If you look at recent screenshots or videos from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you’d never know the game was approaching its 13th year. Mods have kept the game up to date or even ahead of the curve, from high poly character models to high resolution textures to improved lighting and effects. But the most powerful tool for enhancing Skyrim‘s graphics is ENB.
ENB itself is a library of graphical effects, including anti-aliasing, shadows, depth of field, bloom, sun rays, and more, all of which can be enabled and modified by presets. We’ll cover the best ENB presets for Skyrim below, ranking them from good to best. To use these presets, you’ll first need to install the Skyrim SE binaries from the ENB website.
Keep in mind that your system specs, monitor, and any other graphics mods that you have installed will all affect the way the game looks and performs, both with and without ENB. There are also hundreds of settings that you can customize within each preset. Be warned, though – like with most Skyrim modding endeavors, you can find yourself spending all of your time tweaking the game instead of playing it!
All of the screenshots below were taken with the same mods installed, including ENB Helper SE, Particle Patch for ENB, ENB Light, and Lux. They were taken with either Obsidian Weathers and Seasons or Natural and Atmospheric Tamriel installed, depending on the ENB’s requirements. Note that some of these ENBs have different versions available for different weather mods.
Without further ado, here is my list of the best ENBs for Skyrim Special Edition and Skyrim Anniversary Edition, ranked good to best.
Cabbage ENB offers a bright fantasy aesthetic that doesn’t stray too far from the vanilla look. This is a performance-heavy preset that uses a lot of ENB’s heavier effects, so you will either need a beefy PC to run it or you’ll have to disable some settings.
The horizon line is well-defined in this preset. You can see in the image above that the ocean stands in stark contrast to the sky above it. Daytime colors are a bit muted, giving a sense of glare on a sunny day.
Interiors are bright and vivid with Cabbage ENB, making this a great option if you hate squinting into dark corners. Windows and fire give off a lot of light, and there’s also plenty of ambient light.
Nights have a vivid blue tint to them, giving a sense of darkness without actually making the game dark. Again, great if you want to actually be able to see what you’re doing. The colors also give the game more of a fantasy look.
Like other interiors, dungeons are well lit, so you won’t be stumbling around unable to see. But that may be more of a con to you if you like your dungeons to feel spooky and ominous. There also isn’t a lot of difference between day and night for interiors with this preset. The image on the right was taken at night, but it looks an awful lot like the one that was taken during the day.
#4 NAT III
Natural and Atmospheric Tamriel, or NAT III, is a preset that was designed around the weather mod of the same name. This preset was very dark all around on my personal setup, but it should not be difficult to add some brightness in the settings.
Shadows are especially deep in this preset, creating a strong sense of contrast and a feeling of bleakness to the frigid Skyrim landscape.
Interiors with NAT III are extremely dark. There is almost no ambient light, so windows and fires stand out. It’s possible that this look is more realistic than Cabbage’s universal brightness, but it does make it harder to see what you’re doing.
Nights are likewise very dark with NAT III. In the image above, there is no moon or aurora to light the way, leaving the landscape very dark indeed. This gives the game more of a sense of danger when wandering around after dark.
Dungeons are also extremely dark, making torches and Magelight spells feel like a necessity rather than an afterthought. Barrows and ruins will indeed feel like foreboding places to visit with this preset installed.
#3 Vanilla Two
Vanilla ENB Two is very much what its title implies: a preset that sticks close to the vanilla look of Skyrim. Shadows and lighting are enhanced with the use of minimal, performance-friendly effects. This is the least demanding mod on the list.
With the Vanilla Two preset installed, everything will look a little more crisp and detailed. The preset retains the game’s default color palette with no crazy hue or saturation changes.
Interiors retain their bright ambient lighting while also adding a nice bloom effect to any light sources.
Nights also match the default brightness and color scheme. If you’re happy with the vanilla darkness levels, you’ll be happy with these.
The same is true of dungeons. Whatever lighting mod(s) you have installed will make the biggest difference here, as the ambient lighting is a bit lower. You’ll likely want to carry a torch or a Magelight spell here.
#2 Silent Horizons 2
Silent Horizons 2 is perhaps the most dramatic preset on this list, using a lot of the advanced features of ENB to create dark shadows and a strong sense of depth in every scene.
There’s a bleakness to this preset that reminds me of Dark Souls. In the image above, the sky is bright blue, but the horizon line almost seems to disappear. The dark shadows on the rocks gives the College of Winterhold an imposing appearance.
Similarly, interiors have very little ambient light, creating shadowy corners and allowing any active light sources to stand out. The area around the fire feels safe and warm, while the rest of the room feels less so.
Nights are bleak and ominous. Despite the clear weather, there almost seems to be a haze over the landscape in the image above. It’s still just bright enough to see where you’re going.
Like with the NAT III preset, you won’t want to enter a dungeon without a torch or a Magelight spell. Light sources break through the ambient darkness in dramatic fashion with Silent Horizons 2 installed.
Rudy ENB SE for Obsidian Weathers is one of several Rudy ENB presets supporting various weather mods. The series is among the oldest and most popular ENB presets out there, and for good reason. The preset has a crisp, clean look with an appealing color palette that doesn’t stray too far from the default look of the game. The only thing I don’t like about this preset is the letterboxing (black bars on the top and bottom), but that can easily be disabled in the settings.
Rudy takes advantage of many advanced features of ENB, enhancing everything from shadows to anti-aliasing to depth of field and more. But it doesn’t add effects arbitrarily. Everything is carefully tweaked to give the game a realistic but also beautiful aesthetic.
Interiors have a nice balance of ambient lighting and light from fires and windows. They don’t feel too dark to navigate, but also don’t feel unrealistically over-lit.
Nights are very vanilla-esque. You won’t generally need a torch, but it also doesn’t feel excessively bright.
Dungeons are equally vanilla-like. If you like your dungeons darker, you can achieve that through mods or by tweaking the preset’s settings.