Graphics

updated July 12th, 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:
-Texture Overhauls
-Nature Overhauls
-Lighting Overhauls
-Armors, Weapons, and Clothes
-Clutter and Creatures
-Atmosphere and Magic
-Caves and Terrain
-City Textures
-Maps

Before we begin...

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!

Texture Overhauls

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. This means that these overhauls are mearly bases to cover most of the game's textures while the other smaller mods focus on improving smaller or more random objects such as only ingrediants or even just certain pieces of furniture. If you want the BEST results don't use the official 2k textures by Bethesda.
And here are some notable texture authors that either make random textures with no rhyme or reason and are not all in one pack or download link. It's recommended you download all of their works but it's not necessary.
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.

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.

Nature Overhauls

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.

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.

Flora Overhaul

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. Due to recent updates, it's recommend that you either use the older versions are don't use this mod at all since the newest versions add some really ugly plants and trees around that really break the composition.
 
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.

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

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.

Natural Aspen recolor

Recolored the branch textures of the aspen trees to achieve a more natural look. Let's be honest here, these look more realistic than the Realistic Apsen Trees mod right above this one.
As for mods that edit grass, there are plenty of options. Try them all out and see which you like best! ONLY USE ONE

Unique Grasses

Adds new grass variants scatterd all over Skyrim. These can range from weeds to flowers and can even be on roads too!

Verdant Grass

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 Overhauls

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.

Armors, Weapons, and Clothes

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.

Clutter and Creatures

Because everyone knows that every piece of random junk in this game needs to look like a masterpiece!

Atmosphere and Magic

What do these two things have in common? Nothing really, I just didn't know where to put them.

Caves and Terrain

And rocks I guess. I couldn't fit the rest in the title.

City Textures

Textures for specific cities and holds, as well as specific landmarks related to these cities. There are plenty of different packs for you to look at and mix and match with.

Maps

Mods that improve the map screen or overhaul it all together.

FAQ

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: 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.
 
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!