General Information

Broken Links

Textures Overview

What is commonly lumped together under the general term textures is actually a collection of related files that serve different roles in creating the image of objects within the game. Some of these terms, such as meshes, may have already been encountered in mod descriptions or install instructions, but once you start dealing with texture replacement you need to become aware of the technical differences and very specific meanings associated with each of the terms given here. Such replacer mods include differing combinations of the related files. When you are looking to create a specific effect (such as adding custom hair, eyes, skin textures, or features like tattoos and scars), you need to recognize which specific types of files will achieve that result. Combining files from different mods may be required, and if you do not understand what each file type contributes to the whole, you will have an unhappy result that could have been avoided. Hence, at least a cursory look over the Glossary and other terms on this page is an essential first step. Refer back often as needed.

Bear in mind what sort of platform the game was written for originally. For instance, Morrowind and Oblivion assumed hardware with a single processor. As such, they do very little with multiple cores and CPU speed (the faster the better, starting around 2.8 GHz) is more important than the number of cores for including mods. The amount of system RAM and video RAM are also crucial to keep in mind for graphic improvements. As a "rule of thumb", double the game's minimum requirement for video RAM before attempting to use more detailed textures. Minimum requirements are not usually sufficient for modded games. Exceeding the "recommended' requirements are necessary the more you want to add, but never expect to be able to include EVERYTHING. See the Nexus wiki article 2-4GB game memory limits and solutions for details on how to maximize the use of what system RAM you have.

There are many articles on the Nexus Wiki about the various tools and techniques for and about modding textures. Those interested should take a look at the site's Orphaned Pages link, in addition to their specific game's forum. There is nothing wrong with these articles; they are 'standalone', simply were not referenced by another page, which is why they are considered 'orphaned'.

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Texture Size

In the Options menu, you'll see a choice marked Textures, with Small, Medium, and Large. The Oblivion Tweak Guide goes into more detail, but here's an excerpt (note that this was written several years ago; some of the information here might not apply):

Textures are the 2D images placed around all 3D objects in the game. A boulder for example is a wireframe skeleton in 3D, with a 2-dimensional boulder surface texture covering it (to see this, use the twf Console Command). When set to Large, the resolution of the 2D texture images used is highest, meaning the textures appear more crisp and real, especially when examined close up. At Medium and Low respectively these textures progressively drop, losing a lot of detail.

The texture setting can have a significant impact on performance and stuttering, because these textures load into your graphics card's Video RAM (VRAM), and the larger the texture resolution, the bigger the size of the texture files and hence the more swapping your graphics card has to do to constantly load new texture data from the hard drive into VRAM to decompress and display them. Whenever you enter new areas or see new objects/creatures/buildings, the higher this setting the more loading pauses/stutter you will get, and the lower your FPS will drop, especially if you have less VRAM, system RAM and/or a slower hard drive. For those with less than 256MB of VRAM, I recommend Medium as a good balance of visual quality and performance. For those with slow hard drives and/or less than 1GB of RAM, Low is recommended if you constantly find the game stuttering or slowing down. See the settings below, the Troubleshooting Tips and the Advanced Tweaking sections for a range of other tweaks and settings which in combination with each other can significantly reduce stutter. There is no single magic fix to this issue.

People seem to make the assumption that larger is always better in texture sizes for increased detail, without giving any consideration to either what is involved or the practical aspects of rendering that image on their hardware. Thanks to Pherim on the Bethsoft forums for the following explanation in answer to a question about the availability of 8k textures.

"Why would you want to have 8k textures? You would see downsampled versions of them 99% of the time, if not all the time, anyway, as the screen resolution even on FullHD is only capable of displaying about 1/32 of the entire texture in its original size, and I can't think of any situation where that would even be the case. And while you would effectively see the 2k mipmap of the texture at most (and usually not even that), the whole 8k texture would have to be loaded into memory, anyway, and I hope I don't have to tell you that a single 8k texture takes up 16 times the memory of a 2k texture - every single 8k texture [compressed] would take up more than [40 Mb of memory, and almost 90 MB with alpha channel (transparency) data included, so] you'll reach the RAM and VRAM limits quite fast that way I would imagine. In Skyrim it may make sense to have certain textures in 4k resolution, even in some cases in Oblivion, but that is only the case if only parts of a texture are used to cover a large area. I am sure in almost all cases you would not be able to notice the difference between 2k and 4k, let alone between 4k and 8k. As I said, most of the time you would see them rendered in 2k or lower, anyway. In fact, they would look a lot worse if the full-size texture was rendered at all time and downsampled in real-time, instead of using pre-downscaled mipmaps. Just try using a texture that doesn't have them (e.g. in .bmp format instead of .dds), and you will see what I mean. If you have no idea what I am talking about:

"As you can see here, a texture with mipmaps contains several smaller LOD versions of itself, with every mipmap level having half the width and height of the next larger one, down to 1x1 pixel:

"So a 1k texture for example consists of the full resolution image with 1024x1024 pixels, but also of a 512x512 version, a 256x256 version, etc. If a .dds texture with mipmaps is opened in GIMP (you'll need a plugin for that), the mipmaps are represented as separate image layers. Now when the texture is rendered ingame and there are no mipmaps, the engine only has the full resolution image to work with, but has to downscale it to match the current view. This leads to texture pixelation and flickering, like in this picture, but it looks a lot worse in motion:

"With mipmaps, the various smaller mipmap versions the texture includes already have pre-calculated anti-aliasing as they have been downsized in advance, and the engine automatically chooses the mipmap which matches the actual size the texture is displayed in the game most closely. So for example if you look at a wall that is currently 1000 pixels wide on your screen, a 1k texture will be displayed in full resolution, but if the texture is bigger, you actually see the 1k mipmap. The smaller the texture is displayed in the game (the actual pixels it takes up on your screen at any given moment), the smaller the mipmap that will be displayed. So even on FullHD, a 2k texture is only shown in full size if it takes up the whole screen width, and then you can only see half of it. In case of an 8k texture, there is barely any chance that you will ever see it in full size ingame. If a texture is displayed in several sizes at the same time, for example on the ground, where it becomes smaller the further away it is from you, the engine will use several mipmap levels at the same time and stitch them together. Then, anisotropic filtering can be used to make it appear sharp and detailed and without visible mipmap transitions:
Left: Unfiltered; Right: Filtered

"What many people maybe forget to take into account when creating high-res textures is how big the texture will actually be seen ingame. For a wall that covers big parts of the screen if you stand close to it it makes sense to have a texture size that exceeds the screen resolution, but for small items which are never seen up close and only take up a few hundred pixels on the screen most of the time, you probably won't need anything bigger than 1k."

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  • for Modding in General
  • for Common Mods
  • For this site only:
    • RefLoc: A 'Reference Location' consists of SDT31Data from a specific location in the game world, enabling anyone to recreate a reasonably identical screenshot for comparison purposes. Our goal is to have images from RefLocs for every texture category for every texture set.
    • SDT31Data: Named after the console debug message text, on this site it refers to the data from a screenshot reference point, as defined in the topic Taking Comparison Images. This data consists of the specific World Cell coordinate, and Actor Heading and Position coordinates.
    • UL: Abbreviation for Unique Landscapes, a set of mods that change and beautify sections of the Oblivion landscape.

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BSAs (Bethesda Softworks Archive) are archives commonly used with mods that have large numbers of files. The way Morrowind and Oblivion work, BSAs are always overridden by loose files (that is, the game will always use a file in Data/Meshes or Data/Textures in preference to a file of the same name in any BSA). For this reason, texture replacers should never be placed into a BSA - if you do, those textures will probably be overridden by something else, defeating the purpose. Additionally, loose files collected into a BSA won't be referenced without an accompanying esp or esm that refers to it. Since most replacers don't have an esp, it's easiest to simply unzip them into the Data folder and be done with it.

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Common Issues and Solutions

Issue: Yellow "WTF" mesh (or other indication of a missing mesh) in place of a part of the normal background.

  • Cause 1: Missing mesh.

You may have not installed all the resource files required by a mod or it cannot locate them. The mod the mesh belongs to can be identified with either or both of the FormID Finder or Refscope tools. (They provide different but related information.) See their documentation on how to use them properly.

  • Solution:
    • Check the mod's documentation and download page about required resource files and install them.
    • Check you don't have an additional '\Meshes' sub-folder nested inside the '\Data\Meshes' folder. Unpacking an archive a level too deep is a common mistake. If the archive folder structure has a '\Data' folder, unpack into the 'Oblivion' folder level. And always 'overwrite' existing files.
  • Cause 2: Uninstalled mod.

You have removed a mod and the game no longer can find the vanilla mesh because of some form of 'Archive Invalidation'; see the article Archive Invalidation Destroyed.

  • Solution:

See the General Solutions below.

Issue: Restoring vanilla meshes.

Question: "I overwrote some mesh files and now I want to replace them with the vanilla versions again. Can I use some tool like the BSA browser from OBMM, extract the files I replaced, and then use those to write over the new ones to fix it?"

  • Considerations:

If you never edited the vanilla BSAs, then they will contain all (and only) the vanilla resources. So yes, you can extract the meshes from the BSA.

But if you need the vanilla version of those meshes, you can just delete the ones you created or installed, and Oblivion will automatically use the original ones from the BSA.

In other words, you cannot 'overwrite' vanilla mesh files in the Data\Meshes sub-folders, as they are used from inside their archive (BSA). If there was a file in the folders you overwrote, it must've come from another mod and already been a replacement itself, or you must've previously extracted it from the BSA yourself.

However, depending on the method for 'Archive Invalidation' you're using, deletion of the replacement isn't always a sure-fire way to make the game use the vanilla version again right away.

Using the outdated approach of the list of files inside 'Archive Invalidation.txt', deleting only the file will still make the game attempt to use the (now-missing) external file as instructed by this list of files to be used over the BSA contents.

Using the unrecommended approach of 'BSA Alteration', you will have modified the contents of your BSA itself already and will have to reinstall the original game (or restore the BSA from a backup) to get the vanilla file back.

  • Solution:

You should be using the 'BSA Redirection' technique, which can be enabled in either OBMM or, preferrably, Wrye Bash. Do not enable in both; use one or the other. They can both recognize and use each others implementation, but they do store in different locations. See also the General Solutions section below.

Issue: Some part of an actor's body is stretching away into the distance, or is otherwise greatly deformed.

  • Cause: Incorrect skeleton for the mesh.

Underlying any actor is a 'skeleton.nif' mesh file that provides anchor points for various elements of the anatomy, such as the head, body, extremities, joints, etc. Other meshes that overlay the skeleton, such as skin, clothes, armor, wings, etc. expect to have certain anchor points to which they can attach to obtain the geometry of their shape. When they fail to find an expected anchor point, the stretching results. This is most commonly seen with clothing and items designed for BBB effects, but can occur with anything designed for a customized skeleton.

  • Solution:

You need to identify and install a skeleton compatible with not only the texture having the problem, but one that does not cause problems for other textures. This requires careful examination of the mod requirements. The most common solution is a 'compatibility skeleton', which attempts to provide the anchor points for all known mods. Not all are creatd equal, even if they provide the necessary anchor. It may be necessary to test and compare them. Bear in mind that these skeletons come in 'beast' (i.e. 4-legged) and 'humanoid' (bipedal), and possibly other forms. Replacing a beast skeleton with a humanoid one creates it's own problems.

Issue: The surface of an object appears all black or without detail.

  • Cause: Missing 'normal map' (* file. (See the Glossary entry for '_n-dds'.)

Basically this is the same situation as with a missing mesh, only the file belongs among the Textures.

  • Solution:

See the General Solutions below.

Issue: The surface of an object appears all white or all an unexpected color.

  • Cause: Missing 'glow map' (* file. (See the Glossary entry for '_g-dds'.)

Basically this is the same situation as with a missing mesh, only the file belongs among the Textures.

  • Solution:

See the General Solutions below.

Issue: Hair/Shadows appear to "blink" or become transparent from some angles.

  • Cause: Also known as "Multiple Transparencies Issue", this appears to be a fairly common problem with game engines of this generation in how they attempt to deal with overlapping transparency. The model has to be assembled in a very specific way (generally from furthest to nearest overlapping component) to work correctly, and then there still can be some instances of "blink". It is a limitation of the game engine.

Issue: Landscape retexture causes "line in the ground".

Example: Oblivion20150628_00_29_53.jpg
(It turned out that the apparent ridgeline in this image was caused by simultaneously using the QTP3 and Landscape retexture mods.)
  • Cause: While this might appear to be the result of a landscape retexture gone bad, where two areas of land don't meet in a way that allows the textures to blend, or are of adjacent cells and are assigned by different mods, it is not actually landscape textures causing the problem: it's vertex shading. One cell quadrant has the artificial landscape shadows (vertex shading) and the opposite side does not.
  • Solution 1: Easy to remedy. Just follow these simple steps. (Thanks to mhahn123 of the Bethsoft Forums for this solution.)
    • For applying vertex shading to landscape it's fairly simple, but takes some experimenting to get the right look.
      • Open up the landscape editor as you normally would.
      • First be sure the boxes at the top right which are labeled "Flatten Vertices" and "Soften Vertices" are unchecked.
      • Next look down at the bottom right and place a check mark in the box labeled "Edit Colors". (This overrides the standard texture selection menu and allows you to paint solid colors.)
    • Now choose your colors.
      • Just above the Edit Colors tab you will notice a left and right button labeled "Select Color". Click on these and select your colors. (Left side corresponds to left mouse button and right to right mouse button.)
      • Once you select colors you need only click a mouse button to apply shading to the landscape.
        • Light to medium shades of grey usually work best for landscape shadows … but play with it to get a feel for how it works. Typically set the left side color to plain white and right side to a shade of grey. You can use the white to undo your shadows if they get too dark.
      • Remember to uncheck Edit Colors when you want to go back to normal landscape textures.
  • Solution 2: Remove one of the conflicting landscape retexture mods.

General Solutions

for Wrye Bash (WB)/BAIN users:

With WB, package the vanilla BSA files into BAIN archives (create Projects for them, and then archives from the Projects), and install them at the very beginning of your BAIN install order. Then enable 'Auto-Refresh Bethsoft Content' in the context menu of the WB Installers tab (BAIN). (Right-click on any of the BAIN column headers to see the context menu.)

  • If you HAVE NOT already removed the mod from your Bash Installers folder, disable it (or just any problematic sub-packages) in BAIN by unchecking the package, select just that mod in your install order, and 'Anneal' from the context menu to remove the unchecked packages. Then again in the context menu select 'Anneal All'. This should determine the winners of any and all mod file conflicts among the remaining packages and correct them, including installing missing files.
  • If you HAVE already removed the mod from your Bash Installers folder, in the BAIN context menu select 'Anneal All'. This should determine the winners of any and all mod file conflicts and correct them, including missing files.
  • Rebuild your Bashed Patch, because you have altered your installed mods list.

NOTE that if you do not have the vanilla BSA files packaged as BAIN archives, WB cannot restore vanilla files that BSA Redirection has told the game to expect to find as loose files.

for those not using Wrye Bash:

Using a tool such as BSAOpt, unpack the missing mesh (*.nif) from the 'mesh' BSA (i.e. 'Oblivion - Meshes.bsa') file into the game's meshes folder (i.e. 'Oblivion\Data\meshes'), and/or unpack the missing texture files (*.dds) from the 'texture' BSA (i.e. 'Oblivion - Textures - Compressed.bsa') into the game's texture folder (i.e. 'Oblivion\Data\Textures'). Be sure to include the appropriate sub-folders, adding them if necessary.

if the above solutions fail:

You can ask on any game related forums for help, but you are now in a time versus effort trade-off dilema. At this point things are seriously messed up and it will most likely be faster to simply re-install the game than to chase more elusive potential solutions. Take this as an opportunity to read up on and follow the 'best practices' for installing your game and mods to increase your odds of 'getting it right'. (For Oblivion follow the guidelines presented on TESCOSI.)

  • Backup your 'save game' files from your 'My Games' folder, uninstall the game, and completely reinstall. Avoid installing in the default location of 'C:\Program Files'. Instead create a 'C:\Games' folder (or similar) and install there, even for Steam games. (See the Installing Games on Windows Vista+ article, and Steam users should also read the Steam and Mods article as well.)
  • Install one mesh/texture replacement mod at a time and verify in game with a 'throwaway character' that you do not have any problems, before proceeding to installing the next mod. This enables you to KNOW which mod is causing your problem.

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Formatting This Site (Label links to full description page.)

Our 'How To' topic on the wikicode and style guide used on this site.

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  • For TES 4+ Modding in General Source:UESP Wiki
  • For Textures, Meshes, and related files in particular:
Objects that are supposed to be viewed from a distance, such as city walls, come with '_far.nifs'. Only statics have '_far.nifs'. They are simplified, low-poly versions of the original meshes of objects you see up close; the intent is to let you see them from far away, but use simpler 3D models to prevent your PC from being crippled by loading so many intense graphics at once. These are saved in various sub-folders under the "<game>\Data\Meshes\" folder. TES File extension: "*_far.nif". Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary term NIF.
The 'normal maps' for the distant LOD terrain ("_Far.Nif" files). These are saved in the "<game>\Data\Textures\LandscapeLOD\Generated\" folder. TES File extension: "*". Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary term Normal Maps.
The common suffix for 'glow map' files associated with the texture files sharing the same prefix. Much like the normal map setup, the engine automatically seeks out the "" file. They control how the material is affected by darkness. By default, Oblivion's engine will fade a texture to gray as it moves into darkness. The glow map can override that. Black means not affected, and white is fully lit when in complete darkness. It is possible to make a colored glow map that, for example, has black fading into an intense red. Displayed in the light there is no red. In the darkness, the initial red fades out (like a burned out match). Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary term Normal Maps.
The 'ground nif' or 'world model' defines how the object looks 'in the world' or when not in an actor's inventory (i.e. lying on the ground). There is typically one version for both males and females, but there can be separate versions if they are supposed to be visibly different 'in the world'. An item that hangs in the air in a 'cross pose' when dropped from an actor's inventory is an indication of a missing 'ground nif' file. Not all items (i.e. "statics") require a 'ground nif'. See also the Glossary term NIF.
highlights (used for hair) Source: Footnote1.
The common suffix for Normal Map files associated with the texture files sharing the same prefix. See also the Glossary term Normal Maps.
skin mask - used to mask out what parts of a model should be considered skin for the purposes of dynamically assigning skin tone through the game engine. Vanilla ones are all black is because the only vanilla objects that actually use "" files are objects that are all skin and as such don't mask away anything in either RGB or alpha layers. Source: ibid Footnote.
Age Map:
See the Glossary term EGT.
Alpha Channel:
The property of a texture file that conveys specularity (shininess) information on the mesh used by the 'normal map' for lighting detail, and the transparency of the mesh in the absence of a Normal Map. Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary term Normal Maps.
See the Glossary term KF.
Bouncing Butt. Requires a skeleton supporting the correct bone weighting and animation in addition to the texture mod. Not automatically included in BBB animation mods. Note three component files are required to provide BB: texture (DDS), skeleton (NIF), and animations (KF). These may each come from separate sources. See also the related Glossary term KF.
Better Bouncing Breasts. Requires a skeleton supporting the correct bone weighting and animation in addition to the texture mod. Note three component files are required to provide BBB: texture (DDS), skeleton (NIF), and animations (KF). These may each come from separate sources. See also the related Glossary term KF.
A 'Bethesda Softworks Archive' file. BSA files are archives that contain common game data, such as Textures, Meshes, Sounds, Voices, etc. Not only is this a means to group common files together, the archive format includes compression to reduce a significant amount of disk space. Extracting the contents of the basic Oblivion BSA files for example, more than doubles the amount of required disk space: from 4.7 to 9.9GB. Found in the "<game>\Data'' folder. TES File extension: "*.bsa". Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the separate topic BSAs above and the Glossary term CMP.
Bump Map
An alias and reference to the lighting detail of a Normal Map that gives a mesh the appearance of a rough surface. See also the Glossary term Normal Maps.
A Bethesda file extension for a collection of files (an archive) around a common theme, that is stored in a BSA file. Examples such as anvilworld.cmp and bravilworld.cmp can be found under the "\distantlod" subfolder in the "<game> - Meshes.bsa" file. See also the Glossary term BSA.
Color Map:
The 'color map' is the texture (.dds) file associated with a particular mesh (.nif) file. Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary terms _n-DDS, _g-DDS, DDS, Normal Maps, and Textures.
The Microsoft DirectDraw Surface (.dds) texture file format stores color textures and cubic environment maps, with or without mipmaps. This is also known as the Color Map file. These are saved in various sub-folders under the "<game>\Data\Textures" folder. TES File extension: "*.dds". Source:Construction Set Wiki.
Data used to display '_far.nif's in the right place. Basically, the "_far.nif" is the thing you see from far away, and the DistantLOD data allows you to see it. They are saved in "<game>\Data\Textures\DistantLOD\" folder. TES File extension: "*.lod". Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary terms _Far-Nif and VWD.
The compressed file format of textures stored in DDS files. Bethesda games primarily use DXT1, 3, and 5 formats. See the Wiki article for the advantages and disadvantages of each. A DDS conversion tool is needed to convert from the compressed file format to one that can be edited by a graphics program (i.e. Paint) and back. Source:Construction Set Wiki.
TES file extension containing the morphing data that governs how the head reacts when the face shape sliders are altered. It works in conjuction with the TRI file. Both are only related to actor FaceGen files and are found in the "<game>\Data\meshes\characters" folders. Source: Footnote2. See also the Glossary term TRI.
TES file extension containing the controls of how the FaceGen fuctionality is applied. Each EGT is actually an archive containing 50 uncompressed tga textures. These 50 textures are blended together by the FaceGen engine to create a face texture that is rendered on top of the default face texture. How that texture turns out depends on the visibility of each of these 50 textures. The visibility is controlled by the FaceGen sliders. NPCs work a little bit different in that they also use pre-rendered FaceGen textures, meaning that they not only use the EGT files for coloration, but also previously calculated texture maps. These EGT files are often called Age Maps and are found in the "<game>\Data\meshes\characters" folders. Source: Footnote3.
The name given by the Gamebase company to their industry standard cross-platform solution for development of any genre of game from casual to MMORPG, that is used to render the graphics of the TES family of games. Often called simply "the game engine", it is licensed by Bethesda Softworks and maintained by Gamebase. Source:Gamebryo.
Head06 is a new totally custom head model resource to work with the FaceGen system in Oblivion. Throttlekitty created this in order to get more detailed and attractive characters with less fuss than the stock human head. Source:Head06 Resource Pack
High resolution; greater than Bethesda's normal 512x512 textures. High-res can refer to 1024x1024 (1K), 2048x2048 (2K), or even 4096x4096 (4K). Source:Construction Set Wiki.
Animation brings 'life' to an object by making it change over time in some manner. Controller Sequences make up the actual animation and are the sole content of .kf files. BB and BBB textures require KF animation files specifically designed to produce the 'bouncing' effect. There are generally two types of actor animations in TES: idle poses and action moves, but objects like clocks have their own transformation animations as well. There are also visibility and alpha channel controller animations. The most common BB/BBB animations are found in idle pose mods. Source:Construction Set Wiki.
Land Tears:
Land tears are caused by two mods making different edits to land heights in the same cell, typically only seen when you're right on top of them. Examples (courtesy of Stromgarde in the Land Magic thread on the BethSoft Forums):
Land Tear Example 1
Land Tear Example 2
'Level Of Detail' when viewed while distant. They are saved in "<game>\Data\Textures\DistantLOD\" folder. TES File extension: ".lod". Source:Construction Set Wiki. (Since 'Level of Detail' applies to all textures, and in TES games this term is associated with VWD files, it might be thought to refer to 'Lowering' or 'Lack of Detail' files.) See also the Glossary terms VWD and DistantLOD.
A collection of vertices, edges and faces that defines the shape of a polyhedral object in 3D computer graphics and solid modeling. These are saved in various sub-folders under the "<game>\Data\Meshes\" folder. TES File extension: "*.nif". Source:Wikipedia. See also the Glossary term NIF.
Pre-calculated, optimized collections of images that accompany a main texture, intended to increase rendering speed and reduce aliasing artifacts. Textures should contain mipmaps (the same texture copied several times but with lower resolution down to almost a single pixel). If the mipmap is not present in the texture file then it will be generated on the fly (adding some stress to the CPU/GPU). If the texture is 1x2 and a shader requests color from the middle of that texture then it should get the interpolated value (in that case average of the both pixels). Mipmaps are included (or not) as part of the texture DDS file when it is created. TES File extension: none; optionally included in "*.dds". Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary term DDS.
NetImmerse File, the GameBryo file format for 3D meshes. A nif (mesh file) is the 3D model type used by TES. These are saved in various sub-folders under the "<game>\Data\Meshes\" folder. TES File extension: "*.nif". Source:Construction Set Wiki.
The simple 'Nif' file extension is the 'Biped model', the mesh for when an item (of clothing for example) is worn or used by an actor. There are typically separate versions of the same file for male and female actors.
NIF files have associated texture (".dds", aka Color Map) and Normal Map ("") files. The texture file may include Alpha Channel information. If it does, the alpha channel should be White, unless it is using transparency (a separate property). In that latter instance, Black is transparent, and White is opaque. Source:Construction Set Wiki. See also the Glossary terms _gnd.Nif, Alpha Channel, DDS, Mesh, Mipmaps, and Normal Maps.
Normal Maps:
A technique used for faking the lighting of bumps and dents. They are an 'extra texture' that provides the lighting details about the surface, and can in some instances substitute for texture files. Without the normal map's lighting details, the surface will appear black or invisible. These are saved in various sub-folders under the "<game>\Data\Textures" folder. TES File extension: "*". Source:TES Alliance and Source:Wikipedia. See also the Glossary terms _g-DDS, _n-DDS, DDS, and Texture.
Arise when an object's surface is modeled, vertices are selected, and the object is rendered in a wire frame model. Source:Wikipedia. See also the Glossary term Mesh.
The number of polygons in a mesh is an important factor to optimize for performance but can give an undesirable appearance to the resulting graphics. Source:Wikipedia. See also the Glossary terms _Far.Nif and VWD.
"Quadrants, 32x32 cells. If you have created a map by painting one whole viewable area in the heightmap editor, you have four quads (visible as divided by the green lines in the overview if you have created one), they meet in the lower lefthand corner of cell 0,0." Source:Construction Set Wiki. The cells that make up a 'quad' are not 'static' or 'fixed', but depend upon the mods loaded that affect the viewable area.
Extension for SpeedTree files. SpeedTree is a commercially licensed ($500-5000) toolkit used to create 3D animated plants and trees for games, animations, visual effects shots, and architectural renderings. Source: SpeedTree.
Detail, surface texture (a bitmap or raster image), or color applied (mapped) to the surface of a shape or polygon. These are saved in various sub-folders under the "<game>\Data\Textures" folder. TES File extension: "*.dds". Source:Wikipedia. See also the Glossary terms _n-DDS, _g-DDS, DDS, and Normal Maps.
TES file extension containing the vertices associated with morphing of the FaceGen features. It works in conjunction with the EGM file. Both are only related to actor FaceGen files and are found in the "<game>\Data\meshes\characters" folders. Source: same as for EGM. See also the Glossary term EGM.
View While Distant. Generally refers to distant ".lod" files. Source:Construction Set Wiki. LOD files are built on the basis of Quads, and are highly dependent upon the load order of your mods. See also the Glossary terms DistantLOD, _Far-Nif, _FN-DDS, LOD, and Quads.

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Taking Comparison Images (Label links to full description page.)

Our 'How To' topic on submitting Reference Locations and screenshot Images to a common standard suitable for comparing texture samples from different mods, for upload to this site.

Texture Replacers and You (Label links to full description page.)

Our 'How To' topic on systematic replacement of textures without compromising performance.

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Tips and Tricks

An easy way to check out how texture replacers look in your game is to load up the game Construction Set. Go to a cell where you know the replacer has been applied and take a look around. Note that for environmental replacers (sky, flora, terrain, etc.), it's usually best just to load the game up and do it that way. Another good way to check out items (in Oblivion, at least) is to go to the testing hall (coc testinghall) - there are rooms full of various items, so you can get a good look at everything at once; this is also handy for taking comparison screenshots of item textures.

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