Let me be direct for a moment. Default X-Plane looks drab and dull and no amount of indications that the grey overtones over the sim are “realistic” will convince me that the real world looks that way. It certainly doesn’t to my eyes. This is a sim that needs a little help to punch up the colours, improve the contrast, and let you make some great looking screenshots as well as enjoy the sim at a new level. There’s a few options out there but shadeX is one that you may want to consider and this is a quick review of the available software.
What does it do?
shadeX essentially takes standard X-Plane 11 and puts some shaders on top of it that can do things like increase contrast, change the gamma, change the colour temperature (making things more orange or blue), add in depth of field settings to make your aircraft in focus and the background blurry, or even do things like apply a film grain, a vignette, or sharpen the scene.
For my upcoming Phenom 300 review I ended up tweaking my own preset which I used on nearly every screenshot in that review because it’s just so easy to do.
You can use one of the dozen presets or mess around with the settings and create your own.
In this example screenshot you can see all of the adjustments available including a fast lens speed, medium focal length and blur settings that isolate the aircraft from the background. You may not always want to fly like this but it definitely makes for some good screenshots. More valuable are the contrast, saturation, and colour temperature settings.
You can make X-Plane look far more saturated (and more realistic to my eyes) than the default and you can tweak as necessary. In these next two screenshots, you can see what happens when you push the saturation and sharpness settings a little too high. Again, this is what it CAN look like if you really want it to but you’ll ideally want to find a happy medium.
In another example, this time with the Phenom 300, you can see a more reasonable pre-set that I’ve created for myself with tweaked colours and contrast that make the aircraft look sharp and the colours pop without feeling unnatural and if I’m not fully satisfied I can take the setting and move it a few notches up and down to find the right value.
Curious to know what all of the presets look like? Here you go!
Official Feature list
- Color settings:
Change contrast, lift, gamma, gain, temperature and saturation
Apply sepia, film grain, vignette and sharpening effects
- Depth of Field:
Highlight/blur specific areas automatically or by full manual control
- Field of View:
Set close up or wide-angle views
Select from various presets or save your own color/effect setting
- User Interface:
A modern and user-friendly menu with quick access to all functions + advanced settings with full control for experts
The plugin is available in English, German, Spanish, French (based on the X-Plane language selection)
Written manual available for all languages + video tutorial covering all features in English
Doesn’t ReShade do the same thing?
Essentially? Yes, it does. ReShade for X-Plane can be installed for free and it will let you tweak all kinds of settings until you find something that works for you there as well. So what’s the difference between that and a payware option like shadeX?
There’s a couple of things but the biggest one for me is convenience. ReShade requires a lot of time spent tweaking to get it working nicely and it’s done through a more challenging to use interface. By contrast, I installed shadeX, brought up the control panel and had found my own settings very quickly and saved a profile. Taking out the time needed to buy the plugin and input the serial number, the whole thing took seconds to get started with. There was no need to compile extra shaders or see what settings ate into frame rates and which didn’t. shadeX just works and it has a relatively easy to use interface on it.
ReShade also gave me trouble with screen flashing on load and at random intervals while I was flying. It’d suddenly stop and need to reload for some reason. It also stopped working more than a few times and required an full update. I haven’t had shadeX long enough to determine if I will see the longer term update problem but I’ve had no issues with it at all. It just works.
ReShade is a completely viable option and it’s free so nothing is stopping you from giving it a try. If you want something wrapped up that’s maybe a little less flexible but a lot easier to use. shadeX is probably the way you want to go.
Glad I bought it
To wrap-up this mini-review, I’m really glad I bought it. It doesn’t fully address the many visual deficiencies of X-Plane but it adds an easy to use system that will let you adjust your visual settings on the fly and make X-Plane look better – to your own tastes!
This may or may not be for you but I know several people who all spent the $14.99 USD and have been satisfied with what they’ve been able to do with it. There’s a free trial out as well so you can install the software and try it. There’s a big watermark all over your screen but you’ll very quickly be able to see how fast and easy to adjust the software is.