Graphics

updated July 3rd, 2020

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. Most texture mods still work on Special Edition, mesh mods need to be updated, check this guide to see how to update meshes to work with Special Edition.
The same program used to update mesh files also has a function that tells you if texture will have any problems.
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 NPC and Players guides.
 
 
 
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! While his videos are for the Legendary Edition, it can still be used as reference.

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.
Nordic Snow (aka HQ Snow Texture)

Nordic Snow (aka HQ Snow Texture)

Norwegian viking mod author, thought the snow in the game looked like shit, decided to make his own.

Skyrim 2017 Textures

Skyrim 2017 Textures

Complete texture overhaul of everything in the game

SSE Texture Pack - Osmodius

SSE Texture Pack - Osmodius

Covers landscapes and cities.

Serious HD Retexture Skyrim

Serious HD Retexture Skyrim

A big texture pack like Skyrim HD, only this one focuses more on terrain....and Riften for some reason.

NobleSkyrim HD-2K

NobleSkyrim HD-2K

The aim of this mod is to give all of Skyrim's architecture a complete new look by changing its textures to custom ones. Beside the architecture, several other things, such as landscape, dungeons (ruins, mines, caves etc.), clutter stuff etc. have been re-textured as well, to match the rest of the mod.

Static Mesh Improvement Mod - SMIM

Static Mesh Improvement Mod - SMIM

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.

Realistic Water Two

Realistic Water Two

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!

Enhanced Blood Textures

Enhanced Blood Textures

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.

Vivid Landscapes

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 convenient pack to install and download.

Skyrim Skill Interface Re-Texture

Skyrim Skill Interface Re-Texture

Overhauls the skill interface with brand new textures and options. Now back on Nexus!

Enhanced textures detail (UV-tweaks)

Enhanced textures detail (UV-tweaks)

This mod will increase texture quality for all your existing textures and any other new textures that you will download. This also fixes a lot of the texture stretching on buildings. WARNING: This mod is only recommend for high end computers since this will take a toll on your game's performance.

Bellyaches Animal and Creature Pack

Bellyaches Animal and Creature Pack

Retexture pack for almost every animal in Skyrim. There are many variants you can choose and customize with.

Bellyaches Dragon Texture Replacer

Bellyaches Dragon Texture Replacer

With this mod, you can choose from 19 textures for each of the following dragons Choose either this or the UHD Dragon Textures. This is 1k to 4k and UHD is 4k to 8k.

Splendor - Dragon Variants

Splendor - Dragon Variants

784 Dragons (from 14 in vanilla game) Greatly enhanced visual diversity Using no external resources Extremely Compatible

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.
Gamwich

Gamwich

Known for the RUSTIC series. Has a lot of textures ranging from random objects to clothes and robes.

Kajuan

Kajuan

Does a lot of undead and monster textures. Horncandles is really good too.

Pfuscher

Pfuscher

At the moment he only has the complete texture overhaul linked above, and a vine mod, but he is a mod author to keep an eye on.

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.

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.

Flora Overhaul

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.
 

Flora Mod Collection

Mostly plants and fauna, but there's a bunch of other random stuff too that's worth getting.
Comes in 2k and 4k

Simply Bigger Trees

Simply Bigger Trees 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.
 
 
 
As for mods that edit grass, there are plenty of options. Try them out and see which you like best! ONLY USE ONE

Verdant Grass

Another grass plugin that adds a variety of simple looking grasses

Veydosebrom

Fill your Skyrim landscape with beautiful combinations of unique grasses.
Each region's foliage is overhauled so that it has its own distinct and natural feel.

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 for 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.
Gemling Queen Jewelry

Gemling Queen Jewelry

Ever get tired of the yucky opaque gemstone textures Bethesda chose to inflict on the stylish Dragonborn? Then this mod is for you! It replaces all jewelry gemstones with prettier, more realistic artwork. No more plastic wrap mostrosities on your forehead!

Dawn of the Dawnguard Armor

Dawn of the Dawnguard Armor

The best dawnguard texture pack out right now! If you really don't like the vanilla textures, get this!

Skaal Clothes HD Revival

Skaal Clothes HD Revival

Skaal clothes HD revival is a high quality retexture for skaal clothes from the Dragonborn dlc.

Glorious Daedric

Glorious Daedric

A retexture for the daedric armor set and daedric weapons.

Thieves Guild Armor HD revival

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.

Dragon Priest Mask Retexture

Dragon Priest Mask Retexture

A more basic mask retex, adds more details to the masks, while still keeping them vanilla.

Apophysis Dragon Priest Masks SE

Apophysis Dragon Priest Masks SE

Now, THIS is a retexture, makes each Dragon Priest unique, making them look scary as fuck. Not for everyone.

Staff of Magnus HD

Staff of Magnus HD

This mod retextures the Staff of Magnus with new textures. They are 2048x2048 and the same size as the HD DLC.

Ancient Nord Pickaxe Replacer

Ancient Nord Pickaxe Replacer

This mod replaces the Ancient Nord Pickaxe from the Dragonborn DLC with a brand new model.

Dragonbone Mastery

Dragonbone Mastery

New textures for Dragonbone weapons, including scabbards.

Aetherial Crown

Aetherial Crown

Are you disappointed by the cheap and unoriginal-looking design Bethesda gave the Aetherial Crown? Then this mod is for you! It replaces the offending headgear with a brand new, lore-friendly design that is more in keeping with an ancient dwarven relic

Auriels Shield

Auriels Shield

New HD textures for Auriels Shield.

Auriels Bow

Auriels Bow

New HD textures for Auriels Bow.

Realistic HD Woodcutter's Axe

Realistic HD Woodcutter's Axe

And my axe!

Clutter and Creatures

Because everyone knows that every piece of random junk in this game needs to look like a masterpiece!
4K Warthog

4K Warthog

Retexture of the poor looking Solstheim Warthog/Boar.

LeanWolfs Better-Shaped Talos Statue

LeanWolfs Better-Shaped Talos Statue

A simple MESH replacer that gives the statue of Talos a Greatsword rather than that toothpick he was holding - for a more warrior-like Talos statue.

Pretty Gems

Pretty Gems

It's just a small gemstones' retexture. Nothing too fancy. Some of the gems have refraction, and some don't (it's due to the fact that some of the gems look not good with refraction).

Spell Tome Replacer

Spell Tome Replacer

This mod replaces the models and textures of spell tomes. It is not compatible with other mods that do the same thing.

Better Cows

Better Cows

Because you know you need a 2k texture for cows.

Dressed Hearthfire Doll

Dressed Hearthfire Doll

Adds a red dress and a face to the doll in Skyrim.

Forgotten Retex Project

Forgotten Retex Project

Small overhaul aimed to retexture small random clutter that is usually ignored by other texture mods.

High Poly Project

High Poly Project

Now SSE exclusive. This mod enhances the meshes of various objects throughout Skyrim by. This mod is a lot like SMIM and works along with it.

Septim HD

Septim HD

This is simply a HD replacement for the default Septim without breaking default design.

JS Dragon Claws

JS Dragon Claws

Did it really take this long for this to be made? Questions aside, this mod replaces the Bionicle looking dragon claw in vanilla and replaces it with a model that actually LOOKS like a dragon's claw with complimenting scaly textures.

Enhanced Ore Veins

Enhanced Ore Veins

This is a texture replacement for the ore veins found in mines and around Skyrim. Each ore also has an optional glow effect if you want them to be easier to find and again different ore types have different glow. This mod also changes the textures of the mined ores and ingots.

Retexture for Soup

Retexture for Soup

Now the soup items in Skyrim actually look tasty now instead of chunks of poop!

HD Ruined Book Retexture

HD Ruined Book Retexture

Totally replaces the ruined books with a new model and new textures.

Gruesome Death Hound

Gruesome Death Hound

Makes the Death Hounds look even uglier. And that's a good thing.

Realistic Horse Breeds by KrittaKitt

Realistic Horse Breeds by KrittaKitt

Makes the horses in Skyrim not look like shit.

Deathbell HD

Deathbell HD

New textures for the deathbell and its glow maps for both the flower itself and the leaves.

BBB4K - Better Browner Bread 4K

BBB4K - Better Browner Bread 4K

Why the fuck do you want a 4K bread retexture?

High Quality Food and Ingredients SE

High Quality Food and Ingredients SE

Better food and stuff you use in cooking. Look at that vanilla rabbit. LOOK AT IT.

Honey pot

Honey pot

Nicer looking honey pot textures that look good enough to eat.

Misc Retexture Project

Misc Retexture Project

You can see the hairs on that horker meat. Yummy.

Joy of Ships

Joy of Ships

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. Just textures so they should work on SE just fine, just *don't use* the Parallax Optional File.

Weathered Road Signs

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.

HD Reworked Baskets

HD Reworked Baskets

High resolution baskets. Because of course you need it.

Rens HD Shrines

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.

Ruins Clutter Improved

Ruins Clutter Improved

Improves the clutter in ruins like nordic urns and pots.

RUSTIC ANIMATED POTIONS and POISONS

RUSTIC ANIMATED POTIONS and POISONS

Gives potions and poisons animations, and generally makes them look better.

RUSTIC SOULGEMS - Special Edition

RUSTIC SOULGEMS - Special Edition

Makes the soulgems look better and gives it a subtle animation.

Atmosphere and Magic

What do these two things have in common? Nothing really, I just didn't know where to put them.
3D Clouds heavy Storms and real Nigh

3D Clouds heavy Storms and real Nigh

Gets rid of the flat 2D skybox clouds, and generates "real" 3D ones.

Detailed Runes

Detailed Runes

Replacer for the Fire, Frost and Lightning runes, gives each one a different aesthetic.

Embers HD

Embers HD

Makes fireplaces, bonfires and a lot of other fiery things looks really good

Masser and Secunda from Morrowind

Masser and Secunda from Morrowind

Maybe you dislike the moons in Skyrim, maybe you want that old Morrowind visual back, maybe you don't give a fuck and is just downloading everything we add to these pages, if so this mod is for you!

ETHEREAL CLOUDS

ETHEREAL CLOUDS

This cloud mod adds different cloud types like smooth ones and broken up little ones.

ETHEREAL COSMOS

ETHEREAL COSMOS

The author of AURORA decided "Fuck it, I'll just retexture everything in the night sky" and called it COSMOS.

Frozen Electrocuted Combustion

Frozen Electrocuted Combustion

any fire spell will cause people on the verge of death to self immolate, leaving behind skeletons and smoke. Works for both humanoid NPCs (including beast races) and the player. In v1.2 people now freeze if killed by frost and spasm and become charred if killed by lightning.

Caves and Terrain

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

Blended Roads

This mod blends the road stones to the surrounding materials instead of trying to create an almost fitting texture.

HD Photorealistic Ivy

HD Photorealistic Ivy

2K Ivy retextures, looks very good.

HD Colorful Ivy

HD Colorful Ivy

Looks good if you're trying to go for the more fantasy vibe.

Remove Interior Fog V2

Remove Interior Fog V2

Removes that stupid fog in interior cells like dungeons and houses. Now you can actually see what's ten feet in front of you!

Arri's Snow Elf Ruins Retexture

Arri's Snow Elf Ruins Retexture

2K retexture of Snow Elf architecture, introduced in Dawnguard DLC. It affects all buildings in Forgotten Vale, Inner Sanctum, and all Wayshrines.

Soul Cairn HD

Soul Cairn HD

Retexture shit in the Soul Carin.

ASHBOUND

ASHBOUND

Morrowind, constant ashstorms, so, why the fuck isn't everything covered in ash!? This mod fixes that.

Fences of Skyrim

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!

Stunning Statues

Stunning Statues

A collection of statue retextures and meshes created by AnTiWoMaAgNoT. After months have having them individually packed mods, they are now all in one!

Designs of the Nords SE

Designs of the Nords SE

Replaces the shitty banners in the vanilla game with some high-ass quality as fuck new ones.

Maps

Mods that improve the map screen or overhaul it all together.
Warbug's Paper World Map

Warbug's Paper World Map

Changes the map into a real paper map like in Oblivion. This also replaces the icons with paper themed ones.

A Quality World Map

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.

FAQ

Q: Why isn't this or that mod in the guide?
 
A: Some mods haven't been officially ported to Special Edition yet, if a mod you like isn't listed, try converting it yourself.
 
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!