You’re already maxing out KSP’s built-in graphical settings, but you want more. Or maybe you just want a different look and feel. Visual mods are often a player’s first foray into the world of modding – not just for KSP, but across the board. Additional textures, lighting presets, perhaps even model replacements are amongst the sought after additions. Included here is a selection of KSP visual mods with instructions that are hopefully explicit enough for anyone to use.

KSP can be beautiful just in vanilla – any space nerd is tickled by Jool rising over Laythe – but you can really up the ante with just a handful of mods from the community.

I haven’t found the mods listed here to be compatible out-of-the-box, but I’ve listed the steps necessary to get them all working together. With just a little coercing, they’ll give you an incredible visual experience. Please get in touch or leave a comment if you experience any difficulties and I’ll help out as best I can.

Check out some of my tips to make this process a bit smoother. This includes my recommendation to install these mods manually rather than by using CKAN. If you want to use CKAN, you’ll have to navigate the issues that throws up on your own; this guide does it the manual way. Some quick tips in case you didn’t click through that link:

  • Backup your whole Kerbal Space Program installation directory before doing anything. This is doubly true if you already have a stable set of mods!
  • Install the mods one at a time. Launch your game after installing each one to make sure it still works. I recommend going at least to the Command Center to make sure everything’s working graphically!

KSP Visual Mods

If you intend to install all of the KSP visual mods below, I recommend reading through this list in the order given; I’ll assume you do so in order to deal with incompatibility issues. These installation instructions have been tested on the most recent version of KSP at the time of writing, which is version 1.3.1. There might be additional problems running any other version, especially those before 1.2.

A version of this post was published for 1.2.1 in March 2017. It’s still available here.

The full list of KSP visual mods featured here is:



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Scatterer

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Author: blackrack
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Scatterer adds atmospheric scattering effects to KSP. It makes sunsets and sunrises even more spectacular. Below is just one sample shot – check out the album here.

KSP Visual Mods - Scatterer

Installation

Download and drop in GameData.


EVE + SVE

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EVE

Author: Waz (original work by rbray89)
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SVE

Author: Galileo
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EVE stands for Environment Visual Enhancements. SVE stands for Stock Visual Enhancements. EVE is a mod that provides a framework for using texture packs (and also provides its own texture pack). SVE is a popular texture pack for use with EVE.

These notably add city lights to Kerbin, and cloud and other atmospheric effects to bodies in the rest of the Kerbol system. Kerbin is shown below (this also incorporates Scatterer effects at the terminus, which appears slightly red).

KSP Visual Mods - EVE and SVE

Dependencies

SVE of course requires EVE to work. In addition, it requires the following:

Installation

  1. Follow instructions above for Scatterer.
  2. Download EVE (only the EnvironmentalVisualEnhancements zip folder if you’re going to use SVE, but grab the Configs zip folder too if you’re skipping SVE), extract, and drop in GameData.
  3. Download SVE and its textures (you can choose from high, medium, and low res textures). Unzip SVE and drop in GameData. Unzip the textures and place the Textures folder in the StockVisualEnhancements folder in GameData.

Note that the SVE installation instructions on the KSP forums instruct you to download Module Manager. I’m not convinced this is required, as such, but I don’t think it does any harm if you wish to download and install it.

After you’re done, you’ll have a directory structure something like this:

Kerbal Space Program/
    GameData/
        EnvironmentalVisualEnhancements/
        scatterer/
        Squad/
        StockVisualEnhancements/
            SVE_Configs/
            SVE_Scatterer/
            Textures/
            ...

Stock Visual Terrain (SVT)

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SVT

Author: Galileo
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Kopernicus

Author: Thomas P.
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Designed to sit alongside SVE, SVT improves the ground textures for stock celestial bodies (so if you’re using Real Solar System or Outer Planets Mod, this doesn’t apply). See before and after comparison here. One example below:

KSP Visual Mods - SVT

It does make quite a difference to the terrain clarity.

Dependencies

SVT has one dependency:

Kopernicus is a framework allowing for modification of stock planets and moons and addition of new ones. It’s used by a handful of popular mods so having this in your load-out will be useful should you decide to continue the modding journey beyond the realms of the graphical.

Installation

I’ve received multiple reports of SVT not working with the Custom ReShade mentioned later. If you experience visual problems – including but not necessarily limited to a black screen with only the user interface present – after applying the Custom ReShade, totally remove the SVT folder in GameData, download it again, and move back to GameData.

Download SVT and Kopernicus, unzip, and drop the GameData contents into your own KSP GameData folder. (Kopernicus contains more than a single folder.) Your directory structure will be something like this:

Kerbal Space Program/
    GameData/
        EnvironmentalVisualEnhancements/
        Kopernicus/
        ModularFlightIntegrator/
        scatterer/
        Squad/
        StockVisualEnhacements/
            SVE_Configs/
            SVE_Scatterer/
            Textures/
            ...
        SVT/
        ModuleManager.2.8.1.dll <version might vary>
        ModuleManagerLicense.md

Distant Object Enhancement

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Author: MOARdV (original work by Rubber Ducky)
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Distant Object Enhancement does what it says on the tin; it’s a visual enhancement mod that makes objects realistically visible over large distances. You’ll notice the following differences:

  • Planets and satellites will be visible in the night sky with small flare effects; in much the same way that Mars appears red in our own night sky, Duna will appear red, Eve purple, Jool green etc.
  • Distant vessels will be visualised up to 750 km away, making orbital rendezvous a little more enigmatic!
  • The skybox will be washed out by light from reflecting bodies, just as in real life.

KSP Visual Mods - Distant Object Enhancements

Installation

Download and drop in GameData. When you unzip the DistantObject .zip file, there will be more than the GameData folder inside; you can ignore the rest for the purposes of this tutorial. Your GameData folder will look similar to the below.

Kerbal Space Program/
    GameData/
        DistantObject/
        Squad/

PlanetShine

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PlanetShine emulates the scientific phenomenon of albedo whereby celestial bodies reflect back a portion of the light reaching their surface. The colour will be tinted with the body’s surface colour. In KSP, this means that light reflected from Kerbin is slightly blue, from Duna slightly red, and from Jool slightly green. See an example of the latter below.

KSP Visual Mods - PlanetShine

Before and after shots can be seen here, and examples of coloured reflection can be seen here. The colours are identical to those used by Distant Object Enhancement (as in, the modders collaborated).

PlanetShine also makes some changes to ambient lighting in space on on a planet’s surface.

Installation

Download and drop in GameData. Note that PlanetShine hasn’t been updated since 1.2. It does work for subsequent versions, however. You can remove the incompatibility warning on start-up by deleting the PlanetShine.version file in PlanetShine/Plugins. Note that this will stop you being notified if there’s ever a new version released!

Kerbal Space Program/
    GameData/
        PlanetShine/
            Plugins/
                PlanetShine.version <delete this if you want to remove the incompatibility warning>
                ...
            ...
        Squad/

CollisionFX

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Author: pizzaoverhead
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CollisionFX adds sound effects and sparks with lighting when you collide or scrap your craft. It also adds a rubbery screech to landing gear on contact with the ground. If you’re a player whose landings are often less than ideal – and let’s face it, who isn’t? – this mod will add a little more drama to those landings.

KSP Visual Mods - Step-by-Step Installation Guide for v1.3.1 - CollisionFX

 

Installation

Download and drop in GameData. The GameData folder will look something like the below.

Kerbal Space Program/
    GameData/
        CollisionFX/
        Squad/

Engine Lighting

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Author: tajampi (ToXik-yogHurt for Engine Lighting 1.5.1 update)
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Engine Lighting adds lighting effects to engines and decouplers. Light intensity is calculated from thrust and engine power. This works on a lot of modded engines too, thankfully!

KSP Visual Mods - Step-by-Step Installation Guide for v1.3.1 - Engine Lighting

Installation

Download and drop in GameData. The GameData folder will look something like the below.

Kerbal Space Program/
    GameData/
        EngineLight/
        Squad/

TextureReplacer + Rareden’s Real 8K Skybox

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TextureReplacer (RangeMachine’s Unofficial Release)

Author: RangeMachine (original work by shaw)
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Rareden’s Real 8K Skybox

Author: Rareden (reproduced on their behalf by Kunschner)
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The “skybox” is the game’s starry background. You can never actually reach those places – the skybox is just a cuboid wrapped around the playable area. Change the cuboid, change the backdrop to all of your extra-planetary adventures in KSP.

The default skybox is subtle – one can see the galactic plane stretch across the sky, but it’s largely ignorable. The right skybox can become an important part of KSP’s visual landscape.

To replace the skybox, and many other textures (suits, heads, celestial bodies, for example), you need to install a mod named TextureReplacer. (No marks for inspiration, but A+ for usefulness.) More specifically, you’ll need RangeMachine’s Unofficial Release of it, since TextureReplacer is incompatible with later versions of KSP.

Installation

Download RangeMachine’s Unofficial Release, unzip, and drop in the GameData folder.

Next, download Rareden’s Real 8K Skybox for the skybox files. It’s pretty:

KSP Visual Mods - Rareden's Skybox

(If you want something different i.e. not Rareden’s Real 8K Skybox, check the TextureReplacer thread linked above which has a list of skyboxes you can use.) Skyboxes will come with six files, each corresponding to a different face of the skybox cuboid, named as follows:

GalaxyTex_NegativeX.jpg
GalaxyTex_NegativeY.jpg
GalaxyTex_NegativeZ.jpg
GalaxyTex_PositiveX.jpg
GalaxyTex_PositiveY.jpg
GalaxyTex_PositiveZ.jpg

Put these files in GameData/TextureReplacer/Default, replacing any that might already be there.

Your KSP installation directory will look something like the following:

Kerbal Space Program/
    GameData/
        Squad/
        TextureReplacer/
            Default/
                GalaxyTex_NegativeX.jpg
                GalaxyTex_NegativeY.jpg
                GalaxyTex_NegativeZ.jpg
                GalaxyTex_PositiveX.jpg
                GalaxyTex_PositiveY.jpg
                GalaxyTex_PositiveZ.jpg
            ...

Galileo’s Sun Flares

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Author: Galileo
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“Sun flares” refer to the optical effect often most noticeable in KSP due to Kerbol (the sun). Making a small effort to change the flare effect with Galileo’s Sun Flares will be rewarded every time one of your spacecraft orbit across a planet’s terminus and into the sunlight.

KSP Visual Mods - Galileo's Sun Flares

Requirements

Galileo’s Sun Flares has just one dependency:

Installation

First, follow the instructions listed on this page for Scatterer.

There are two ways to install GSF, depending on whether you use one of the nine more recent flares (GSF v1.8.0 onwards, easier to install) or one of the 25 earlier flares (prior to GSF v1.8.0).

Recent Flares (GSF v1.8.0 onwards)

Download one of the packages (I like Fusion_White), unzip, and place the GSF folder in your GameData folder. And you’re done!

If you really want to use one of the earlier flares, then click the text below to read installation instructions, but they’ve only been lightly updated since I last tested all of this on 1.2.1. In other words, the instructions for earlier flares are untested on 1.3.1 and might not work at all; worse, they may ruin your mod setup totally. This is just my best guess.

» Installation instructions for earlier flares

Earlier Flares (Prior to GSF v1.8.0)

These instructions are more involved because GSF didn’t use Module Manager in the past, so you have to overwrite some settings from other mods you have installed. (You’ll have at least one because you need Scatterer.)

Download Galileo’s Sun Flares and extract the zip file. This will provide you with a folder, GalileosSunFlares, containing four folders corresponding to the colour you’d like to provide to Kerbol – blue, red, white, or yellow. Each of these folders in turn contains six or seven folders, each corresponding to a different flare type. The one shown above, for example, is number five. (I prefer the fifth variant of the white sun, myself.) To distinguish between them you might need to try a few out, or dig into the mod folder a little more and imagine what a composite of the images might look like.

Within each flare type folder, there is a GameData folder containing a folder called “scatterer”. To recap, you have a folder structure something like this:

GalileosSunFlares
    Blue
        ...
    Red
        ...
    White
        1
            ...
        2
            ...
        3
            ...
        4
            ...
        5
            GameData
                scatterer
                    config
                        Sunflares
                            Sun
                                ...
                            Sun.cfg
        6
            ...
    Yellow
        ...

You’ll need to copy one of the nested scatterer folders into your KSP installation GameData folder, overwriting any files when prompted (i.e. you want Galileo’s Sun Flares effects to override the base Scatterer effects).

There’s a further action to take if you’re using SVT. Copy the Sun.cfg file nested inside your chosen sun flare variant to SVT/configs and overwrite the existing file in there.

In summary:

  1. Download and extract Galileo’s Sun Flares. I’m assuming you now have a file called “GalileosSunFlares” in some directory.
  2. Choose a colour and a flare variant e.g. White/5.
  3. Copy the “scatterer” folder for that flare variant into your KSP installation’s GameData folder i.e. copy: /GalileosSunFlares/White/5/GameData/scatterer to: /GameData and overwrite when prompted.
  4. If you’re using SVT, overwrite the Sun.cfg file in the SVT folder with the one from the sun flare variant that you’ve chosen i.e. copy: /GalileosSunFlares/White/5/GameData/scatterer/config/Sunflares/Sun.cfg to: /GameData/SVT/configs and overwrite when prompted.

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JayS_NL’s Custom KSP ReShade

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Author: JayS_NL
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This odd-sounding mod makes myriad tweaks and final touches to the visual feel of KSP in a manner that, in my opinion, makes the whole game a little more vibrant. It works in a similar way to GemFX or SweetFX, so-called “DLL-injectors”. See some of the comparison video below showing the action of the JayS_NL’s Custom KSP ReShade mod.

KSP Visual Mods - Step-by-Step Installation Guide for v1.3.1 - Custom ReShade
by Mulbin on KSP Forums

Installation

This is perhaps the most fiddly of all the mods listed on this page to get working. The problem begins on the first post of the thread linked to above – some of the tools referred to no longer exist in the expected form. The author has corrected the installation method in some later posts, but for posterity I’ll include everything here. There are a number of steps that you need to take to get this to play nicely with the other mods here.

  1. Download ReShade, a post-processing injector for games.
  2. Run the downloaded executable, click ‘Select game’, choose the KSP executable (I would recommend running all of these in 64-bit mode, but choose whichever one you normally use e.g. /KSP_x64.exe), then choose the Direct3D 10+ rendering API. ReShade will install files and configuration to your KSP directory.
  3. To avoid rendering artifacts in the game (normally manifesting themselves as “stripes” around KSC and in some clouds on Laythe and Eve), you’ll need to convert some images from one format (known as DDS) to another (PNG).
    1. Download, install, and run the free program DDS Converter.
    2. If you’re using SVT, select all DDS files (with the DDS Converter program) in /GameData/SVT/SVT_Textures and convert them to PNG, outputting into the same directory. Backup the DDS files somewhere (just in case things go wrong) and delete them from this directory.
    3. If you’re using SVE, repeat step 2 for /GameData/StockVisualEnhancements/Textures.
  4. Download the file hosted here, called reshade.ini, and paste it directly into your KSP installation top-level directory (Kerbal Space Program). (Note that I didn’t create this file. It was configured by JayS_NL; I’m merely hosting it for posterity.)
  5. Run KSP in forced D3D11 mode with the “-force-d3d11” flags. Do this by following the guide here.
  6. Some windows will appear while KSP loads – this is ReShade doing its thing. Once the game has loaded, press SHIFT + F2 to open the ReShade settings menu and change the presets file to point to /reshade.ini.
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Categories Guide Modding
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Comments (7)

  • Andres
    December 6, 2017 at 12:32 Reply
    Everything works fine but in the last step everything breaks. If I make the textures png, the loading screen before starting a new game after the main menu lasts forever. Also, I think that you have to make terrain in svt pngs or else u get rendering stripes. Also, i get a very ugly thick black line on the far horizon over the ocean. I have tried everything please Help! (otherwise great guide thank you :D!)
    • December 6, 2017 at 12:46 Reply
      Hi Andres! Thanks for trying the guide out! Your feedback is very valuable, so thank you also for taking the time to reach out.I'm sorry you're having difficulty with the final step! It is the most problematic. I've heard of similar symptoms from other users, so you're not alone, but I'm also not sure what the solution is at this stage.I did mention in the instructions to convert the SVT files from DDS to PNG, as you correctly pointed out. As it happens, I think this is the cause of the perpetual loading screen that you pointed out. I think it's actually the SVT PNG files that cause the black screen you're referring to.I haven't figured out the solution to this problem yet, but I'm working on it!The black line on the far horizon is also something I've not worked out. I honestly normally just put up with it because the rest of the game is so beautiful. It looks like an aliasing problem, but again, I'm not sure what's causing it.Sorry I couldn't be of more help. I will continue to test these instructions to see if I can reproduce the issues other people see.
      • Andres
        December 6, 2017 at 15:10 Reply
        Wow, that was a very fast response, thanks. If you are kind to suggestions, i think that there adding Reentry Particle FX mod and RealPlume would be a good idea, and perhaps KSC++. Also, please consider doing a gameplay mods and a parts mods list, I´d be glad to help. Amazing page, glad I found it :)!
        • December 6, 2017 at 19:43 Reply
          Thanks for the suggestions! I would love to do more KSP mod posts in the future, time permitting :) Thank you for your offer! I have made a note of your contact details!
    • December 9, 2017 at 01:00 Reply
      Hi Andres. Could you please try the following: 1) Delete your existing SVT folder, if it still exists. 2) Re-download SVT. 3) Unzip SVT and move to GameData, as before.Don't run ReShade after this!Hopefully you'll now be able to run without graphical problems.
  • Luke
    December 10, 2017 at 01:36 Reply
    Great list of mods and instructions. will a little bit of fiddling i got all but the last one to work and it looks great! I think that Module Manager is required for several of the mods and once i realized that it fixed most of the issues I was having. Also, for those who haven’t completed the mods yet, make sure you save a backup before you install the last one. that will save you a lot of time.
    • December 10, 2017 at 09:52 Reply
      Hi Luke! Thanks for the feedback and extra tips! I think I left a note near the top of the page to backup, but it's always worth emphasising that one! I also believe Module Manager comes packed with one of these mods - perhaps Kopernicus? Did it not appear for you?

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