Elite: Dangerous is a stunning looking game by default, but that won’t stop us from tweaking it even further to make it look far better than it already does. This guide will show you how to tweak the graphics to make the galaxy even better looking!

If you’ve ever been out in the deep black exploring, you probably know that Elite is probably the best “screenshot emulator” up to date. Gorgeous vistas, huge asteroid fields around enormous gas giants, local stars shining behind many worlds you fly by, or simply above the horizon of a distant undiscovered moon you’ve just landed on…

If you have the hardware to run the game on maxed out settings, you can probably afford some extra tweaks to boost the graphics as well.

World textures

Each of the game presets targets a specific chunk of XML data inside GraphicsConfiguration.xml file. By simply changing those values, we can easily boost the overall visual quality of the planets we fly by – especially when viewed from up close.

The mentioned file is located in your game installation folder under: Elite Dangerous\Products\elite-dangerous-64 (it might be either in your Program files or under the steamapps folder). Do not edit this file without making a backup first. Some of the changes mentioned below can simply be pasted into the GraphicsConfigurationOverride.xml file (located at %localappdata%\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Graphics) but some players reported not being able to get the changes to work that way – so let’s just stick to the original file inside the game folder.

Edit the file in a simple text editor like Notepad or Notepad++ (do not use MS Word or anything alike). Search for a chunk of code starting with <planets> which contains all the settings for the default game preset. We only want to edit the ultra setting so instead of the default texture size of 2560, type in 8192 to make the game use 8k textures. The preset chunk should look like this:

<Ultra>
<LocalisationName>$QUALITY_ULTRA;</LocalisationName>
<TextureSize>8192</TextureSize>
<AtmosphereSteps>6</AtmosphereSteps>
<CloudsEnabled>true</CloudsEnabled>
<WorkPerFrame>256</WorkPerFrame>
<TexturePoolBudget>100</TexturePoolBudget>
</Ultra>

Next up, is the quality of the galaxy background. Look for the <GalaxyBackground> tag just beneath the ultra preset we just edited, in the same file. Change the default 2k resolution to 4k. The preset chunk should look like this:

<High>
<LocalisationName>$QUALITY_HIGH;</LocalisationName>
<TextureSize>4096</TextureSize>
</High>

Use search/find or scroll down to the <Environment> section, and modify the ultra preset for the GalaxyBackground. By default it’s using the same level as the High preset so we’ll bump this one by a single value. Your chunk of code should look like this:

<Ultra>
<LocalisationName>$QUALITY_ULTRA;</LocalisationName>
<Item>
<Feature>GalaxyBackground</Feature>
<QualitySetting>3</QualitySetting>
</Item>
<Item>
<Feature>Planets</Feature>
<QualitySetting>3</QualitySetting>
</Item>
<Item>
<Feature>DamageDecals</Feature>
<QualitySetting>2</QualitySetting>
</Item>
<Item>
<Feature>SurfaceRocks</Feature>
<QualitySetting>2</QualitySetting>
</Item>
</Ultra>

Moving onto the <Envmap> part of the .xml file, bump the High preset texture size to 512. Your chunk of code should look like this:

<High>
<LocalisationName>$QUALITY_HIGH;</LocalisationName>
<TextureSize>512</TextureSize>
<NumMips>8</NumMips>
</High>
Lava world

By changing the above mentioned values – you should see a noticeable increase in overall texture quality without any framerate issues as long as you have the hardware to support it. Just for comparison – I used these settings with my old GTX-770 OC, and I never saw any difference in framerate compared to vanilla Ultra settings. However, if you get random hickups or frame drops, try lowering the planet textures to 4k instead of 8k.

Shaders

Personally, I never use extra shader injection like SweetFX or ReShade because I have a good IPS monitor that displays amazing colors, and honestly – none of the presets ever fit my taste… But, a lot of people still do. I tried testing various types of shaders in Elite and most of them have issues starting up. Luckily, there’s EDFX that was designed with Elite in mind exclusively. You can get full info and download it from here. Just make sure to get the latest version and start the game via EDFX to make sure everything works.

As with all shader injectors – you will most probably have to tweak it a lot to your liking and to match your monitor color profiles.

Changing the FoV

Even though the game offers the FoV (field of view) slider inside the options menu, you can tweak it even further inside the Settings.xml file located in AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Graphics folder.

Look for the FOV tags inside the mentioned file and edit the value to your liking. Just make sure not to boost it too high because it may cause strange camera behaviour.

Depending on the ship you're flying, after you boost the FoV, you might end up seeing more of your pilot. Wouldn't it be nice if you could tilt your default head position upwards and see more of the outside than just your feet and hands holding the controlls? Well - it's actually very easy. Open up the settings menu and go to Controls > Headlook Mode > Centre When Headlook Inactive and disable it. Now, you can just use headlook mode to position the camera however you want. Once you disable headlook mode - the camera will not reset.

Changing the UI color

And finally – we have the simplest mod that makes all of our cockpits awesome in just a few clicks… The default orange UI looks cool, and it actually feels nice in the majority of starter ships. It looks perfect on a rusty sidewinder, and it goes really nicely with the military Viper or a Cobra.

However – once you get into higher-tier ships, especially if you like to bask in the glory of the Empire like I do – you will want to change the orange color into something more fitting to the amazing clean/sleek lines of your ship.

To do so, open the GraphicsConfigurationOverride.xml file inside your home directory under C:\Users\{USER}\AppData\Local (Windows) or Library\Application Support (OS X), and search for a folder named Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Graphics.

If you don’t have the mentioned file inside the Graphics folder – just create one yourself. The game uses whatever is inside to override the default settings. If you’ve seen someone with a cool UI, this is the file to paste the settings in. If you just want to try out different colors and mix/match your own – go to Arkku and copy/paste the code given after you tweak the sliders to your liking.

FDL UI

An example of a blue UI code looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<GraphicsConfig>
<GUIColour>
<Default>
<LocalisationName>Standard</LocalisationName>
<MatrixRed> 0.21, 0.29, 0.93 </MatrixRed>
<MatrixGreen> 0, 1, 0 </MatrixGreen>
<MatrixBlue> 1, 1, 1 </MatrixBlue>
</Default>
</GUIColour>
</GraphicsConfig>

I hope some of the tweaks were helpful and your Elite galaxy looks even better now.

Fly safe, and fly curiously o7