What is Chromatic Aberration? - Graphics Settings Explained

Written by Chad Norton on Sun, Feb 2, 2020 4:35 PM
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Chromatic Aberration, or CA, is an effect caused by the refraction of light into the lens of a camera. Essentially it’s when a lens fails to focus all the colours into a single point, causing an ever so slight colour shift on the edges of some objects, depending on the brightness of said object.

In photography, Chromatic Aberration is a natural effect that occurs depending on the type and quality of lens used. Since it doesn’t necessarily exist naturally in video games, many developers will just use a simulation of the effect instead.

But why is it used in games in the first place? Chromatic aberration is exclusive to camera lenses, which usually don’t exist in video games. The camera you control in-game does not distort or refract light like real cameras; there is no ‘lens’ to refract light in the first place, so why use it?

Adding Chromatic Aberration will make the game seem as if it was filmed with a camera. These days developers or publishers want certain cinematic effects in their games, making the production value seem higher than it actually is (I’m looking at you, letterboxing) and potentially adding more weight to certain scenes.

How demanding is Chromatic Aberration?

Essentially it is just a cinematic effect, much like letter-boxing or vignetting. This means it is purely for personal preference. Whether or not you want to enable it there will be little to no impact on the performance. If we’re really trying to stretch here and I mean really going for a stretch, you might be able to save a single extra frame, if even that.

Is Chromatic Aberration worth enabling?

Chromatic Aberration is mostly down to personal taste. The main question you should ask yourself is: Do I want my game to look like I’m viewing it through the lens of a camera? Obviously it will make your game look more ‘cinematic’, but is that something you really want in your game about killer bunnies shooting rainbows at unicorns? Maybe in your gritty crime detective story, or a photorealistic horror game. Again though, it’s all down to personal preference.

Here’s a couple screenshots that will show you just what Chromatic Aberration does in-game and help you decide whether or not you prefer it enabled or disabled:

Alien: Isolation

As you can see on the text towards the left side, there is an ever so slight blur and colour shift occurring around the edges of the text 'A01'.

Resident Evil 7

Again you can see here the colour shift and subsequent blurriness along the edges of the lamp and wooden board.

Now it is worth noting that both of these games are first-person horror titles utilising photo realistic graphics. In these types of games you'll notice the difference much more significantly, in others you might not notice it as much.

Our Recommendation:

Since Chromatic Aberration does not affect the frame rate it is all down to personal preference. However we recommend to turn it off if you favour stronger image quality in your games as it can add a slight blurriness to the image.

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00:50 Feb-04-2020

as a 3d artist in modernation it can give a softer effect to certain materials which can help it look better depending on the look or material your going for, a tiny amount of film grain can also help add a dithering effect to the image

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15:52 Feb-03-2020

I think they use it to hide bad/ low resolution texture work. You can use it yourself if you have low VRAM and play with low textures. I used it when playing Dying Light because of all the muddy textures the game had. I also used it in Arkham Knight because I could only play with low textures in my old PC.

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20:54 Feb-02-2020

NO, GOD NO.. DEFINITELY NO !!! It looks like a broken graphics card.

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20:00 Feb-02-2020

Another one of those graphics settings that just makes games look worse and less immersive, like motion blur, lens flares, film grain, depth of field, etc. I just dont understand why they waste time adding these things.

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22:04 Feb-02-2020

Motion blur, depth of field and film grain are hands down the worst

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17:39 Feb-03-2020

I actually do like motion blur and grain, but maybe that's because I'm a photographer. I even play DOOM 2016 with both grain and motion blur, while my gf can't stand the blur :D
DOF in games is a mixed bag - most game engines emulate it very badly, so only a handful of games look good with it.

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21:51 Feb-03-2020

yeah DOF makes objects blurry and i dont really like that, sometimes i just stare at the background in cutscenes and all i see is just a blurry mess, prefere to see everything really clear and sharp.

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17:44 Feb-03-2020

I love motion blur too.

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17:18 Feb-02-2020

I always found CA a bit dumb in video games... in photography and film industries - we actually try to mitigate CA as much as possible - it is undesirable. It is considered to be something that plagues cheap lenses (which is true, since the expensive glass mitigates CA very well, to the point where you may see half a pixel of CA on a 30+ Mpix photo at best with some lenses).


So you can't even make an argument that CA "makes it look like it's filmed with a camera", because you just won't see it in professional productions (film, TV, photography, etc).

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17:20 Feb-02-2020

CA can be distracting and it makes VFX work a pain in the rear, so it make sense to try and eliminate it from the footage/photos, be it by using good glass or in post (for example, Adobe Lightroom and every other professional photo editing package will have CA removal tools that are piss-easy to use).


There are also various types of aberration, such as axial, spherical, lateral, which have different results. Video games usually try to mimic lateral aberration.

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