15 Best Skyrim Graphics Mods (All Free)This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Skyrim Special Edition is a great improvement on the way base-game Skyrim looks in terms of graphics.
But from the talent of many mod creators we have even more ways to improve graphics.
Many of the free mods created for TES V require you to have quite a powerful computer to run them, but if you do, you’ll want to check these out.
The difference that graphic mods can make to Skyrim can make it feel like a recent AAA title instead of a game that was released over half a decade ago.
Graphic mods are also a great way to make your latest Skyrim gameplay feel more unique by giving authenticity to the regions and the people.
In any case, these are my picks for the best graphic mods that you’ll find on the Internet: all free, all easy to install, and all perfect for any type of Skyrim player.
15. Rustic Weathers and Lighting
Even though I’ve already covered an article that lists all the great weather mods that the Skyrim community offers, I think some of them are so good that they also deserve a spot on this list too.
Rustic Weathers and Lighting is one such mod.
In fact, it serves as a graphic overhaul for the entire game since it completely changes the way visuals are perceived in the many regions of Skyrim. Weather included.
This mod tweaks the way the sun affects lens flare, as well as certain effects of thunder (including sounds) and many other particles that come to play whenever the weather changes in the northern lands of Tamriel.
14. ENB Light
Before downloading this mod, make sure that your computer is capable of processing a lot of particles at once.
You might need a high-quality processor and at least 8GB of RAM to run the game, probably a 64-bit OS and a decent graphics card too. ENB Light completely overhauls the way light interacts with the environment and there’s a lot of lighting effects in Skyrim.
But this mod makes it feel much more realistic than it does in the base game by allowing torches to naturally light up surroundings.
As such, with this mod light doesn’t have a limited number of sources that it can interact with.
Now it can interact with many objects at once, which makes everything look as vibrant as possible – even at night! Much easier getting around and I know this removes some of the difficulty, but in my eyes graphics are key to enjoying a fantasy game. It’s why beauty mods are also really popular.
13. Pure Waters
Have you ever felt like water in Skyrim just feels a bit off?
Well, many people have that as one of their main complaints too.
Skyrim’s water has always looked like it’s just the same animated texture moving all over the place, and it doesn’t look as good as it should. This mod completely changes the way water looks in the game and makes it far more realistic. Like, almost a 10x difference in quality.
With Pure Waters you’ll be able to look at lakes and actually feel like you’re staring at real water in the game. Talk about some seriously deep immersion.
You’ll also notice how still water looks different when it isn’t flowing, like in a quiet lake. Compare that against a fast-moving river and you’ll quickly understand how much work went into this mod.
Imaginator doesn’t necessarily change anything with the game, but it does add a control scheme that allows you to tweak the way Skyrim looks without having to mess with your computer’s settings.
Your screen can stay the way it is and you’ll be able to better tweak Skyrim without having to struggle with the settings that the base game brings to the table (which aren’t too varied, to be honest).
With Imaginator you’ll be able to change saturation as well as how much light the sun emits, as just a couple examples. But in your new Imaginator panel you’ll find some amazing visual options that Skyrim’s settings don’t really offer.
11. Smoking Torches and Candles
Even though this might seem like a small little detail, adding smoke to the fire you carry in the game makes it look astonishingly good.
Fire, with this mod, offers real billowing smoke and torches will have that emblematic trail that they often produce in real life.
It really adds a whole new level of depth to the game. This is one of those mods you never knew you really needed until you install it.
10. Darker Nights
Let’s face it: nights in Skyrim always look like the moon is like a second (albeit less bright) sun.
It shouldn’t be like that, at least not always. And to me it kind of defeats the purpose of running around with a torch unless you’re inside a cave.
The Darker Nights mod makes nights actually feel like nights by decreasing the amount of ambient light that there is in the environment when the sun goes down.
9. Dust Effects by HHaleyy
The regular dust that flies around the game in the vanilla Skyrim build has such a low resolution that you can’t tell if it’s dust or a rendering issue.
This mod changes the regular texture that the game has to an incredibly highly defined set of images, which make caves and other sources of dust look much better. Certainly more realistic at least.
You’ll be surprised to walk around a cave or an old house after installing this mod!
8. Relighting Skyrim
Have you ever noticed how lights seem to just be placed in certain spots, but light magically illuminates the entire room?
This mod changes the way that works completely. It makes rooms and other areas of the game feel much more natural by decreasing the range of how far candles and other small sources of light can travel. You know, like in real life.
Rooms are darker with this mod, but it makes everything feel much better aesthetically.
Give it a try and see what you think. If you hate it you can always uninstall.
7. Ethereal Cosmos
Ethereal Cosmos is an overhaul to the way the sky looks in Skyrim.
This adds a ton of new constellations, stars, and changes the galaxy where Skyrim is located.
It makes the night sky look as vibrant as it would in any alien planet that you see in most Hollywood film.
So make sure to take a good look at the night sky after installing this amazing mod! It’ll look like a totally new world.
6. Skyrim is Windy
Skyrim is windy. But why doesn’t it feel like that?
All the plants feel like as if they are stuck in the same place all the time.
This mod changes that and makes everything look like as if it was really being hit by wind.
Plants will feel much more alive than ever, same with taller trees. And it will properly complement the eternal wind sounds that you hear whenever you walk around the lands.
5. Enhanced Blood Textures
Blood is an essential part of the game. Did I even need to say it.
And those who take it upon themselves to go on a manslaughter quest might truly appreciate the added “beauty” of this mod.
Enhanced Blood Textures makes the bloodstains(plus any other source of blood in the game) look much more realistic by increasing the texture quality that the base game has to offer.
Again possibly not a mod for everyone but certainly worth trying.
4. Vivid Weathers Definitive Edition
Even though Vivid Weathers is more of a weather overhaul addition, the way it makes the game look is so drastic that it truly deserves a spot on this list.
VW makes the game’s environments feel much more realistic as a side effect of the mod design.
And whenever you combine this with any other landscaping or lighting mod, your game will look so good that you won’t believe that you’re still playing Skyrim.
I’ll be the first to admit it here: landscape textures in Skyrim could be much better than they are.
Many regions of the map feel like they are too similar to each other, and even those that do change have too many similarities or graphic deficiencies that can feel quite tedious after you’ve been playing the game for a while.
Skyland makes ground textures look incredibly well-polished thanks to many new HD textures added to the map. It’s possibly one of my favorite mods out there since it creates a more lush environment that truly grabs your attention at first sight.
2. Enhanced Textures Detail
Now this mod completely enhances the way textures look whenever you’re closer to them. Even if you get a little too close.
This doesn’t change the way textures look when you’re far away, but it does greatly modify the realism when you’re standing right next to objects.
Have you ever seen those weird smudges that seem to pop up on objects when you stand close? This mod aims to fix that.
It’s a great visual enhancement that you can complement with Skyland and Enhanced Lights(next on this list) to design the most realistic Skyrim gameplay you could possibly imagine.
1. Enhanced Lights and FX
Enhanced Lights and FX changes the way light interacts with terrain and objects in Skyrim.
This mod completely removes all light in the game that doesn’t have a source. It sounds crazy but it really works out well.
Naturally, this means that you’ll need to use your torch more often since visibility will be troublesome. But it adds a lot of depth to the experience by thrusting you into a much more realistic world.
This mod also modifies water reflections, offers better translucent surfaces, and modifies lighting depending on the time of the day and weather. It’s an all-around lighting extravaganza and certainly one of the best ways to mod the graphics in any version of Skyrim.