchange these textures to make the game the way you want it to. Now for even better looking textures, you gonna have to get some specific overhauls that work on one or two aspects of the game itself.
Also known as Static Mesh Improvement Mod. This mod remakes many of the games objects to have a higher polygon count thus making the objects smoother and less pointy. This mod is recommended for people who even don't have a strong rig. The mesh replacement alone makes your game look much better. This also includes the No Stretching fixes for mesh fixes so you don't need that mod anymore.
Bethesda Performance Textures
If your looking for some textures that look better than vanilla but won't make your crappy computer implode, then try out these. The Bethesda Peformance textures are edits of the Official HD pack released by Bethesda themselves. These however have been tailored for those who don't have a lot of VRAM to spare. Many of the new textures have new color tints, new contrast, and have been resized for best performance and best looks in-game.
Realistic Water 2
A graphical water overhaul. Not only does it make water look better, this mod changes some of the game cells and adds new types of water! So now still ponds, rivers, and ocean water won't all look the same. This also comes in plenty of different quality options depending on how well you can run the mod!
Real Ice - All in one
Overhauls all the ice textures in the game. This also comes with multiple packages to customize your ice whether you like it realistic or fantasy like crystals.
One of the biggest and most exstensive overhauls out there! The AmidianBorn series is a collection of textures for armor and weapons, but has recently been update with some architecture and creature retextures. The Book Of Silence has many of the files but sometimes Cabal doesn't update it everytime he releases something new. Check out his mod page for other armors and updates! Always check the original texture's page for updates before Book of Silence.
Bellyaches Animal and Creature Pack
Retexture pack for almost every animal in Skyrim. There are many variants you can choose and customize with.
Watercolor for ENB
This is just a simple plugin to change the color of the water making the Sunscattering effect of ENBseries more visible. The sunscattering effect simulates the waves of the water being illumiated when the sun is behind them. The effect will be most visible around dawn/dusk when the sun is low. Looks best with parallax and displacement! Works alongside with Realistic Water 2.
Blood was always meh in Elder Scrolls games, but this mod fixes that. Enhanced Blood adds new HD blood textures as well as new variants. So now if you're hit with a sword, you get a cut shaped blood splatter. Blood also drips out more and spreads across the floor where a dead body is.
Skyrim Realistic Texture Overhaul dragons makes dragons ridiculously high detailed. It comes in a 4k and the insane 8k resolutions. Not recommended for weak computers.
Langleys Textures Workshop
Just a bunch of random textures for everything. Use this to fill in empty gaps.
Quality Snow 4k
Probably the best snow mod out there right now because not only is it seamless, it comes with snowtextures for everything so that all the snow will match and won't look out of place!
Skill Interface Re-Texture
Overhauls the skill interface with brand new textures and options. For some reason this got removed from the Nexus, so here's a mediafire link thanks to our friendly neighborhood anon!
How your game's scenary looks is key to making the rest of your game. Sure you can have the best looking 8k textured armor, but it will look awful while your character is in an ugly looking forest. It's all about balance so that nothing sticks out too much.
If you are using the basic edition for SFO, try out Detailed Terrain and Tree's. This greatly improves the LODs for BASIC EDITION ONLY.
A very grand visual overhaul of Skyrim's flora. This mod adds new textures as well as more variety in trees, plants, and grass which make the game feel less copy paste. There's a regular variant, a basic variant, and a summer variant. The basic variant removes all of the hand placed trees and plants and extra tree variants. The summer variant makes skyrim brighter with greener textures and removal of some autumn trees and yellow grass.
Also try out Trees HD for some alternative tree textures. Do NOT use the meshes this mod gives you since they are old. Use the Meshes from SFO.
Skyrim Bigger Trees
This environment mod hand picks and increases the size of trees in certain areas of the game to feel a lot bigger and more fantasy like. The trees are REALLY BIG and numerous, so this mod might not suite everyone.
Simply Bigger Trees is a nice and lighter alternative to Skyrim Bigger Trees. This mod just edits all the tree meshes to be bigger.
Realistic Aspen Trees
Adds more variants and colors for aspen trees. There is a compatiblity patch with SFO but only for regular edition. Basic Edition and Summer Edition DO NOT need the patch and work fine with just the base package
Enhanced Landscapes is a project which aims to improve Skyrim's landscape with more objects. This includes floral objects, rocks, ruin clutter and a lot of other landscape assets.
As for mods that edit grass, there are plenty of options. Try them all out and see which you like best! ONLY USE ONE
Adds new grass variants scatterd all over Skyrim. These can range from weeds to flowers and can even be on roads too!
Another grass plugin that adds a variety of simple looking grasses
Unbelieveable Grass Two
Like the other two mods, adds new grasses to the game. These grasses however, are more muted in colored.
Unique Grasses Plugin
A quick and dirty patch for Unique Grasses that adds the rest of the unused grasses that were in the files.
Lighting is a very important part of making anything look good. Here are the two most popular ways to overhauling interior and exterior lighting in Skyrim.
Enhanced Lights and FX
Also know as ELFX. This is still a running project, but it's one of the best interior lighting mods right now. It overhauls and edits may room cells and adds new light sources and make old one's feel more realistic with smoke and shadow casting. Many of the vanilla cells are almost done, and now the author is working on Dawnguard and Dragonborn lighting!
There's also a new performance patch if you're using both ELFX and SMIM.
Relighting Skyrim and Enhanced Lighting fo ENB
The other method of overhauling the lighting system in Skyrim is using a combination of these two mods, Relighting Skyrim and Enhanced Lighting for ENB. Relighting Skyrim fixes a lot of the game's interior and exterior light sources, while not going too overboard with the baked lighting like in ELFX. This mod is also lighter than ELFX since it doesn't replace meshes and just edits a few lighting scripts. So if you need performance, Relighting Skyrim is a good match for you. The other mod that goes along with it is ELE. Thought his mod also works well with ELFX, it works better with Relighting Skyrim. ELE optimizes lighting in interiors for ENBs and fixes the unnatural looking brightness in interiors when ENB is on. If you wish to use ELE, please look at its compatible mod list as well as it's specific load orders for maximum performance.
This section is for textures that were not included in the AmidianBorn pack or optinal textures if you don't like AmidianBorn and want to try something else.
A work in progress mod that plans to add new high-res textures to vanilla clothing.
Finished mage robe textures from Rafuel's old texture project that he never finished.
Better looking textures for the Clavicus Vile mask.
Retextures EVERY hold's guard armor and shields.
The best dawnguard texture pack out right now! If you really don't like the vanilla textures, get this!
Skaal clothes HD revival is a high quality retexture for skaal clothes from the Dragonborn dlc.
This mod retextures all of the dunmer clothes and armor to be more dusty from because of the ashy landscape of Solstheim after the Red Year. Some armors like the chitin have also been retextured with dunmer symbols and markings.
Nightgale armor retexture. Comes in a cloth varient and a leather varient.
A retexture for the heavy stahlrim set from the Dragonborn DLC. The author said light stalhrim and weapons are coming soon!
A retexture for the daedric armor set and daedric weapons.
A retexture for steel, iron, and fur armors. These armors are retexture by Amidianborn but these textures are good as well and are a great alternative.
A simple retexture for Thieves Guild armor. It's better than the denim textures for sure and WAY better than the vanilla set. This pack includes all the thieves guild textures, which include the normal, master, sleeveless, and Linwi varients.
This is a texture overhaul for all of the mage robes, long robes, and the archmage's robe set. These new textures are high quality and feature intricate designs that really fit for a mage.
Rafuel is a texture maker who has retexture many of the robes in Skyrim and in the Dragonborn DLC. We highly recommend you use all of his robe retextures. Not only are they a higher resolution, Rafuel has put in extra detail into the robes and even made extra varients for them!
The Official HD pack link has textures for clothes only and is great to swap around 2X Clothing Re-Mix and other mods to make your own texture combination.
Adds several retextures for clothing that are upped resolutions or sharpened.
A retexture mod for the dragonpriest mask. It not only changed the colors of the masks themselves, but the cowls too. There is also subtle etchings in the masks that make each unique.
Retextured rings and amulets for that brilliant and rich designs jewelry should have.
What does this mod make better? Circlets!
New HD textures for Auriels Shield.
New HD textures for Auriels Bow.
New HD textures for Auriels Quiver.
New HD textures of Harkons sword. A blood edged katana folded over 6 billion times over... probably.
Replaces vanilla Amulet of Talos with a new model with a longer and sharper point at the end.
Now the pickaxe looks as sexy as the normal axe!
And my axe!
This mod replaces the dragonbone arrow and quiver models and textures. It also fixes the issue of the arrows in the original dragonbone quiver not disappearing as you run low.
Retexture and higher quality version of the Dawnguard Shield.
High quality texture for the Ebony Blade. Comes in 2k and 4k resolutions.
This mod adds to game the updated version of a dagger "Mehrunes' Razor" (completely standalone version). The three-dimensional model and textures of this blade were recreated completely from scratch and have nothing in common with the original version (except for the design). Dagger has optimized model (37090 tris) and high-resolution textures.
An Elven weapon texture made for the AmidianBorn Thalmorized elven armor.
Retexture of spellbreaker following color scheme from the oblivion version as well as making it HD.
Because everyone knows that every piece of random shit in this game needs to look like a masterpiece!
A collection of all the HD flora textures Renthal has made.
Nicer looking honey pot textures that look good enough to eat.
New textures for the deathbell and its glow maps for both the flower itself and the leaves.
You want an 8k flower? Take it.
New textures for trolls as well as armored trolls from the Dawnguard DLC.
East Empire Company signs are pretty now.
Makes the 5 or so business Ledger's in Skyrim look good.
A new 2k resolution bedroll texture allegedly made out of 2000 dead bunnies.
Replaces the old Skyrim map textures with new high textured and semi-colored maps for both the wall mounted maps and the static object maps.
High res textures for most monster enemies that have 2k, 4k, AND EVEN 8k resolution options. We recommend the skeleton textures above all else!
Makes Falmer even more ugly looking, which is a good thing by the way.
New textures for horn candles.
Very nice and clean looking horse textures that thankfully do not add any genitalia.
All the little effect textures Ramccoid have been combined into one big pack. The pack includes textures from DOOR
SOUL, SPRAY, DROPS, MIST, OIL, ELECTRIFY, RIPPLES, STEAM, ATMOSPHERE, RAIN, AURORA, STARS, SNOW, LEAVES, DANDELION SEEDS, DUST, WEBS extended
New textures for not only the draugr themselves, but for the armors they wear as well!
New high quality textures AND meshes for baskets, because they really needed it...
Retexture for dragon corpses.
A really nice texture mod that makes the death hounds look like fleshy undead hell hounds instead of looking like they're made of black liquorice.
A rug and carpet texture mod by the creator of all of those rustic texture mods. Gladly this mod wasn't called "Rustic Rugs". This mod adds brand new designs to the textures that are way more detailed and interesting than the vanilla textures or even the detailed rugs mod.
Adds new patterns and paper types to the scroll items.
High-res textures and modified meshes for all soulgems. The new meshes now include glowing soulgems.
HIGH QUALTY, HIGH RESOLUTION MANHOLE COVER.
New textures for noble furniture such as shelves, chests, chairs, and cabinets.
Adds new high quality wood textures for small and large boats. Also effects small the wooden houses because they share the same textures as the small row boats.
Weathered Road Signs.esp contains cell edits to most of the road signs throughout Skyrim. These edits mostly involve making the signs more informative and the surrounding areas a bit more interesting to look at. Some directional errors were fixed as well. The esp also adds a few road signs to places where they would be most useful and make sense.
Makes all the precious gems in the game look VALUABLE. All of them look like precision cut gems and the new meshes that come along with the mod make them look flawless.
A unique mesh and texture replacer for the divine shrines. Each shrine has THEIR own color palette which really makes sure that each shrine stands out on THEIR own. Some of the more metal looking shrines also have new reflections.
Makes your sack HD.
Makes your linens HD.
Makes ore and ingots look like they are actually made out of an earthly materials instead of looking like badly colored play-doh.
Makes your misc H-uhhh I mean, it makes miscellaneous objects like practice dummies and pots more detailed and at a higher resolution.
Adds new window textures that make windows look less like pixelated junk and more like real glass.
Improves the clutter in ruins like nordic urns and pots.
This mod replaces and adds more unique and diverse high quality textures to spiderwebs, cobwebs, and spider egg sacks. Perhaps...maybe too high quality.
PELTAPALOOZA is an expansion on my earlier mod Pelts of Skyrim. This increases the number of pelts used by the game from the default 3, to 9. Skyrim's pelts are controlled by three sets of (3) meshes: wall pelts, bed pelts, and floor pelts.
Jeclxohko is a modder who has made many new textures for misc items like the ones shown above. I have to say, these are are the BEST looking retextures for any clutter item or any normal item for that matter!
RUSTIC ALCHEMY and ENCHANTING TABLES is a rustic overhaul of the alchemy and enchanting tables of Skyrim. They now look like they're made of stone giving them a look of antiquity.
RUSTIC CLUTTER COLLECTION is what is sounds like, a collection of my recent RUSTIC series of retextures of common clutter items in Skyrim.
Are you thirsty, or are you hungry? If you are, take a break from this guide and get a snack.
Realistic HD Mushrooms
Gives the mushroom ingrediants with fine new meshes and textures that make them look a little TOO good.
Unique Booze Bottles
Adds new bottles and designs for the alchol in Skyrim. Bottles will look different with their tint and with the new labels on them that actually say what brand they are.
SLOD - Potions and Poisons
Retextured potions and poisons that come in four different variants that you can mix and match with. This means that you can have a really ornate potion bottle and a gritty old bottle for poisons!
Retexture for Soup
Now the soup items in Skyrim actually look tasty now instead of chunks of poop!
A mod that replaces all vanilla potion bottles with brand new potion models with new textures to go along with them. The contents inside of the potions are also animated too! Incompatible with other potion replacer mods.
Adds new textures for the hanging herbs and vegetables usually found in kitches and inns.
Retexture for Bread - Hearthfire
Adds new textures for bread and pastries from the Hearthfire DLC.
Lights and magic go hand in hand right guys? Right? RIGHT?!?!?!?!?
Deadly Spell Impacts
Spells leave nice looking craters wherever they hit. Ice looks like ice, fire makes burns, and shock spells can make colored craters! If you have any problems or freezes with this mod, check out the alternative ESP files and the low resolution textures.
Spell Tomes Replacer
Adds new replacer models and textures for spell tomes. You can choose for it to only effect regular or master tomes.
Burn Freeze Shock Effects
This is a great mod for any mage. Now when you kill someone with a fire spell, there body will actually burn to a crisp. When you kill someone with frost, they'll freeze and have ice chunks will stick all over them. When you kill someone with a shock spell, thier body will turn dark and crispy from the shock and their dead body will sometimes fidget because of it!
Horizon of Dreams
If Skyrim had a shitty looking sky, then people would have dropped this game a long time ago. Fortunately, it did have a nice looking sky; but mods can make that and stars look better!
Clouds look almost photorealistic and have more depth overall.
New textures for auroras that are more detailed a lot bigger that the original game's resolution.
This mod adds pseudo-volumetric clouds that move and cover the sky like real clouds would. Variations can differ between different allitudes and regions. A great mod to take screenshots with, but maybe not for playing because this mod can take a toll on performance.
Ultimate HD Fire Effects
BURN EVERYTHING. This also includes retextures for campfires and candles.
New textures for the placeable magic runes for the vanilla spells and the new Dragonborn spells.
Magic Runes HD
Enchantment Effect Replacer
This mod adds new textures for the enchantment effects on your weapons. There's a 2k resolution of the vanilla effect, random daedric letters effect, both of them at the same time, and an option to remove the effect entirely.
And rocks. I couldn't fit the rest in the title.
SkyFalls and SkyMills
More distance problems? Well this mod will also help. Waterfalls and windmills will still move even from a far distance so they won't look like frozen icicles.
Hectrol CAVES DELUXE
An amazing cave retexture overhaul! This mod will litreally make every cave you walk into look like Luray Caverns!
Remove Interior Fog
Removes that stupid fog in interior cells like dungeons and houses. Now you can actually see what's ten feet in front of you!
HD Detailed Terrain
Tired of your game 2011 AAA title game looking like Banjo-Kazooie from a far distant? Get this mod, it shall fix your problem. This modification will replace the boring, low detail, blurry and mundane Vanilla distant landscape textures. They will be replaced by 924 brand new High resolution textures with new noise maps as well.
Detailing the Eldrich
New high-res textures for Riekling architecture. The huts look less like they were made out of plastic towels and more like fur this time!
Fences of Skyrim
Tired of those badly aliased fences that you find in farms and towns? Well this mod will fix that! Fences of Skyrim replaces those ugly vanilla fences with new ones that will not show jagged edges!
Hein84 - Vivid Landscapes
Hein has made many texture mods for Skyrim. Most of his work is focused on rocks. As seen in his mods, he has some of the best mountain, ruins, and rock textures you can get! We suggest you replace whatever you have right now and use these mods instead! They are all top notch and come in different resolutions for how well you can run these. Now in one convient pack to install and download.
High Definition Ivy
Makes the ivy growing on some trees and buildings look better with some new 2k resolution textures. It comes in two versions, one is more like the vanilla colors which is a bluegreen and the other is bright green.
Vanderer - Vandr Presents
Vanderer has made a strange area of different textures, all bumped up to 2k resolution. His ENB is okay but his textures are great. The falmer pod and spider nest are the best looking out there. The Imperial fort texture can be compared to Hein84's textures. The mudcrab texture is totally optional, but if you want a 2k mudcrab, I won't stop you.
A collection of statue retextures and meshes created by AnTiWoMaAgNoT. After months have having them individually packed mods, they are now all in one!
Those little bush things look better now.
Probably the best road textures out right now. Each texture is at a 4k resolution and blends perfectly with the extra ground and dirt textures it provides to match with the roads. The snow roads are compatible with Quality Snow 4k, just remember to use the dark version.
Real Roads of Skyrim
Real Roads for Skyrim aims to bring life to the dull roads by using 3D meshes. So rocks aren't just painted onto the dirt now, they're actually bumping out of the ground even without parallax.
Dynamic Distant Objects LOD
Dynamic Distant Objects LOD (DynDOLOD) is a set of tools based on TES5Edit and TES5LODGen to automatically create a Skyrim mod based on the load order which adds distant LOD for objects to Skyrim. By combining DynDOLOD with TES5LODGen users can create drastically enhanced traditional static LOD plus tree LOD and a new, optional dynamic distant object LOD in a few 'simple' steps.
Another pack from the Skyrim Realistic Texture Overhaul mods. This pack includes retextures for most things dwemer related like architecture, but it also adds new textures for dwemer enemies.
Parallax High Hrothgar
Adds new textures and meshes just for High Hrothgar, that place you rarely even go to.
Textures for specific cities and holds.
Osmodius Solitude Textures
Adds new textures to Solitude which also supports Parallax maps.
Adds new textures to Windhelm which also supports Parallax maps.
Granite Markarth and Dwemer Ruins
Better looking stone and rock texture for the city of Markarth. Also supports Parllax maps.
You asked for it, and you shall recieve it!
A Quality World Map
The go to mod for a great looking map overhaul. This mod adds new high quality map textures that show the roads more clearly while still adding more detail around them. DO NOT use the classic map textures. If you want a paper texture map, use Warburgs.
This is a simple texture mod which adds visible borders to the various regions of Skyrim on the map. This also includes options for visible roads as well like A Quality World Map.
Warburgs 3D Paper World Map
Changes the map into a real paper map like in Oblivion. This also replaces the icons with paper themed ones.
Q: Why isn't this or that mod in the guide?
A: This guide was made specifically so that all or atleast most of the contents on this page will work together without any compatiblity issues unless notified on the mod page.
Q: Will you be adding more to these guides?
A: Of course! We'll try to keep all the guides up to date and will notify everyone if something has changed or has been added on. We also accept submissions if the mod is good enough!
Next part of the guide!
Q: What happend to No Stretching?
A: The fixes are already included in SMIM. Use that instead of No Stretching so that the meshes don't conflict with eachother.