SpaceEngine allows the user to adjust many graphics settings. The Graphics menu can opened by pressing [Ctrl]+[F4], by clicking on the gear icon on the left control panel, or from the main menu by navigating to Settings > Graphics.
The Auto exposure setting determines whether the brightness of objects in the scene adjust to the on-screen lighting, simulating a real camera. As of version 0.9.7.4, the auto exposure slider has two values: off and simple. With auto exposure off, all objects down to the current limiting magnitude value are visible. With autoexposure set to simple, if a bright object enters the camera field-of-view, the limiting magnitude for all object types decreases, simulating what objects would be visible if properly exposing the brightest object on the screen. Auto exposure modes can by toggled by pressing the [V] key.
The Bloom slider determines the strength of the HDR bloom effect. Higher numbers produce a stronger effect. 0.000 effectively disables bloom.
The FXAA antialiasing checkbox toggles the FXAA anti-aliasing method (anti-aliasing is the smoothing of pixel-scale hard edges in a scene, which present a "stair-step" appearance and are sometimes known as "jaggies"). It has little effect on PC performance but may result in some objects appearing slightly blurry or dim.
The Dithering checkbox toggles a subtle animated dithering effect on the scene, which helps to reduce the appearance of banding artifacts. It has little effect on PC performance and it is recommended to leave this enabled.
The Anisotropy level drop-down menu allows you to select the level of anisotropic filtering used on textures rendered in the scene. Higher numbers produce better texture quality, but at the cost of some performance. Most users should be able to set it to 16 without significant performance loss.
The Comets brightness slider allows you to select the brightness of cometary tails in SpaceEngine. Higher numbers produce brighter comet tails, while lower ones produce dimmer tails.
The Aurora brightness slider allows you to select the brightness of auroras in SpaceEngine. Higher numbers produce brighter auroras, while lower ones produce dimmer auroras.
The Skybox/Impostors/FB checkboxes toggle performance-enhancing graphics options for galaxies, nebulae, comets, and auroras. The left column of checkboxes toggle skyboxes (rendering of the galaxy or nebula you are in into a static cube-shaped image around the scene), which are used instead of rendering sprites while not moving or moving very slowly. This improves performance while inside individual star systems. The middle column toggles impostors (rendering distant galaxies and nebulae as single billboard textures instead of thousands of sprites) when looking at nebulae, galaxies, and comments from a distance. The right column toggles frame-buffer objects (rendering of sprites in a reduced resolution off-screen frame buffer then scaling them up for display on screen). This improves performance when rendering distant galaxies, nebulae, comet tails, and auroras. Disabling these can increase graphics quality in some situations, but at a significant performance penalty. It is generally recommended to leave all of these enabled.
Diffraction spikes pane
The Diffraction spikes checkbox toggles the rendering of diffraction spikes (rays of light in the virtual lens) on very bright objects like suns. The slider toggles between different rendering modes. As of version 0.9.7.4, there are two modes: simple and normal. Simple diffraction spikes assume that planetary objects are perfect spheres, and the spikes are not occluded (blocked) by terrain or spaceship models, but do affect autoexposure when blocked by a planet. Normal diffraction spikes use the position of the center of the sun on screen to determine whether spikes are occluded, and so are blocked by terrain and spaceship models, but do not affect autoexposure when blocked.
The Diff. spikes size slider allows you to adjust the size of diffraction spikes on the screen. Larger numbers produce larger sizes. The drop-down menu allows you to select which visual model the diffraction spikes use.
The Lens flares checkbox toggles rendering of lens flare ghosts (small images that spread out from a light source by reflection and diffraction in a lens). The drop-down menu allows you to select which visual model the ghosts use.
Point sources pane
The Stars: slider changes allows you to choose the rendering method of distant stars. As of version 0.9.7.4 there are four settings: Points, Sprites, Motion blur, and Motion & rot blur. Points and Sprites produce the same visual result and only change the rendering technology used. Motion blur causes stars that are moving on-screen due to camera (translational) movement to be blurred due to the motion. Motion & rot blur causes stars to blur by camera rotation as well.
The Planets: slider contains the same options for planet sprites as the Stars: slider does for star sprites.
The Scale slider allows you to change the size of point-source sprites. Higher numbers produce larger sprites.
The Overbright slider allows you to change the amount by which point sources are brightened above their base brightness. Higher values produce brighter sprites, but can lead to stars visibly "popping in" as they cross the limiting magnitude threshold.
The Desaturate dim stars slider allows you to change how much color is faded from stars with low apparent brightnesses. This simulates the eye's perception of dim lights as being white, even if they would have noticeable color if brighter (this is why only bright stars appear colorful). Larger numbers cause stars to lose color at brighter magnitudes, smaller numbers cause stars to retain color at dimmer magnitudes.
The Landscape LOD slider changes level-of-detail (LOD) of landscape, which significantly affects the loading time of planets and the amount of memory it consumes. An LOD value of 0 means per-pixel accuracy of textures. Negative values reduce the level-of-detail, which leads to faster loading times and reduces memory consumption. Conversely, positive values increase the level of detail, when compared to level zero, with the opposite effect of increased loading times and memory consumption. It is always best to reduce LOD with graphics cards that have low amounts of video memory. Graphics cards with 512 MB of VRAM or less should use LOD -2. Cards with 1024 MB should use an LOD between -2 and -1, depending on screen resolution (higher resolution screens require more memory for a given LOD value). Cards with 2 GB of VRAM or more will usually be required to comfortably use LOD settings of 0 or higher. Setting the LOD to +2 will lead to unending generation of landscape textures on almost all graphics cards.
The Loading speed slider allows you to set how many milliseconds are allowed during each frame to generate landscape tiles, which affects loading speed. Lower values result in longer load times but better framerates, while higher values may reduce load times but reduce performance.
The Eclipse shadows checkbox toggles whether shadows are drawn when one planetary or stellar object comes between the sun and another object.
The Rings shadow on the sky checkbox toggles whether the shadow of a planet's rings are rendered on its atmosphere.
The 3D water checkbox toggles the rendering of a planet's layer of liquid (if present) as an animated surface layer with underwater fog effects.
The Hi-quality aurora checkbox toggles aurora rendering quality. Enabling this option results in auroras being rendered with better quality, but reduces performance.
The Planet shine checkbox toggles the effect of light from a planet illuminating another object (secondary illumination), like the Earth-facing side of the Moon being illuminated when the Moon is near its new phase. The slider allows you to select the rendering method of the planet shine effect. Simple renders the secondary light as being white in color, unless otherwise specified in a catalog file. Normal calculates the real color of the light source once and continues to use that color. Super continuously performs calculations of the light source's real color.
The Planet shine bright slider allows you to adjust the brightness of the planet shine effect. Larger numbers produce brighter lighting.
The Night side lights checkbox toggles the rendering of emissive textures ("glow maps"), such as city lights on Earth, light from lava, the surfaces of stars, and lights on spacecraft models. The slider allows you to adjust the brightness of these textures. Larger numbers produce brighter textures.
The Thermal emission shift slider allows you to adjust the temperature of objects that emit thermal radiation, like lava and stellar surfaces. Increasing this value will cause objects to render as if they were hotter, while decreasing it will cause objects to render as if they were colder.
The Real sun brightness checkbox toggles the rendering of star surfaces with "real" brightness compared to each other. In this mode, cool red stars are drawn normally, while hot yellow and white stars become over-brightened. Reduce the Exposure setting to see a hot star's surface to compare it with a cool star's surface.
The Real planet brightness checkbox toggles the rendering of planets (including spacecraft) with "real" brightness compared to each other. In this mode, planets which receive more light from their suns than Earth are rendered as brighter than normal, while planets which receive less light than Earth are rendered dimmer than normal.