updated December 16th, 2014
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
-Food and Potions
-Lighting and Magic
-Caves and Terrain
In the Rift
Tavern with ELFX
Oh look a dead guy
That's not a moose
Clutter and honey
Bee and Barb
Dragonsreach at night
It's a map
Talos guide you
Before we begin...
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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. If you want more in-depth guides on graphics, check out Knots' Skyrim guide, STEP, and Texture Combiner.
Knots' guide and STEP will help retexture your game step by step with a large array of mods, even more mods that are listed in this guide!
Texture Pack Combiner is actually a program that automatically installs the best textures for you. There are several downsides to using this however. First off, you can't really customize it with your own choice of mods. Second, you still have to download all the required mods to make this work. Finally, this takes a really long time to do; like hours long! This is just to compile all install the mods together, who knows how long it takes to download all the mods needed!
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!
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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.
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 varient, a basic varient, and a summer varient. The basic varient removes all of the hand placed trees and plants and extra tree varients. The summer varient 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.
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.
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.
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.
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Bellyaches Animal and Creature Pack
Retexture pack for almost every animal in Skyrim. There are many variants you can choose and customize with.
Blood was always meh in Elder Scrolls games, but this mod fixes that. Enhanced Blood adds new HD blood textures as well as new varients. 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.
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.
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.
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!
Ultimate Lush Overhaul
Make your trees filled with life and energy! This mesh replacer adds and makes tree and plant meshes so lush that they can actualy blot out the sun!
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!
Adds new grass varients scatterd all over Skyrim. These can range from weeds to flowers and can even be on roads too!
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
Better Dynamic Snow
Makes the snow on building, steps, and objects less like mayo and more like snow.
Unique Grasses Plugin
A quick and dirty patch for Unique Grasses that adds the rest of the unused grasses that were in the files.
This mod retextures the blowing snow effects that are seen in the artic type areas of Skyrim. This is achieved by retexturing smoke used in the game. Snow effect meshes use these new textures so they will not interfere with the smoke used in other parts of the game.
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.
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!
Hale Horse Texture
Very nice looking horse textures that thankfull do not add any genitalia.
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.
Simply Bigger Trees
Simple as that.
HD Netch and Siltstrider
Re-worked textures for netch and siltstriders that are dirty but appropriate.
Armor, Weapons, Clothes
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This section is for textures that were not included in the AmidianBorn pack or optinal texturs if you don't like AmidianBorn and want to try something else.
Skaal Clothes HD Revival
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.
Ultra HD Stormcloak and City Guards
Retextures EVERY hold's guard armor and shields.
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.
Hvergelmirs Armor Retexture
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.
Thieves Guild Armor HD revival
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.
EotW Mage Robes of Skyrim
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!
Bethesda HD pack
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.
2X Clothing Re-Mix
Adds several retextures for clothing that are upped resolutions or sharpened.
Dragon Masks Retextured
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.
A Vile Masque
Really good textures for the Clavicus Vile mask. Comes in 2k and 1k resolutions.
Jewels of the Nord
Retextured rings and amulets for that brilliant and rich designs jewelry should have.
What does this mod make better? Circlets!
Mehrunes' Razor by MAIBATSU
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.
Eleven Weapons For Silence
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.
Food and Potions
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Because everyone knows that every piece of random shit in this game needs to look like a masterpiece!
Makes your sack HD.
Makes your linens HD.
Makes rugs detailed.
Adds new window textures that make windows look less like pixelated junk and more like real glass.
Makes your misc H-uhhh I mean, it makes miscellaneous objects like practice dummies and pots more detailed and at a higher resolution.
Weathered Road Signs
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.
Ruins Clutter Improved
Improves the clutter in ruins like nordic urns and pots.
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!
HD Ore and Ingots
Makes ore and ingots look like they are actually made out of an earthly materials instead of looking like badly colored play-doh.
Tired of every book looking the same? Book Covers Skyrim replaces almost every book and gives them custom textures so you want have to read the same imperial symbol book ever again!
Gems of Skyrim
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.
Rens HD Shrines
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.
This mod replaces and adds more unique and diverse high quality textures to spiderwebs, cobwebs, and spider egg sacks. Perhaps...maybe too high quality.
Realistic textures for the herb ingrediants like Elves ear, Frost mirriam & Twine and 1024 with 2048 as an optional download.
HQ Skyrim Map
Replaces the old Skyrim map textures with new high textured and semi-colored maps.
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.
Food and Potions
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Are you thirsty, or are you hungry? If you are, take a break from this guide and get a snack man.
Food will look more tasty and less like plastic! Probably because these textures aim for realism.
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 varients 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!
Lighting and Magic
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Lights and magic go hand in hand right guys? Right? RIGHT?!?!?!?!?
Spell Tomes II
Adds new replacer models and textures for spell tomes. You can choose to have very thin and ornate books to big and worn out books.
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!
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.
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.
Ultimate HD Fire Effects
BURN EVERYTHING. This also includes retextures for campfires and candles.
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.
New textures for the placeable magic runes for the vanilla spells and the new Dragonborn spells.
New textures for lightning effects. It comes in several different resolutions just in case you have a toaster for a computer.
Magic Runes HD
Caves and Terrain
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And rocks and terrain. I couldn't fit all of it into 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.
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!
Adds moss to rocks, it's as simple as that.
Hectrol CAVES DELUXE
An amazing cave retexture overhaul! This mod will litreally make every cave you walk into look like Luray Caverns!
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.
I have NO idea where to put this in the guide so i'm putting it here...because you can see some of these in the Eldergleam Sanctuary. Basically, it replaces those barely noticable dandelion textures that float in the air with a new high quality texture ranging from x512 to even x2048 resolution! This is basically overkill for anyone with a "okay" computer.
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.
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.
Stalhrim of Skyrim
Retextures the Stalhrim vines so that they don't look like ass anymore. It comes in two varients, transparent and normal.
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!
EWI better thickets
Improves does little bushes around Skyrim that have not yet scene a texture replacer. It comes in it's standard color, red, and green if you want them to look different.
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.
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!
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!
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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.