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I am looking at installing this 4K Texture pack for Skyrim Special Edition:

4K Parallax Skyrim by Pfuscher https://www.nexusmods.com/skyrim/mods/49661?tab=files

But since my display has a max resolution of 1920 x 1080 will those textures even be loaded/work?

Not knowing how this works but will the game engine only load textures that fits the current resolution or will it actually try and load the 4K version installed even though they are overkill?

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    The textures are unlikely to be "4K" as in 4K resolution: the mod name is probably referring to "textures that look good for people running 4k resolution." In addition the the answers below, games use techniques such as mipmapping which means you may use more memory t hold the larger texture set, but you may not see the largest texture unless your camera is very close. – Yorik Sep 27 at 19:20
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    @Yorik the top rated answer originally stated that might be the case, but edited after reading up on this specific mod. – At0mic Sep 28 at 5:03
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A 4K texture, does not require a 4K monitor.

In short, the graphics pipeline for getting "pretty pictures" on a screen is, with some hand-waving to simplify things:

  • You have a 3D model, that looks like a thing - e.g. "a tree"

  • You have a texture, which is just a 2D image of colors

  • The texture is mapped to the model, such that each point on the surface of the 3D model (split into triangles), has a co-ordinate on the texture. i.e. points to a specific pixel on the texture. It's like mathematically wrapping a candy-bar wrapper around the chocolate inside.

  • When you view this in game, Maths™ is used, which maps each point on the 3D model, to a pixel on your screen.

  • As each point on the 3D model, is already mapped to a pixel in the texture. You can now set the color of that pixel on your monitor - to the color from the texture.

Note, the obvious things now:

  • There are infinite points on a 3D model (look at your hand, find two points - you can keep finding a "half-way" point mathematically, infinite times)

  • There are a limited number of pixels in the texture map. It has a width and height, and there is clearly no such thing as half-way between two pixels - it's either pixel 1, or pixel 2.

Therefore, to map each point on the model to a pixel in the texture, means some points will share a pixel. In game, when you zoom too far in - this means you either get pixelated looking images, or if they use any kind of filtering (*all modern games do), you'll get a nice big blurry spot.

A 4K texture just has more pixels to sample from. So more points on the model will have their own unique pixel. That is, you could get much closer to it - and you will still see details.

The resolution of your monitor only matters after this point. The model will still be rendered using the high-quality textures, even if your monitor is so bad - that you'd have to stand right next to the model to see any difference.

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    +1 for the last 2 paragraphs. Contrary to what a lot of people are shouting on the internet, 4k can actually make a difference in quality for gaming, you just need to be closer to the object model to see it. People seem to confuse movies and gaming a lot when it comes to video output. – Mixxiphoid Sep 26 at 16:35
  • If you have a 4k texture on, say, a side wall of a castle, and you walk right up to it and see only 1/10th of the wall, the 4k texture will look MUCH better (nevermind that actual texturing will use a high res texture but on repeat...). Textures of higher resolution will help whenever you have a perspective that looks at only a fraction of it, hence why sometimes they load in low-res texture if you are zoomed out. – Nelson Sep 27 at 8:09
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    td; dr version: 4K textures are textures that would look nice even on your 4K monitor, while non-4K textures may look blurry or pixelated on the same device. – user28434 Sep 27 at 9:53
  • Note: quadrupling the texture area may turn the rendering & even gameplay from smooth to jerky. You will be holding a lot more in RAM & the skinning will have to work harder. – Tetsujin Sep 27 at 11:23
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    @Tetsujin: That will greatly depend on the GPU's computing power relative to the game's resolution. If you're running at a low resolution and have a monster GPU, you can totally get away with this sort of thing. – Kevin Sep 27 at 19:57
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I can't comment as I do not have the necessary reputation, but I wanted to add on to Bilkokuya's excellent answer.

Two of the main important factors regarding whether you can see a difference with higher-resolution textures is both your distance from the object (which Mixxiphoid pointed out), as well as the size of the object. IOW, how much area that texture needs to be stretched over.

1K textures might look fine on an apple right in front of your face, but 1K textures on a mountain in Skyrim at the same distance might look very poor.

In general, I would consider high-resolution textures for anything large or frequently seen close-up.

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