What Is Anti-Aliasing?

Have you ever tried to play a game on your PC that was a little more than your graphics card could handle? Instead of seeing sweeping vistas, you got pixelated edges and blocky forms. These “jaggies” are usually eliminated by increasing your screen resolution.

What Is Anti-Aliasing?

But that’s not possible for everyone.

So, if you have an older GPU or you’re simply playing on a rig not built for gaming, here’s some bad news for you: you can’t reach the high-resolution textures without compromise in the form of a drastic slowdown in your game.

However, you can try using anti-aliasing to improve graphic resolution without the slowdown. Find out more about anti-aliasing and why you should consider it in this article.

What Is Anti-Aliasing?

Anti-aliasing is a way for your computer to play nice with all those pixels in PC games and smooth them out into graphics worthy of this century. In short, it’s a graphics setting that helps get rid of jaggies.

If you’re running a game on a higher resolution, you’re in luck. You probably don’t know what a “jaggie” is nor have you seen one. But some gamers have to make do with what they have and that may mean a subpar rig for high-demand games.

Think of it this way…

The images in games are created by stacking and aligning square pixels. When you don’t have high enough resolution, you can see the jagged edges or “jaggies” of the images. Officially, it’s called “aliasing” but gamers like “jaggies” and “the staircase effect” better. It’s easier to remember.

So, along comes anti-aliasing settings in your PC graphic window to take care of this visual monstrosity. There are a couple of ways a PC may handle anti-aliasing:

Types of Anti-Aliasing

Now that we’ve covered what it is, let’s go over the two types of anti-aliasing you need to know about.

Spatial Anti-Aliasing

When you have a low-resolution image littered with jaggies, spatial anti-aliasing works to fill the gaps made by that low resolution and eliminate that jagged staircase look.

It takes color samples of the excess pixels from a higher resolution image, makes samples, and shrinks it back down to the original resolution. The result is an image with pixel colors averaged from the high-resolution pixels blending those harsh edges and making them less noticeable.

Post-Process Anti-Aliasing

With the post-processing anti-aliasing method, the smoothing out occurs after the image is rendered and blurs perceived edges. While post-process anti-aliasing can eliminate some of those jaggies, it does tend to make your images look blurry. And the more detailed your game is, the more likely you are to notice this.

However, since the GPU determines where it needs to blur after rendering an image, it happens very quickly with less strain on your processor. So, it’s really up to the gamer and what they prefer to compromise.

What Is Anti-Aliasing in Minecraft?

Minecraft’s design is supposed to harken back to early gaming’s pixelated heroes. The blocky scenes and characters are drawn that way on purpose. But aliasing can lead to some unintended “jagginess” to Minecraft’s pixelated world.

If you have a Windows 10 or VR Edition of Minecraft, there’s a simple solution waiting for you on the Options screen. As of the 0.15.0 Update, these editions of Minecraft have an anti-aliasing feature. Just keep in mind that any AA feature puts a strain on your processor. And, of course, there is the blur factor.

What Is Anti-Aliasing in Games?

Aliasing or “jaggies” happens when curved lines render in PC games and it looks like a set of stairs. Hence, the term “jaggies” because of its jagged edges. In a high-resolution screen, you won’t notice jaggies because the high pixel count makes it less noticeable.

However, on low-resolution screens, there aren’t enough pixels to smooth out those lines. And what should be smooth, curved lines turn into Lego-like stacks of stairs.

Having a high-resolution output isn’t the complete answer, though.

If you’re running games at 120 FPS, the image may look crisp and clear but you’re sacrificing processing power. And if your processing hardware doesn’t match your resolutions, you’re looking at drastic slowdowns to the point of playability for your games.

The solution for the “jaggies” with minimal processor impact is anti-aliasing. Yes, there are some downsides to using this method like blurriness and reduced processing power. But it may still have significantly less performance impact than running your game on the highest graphic settings.

What Is Anti-Aliasing in Photoshop?

Aliasing doesn’t just occur in PC gaming. You may also see it when you use low-resolution images in Photoshop. That jagged, stair-like outline around the edges of a smooth image is called aliasing. And Photoshop has a solution for it, too.

To use the anti-aliased option, follow the steps below:

  1. Go to the Options bar and select Anti-alias.
  2. Choose your tool in the Edit workspace (Lasso, Magic Wand, Elliptical Marquee all work with Anti-aliased)
  3. Select the image in the image window
  4. Blur edges by dotting using the mouse’s left button or use long strokes by holding the left mouse button down

Anti-aliasing only works on the edges of an image. If you need to smooth out edges inside of an image, you can use feathering to blur some of those rough edges.

What Is Anti-Aliasing in Illustrator?

The anti-aliasing option in Illustrator is available when you export images to the web. When you choose Save for Web, an Art Optimized drop-down menu becomes available. In it, you have three choices:

  1. None – Does not apply anti-aliasing to the image
  2. Art Optimized – Applies anti-aliasing or blurring around any art in the image
  3. Text Optimized – Applies anti-aliasing or blurring around any text in the image

Unfortunately, you can’t apply anti-aliasing to an image that you’re working on in Illustrator. But most of the time, you don’t need to because the lines appear smooth as you’re working on them.

What Is an Anti-Aliasing Filter?

Anti-aliasing is a term used for different things.

For example, in the realm of digital signal processing, it refers to an analog filter that only lets in a certain sample of the desired frequency range.

The term is also used in photography. But in this case, it’s an optical low pass filter or OLPF that sits over the image sensor of a camera. Its main job is to filter out interference patterns that may potentially spoil images. Much like game resolution and photo editing software, this filter softens fine details. Instead of edges, though, a camera anti-aliasing filter seeks to blur the details of high-frequency patterns to avoid moiré patterning.

What Is Anti-Aliasing in Genshin Impact?

In the Settings menu under Graphics, you have a choice of three options for anti-aliasing in Genshin Impact:

  1. None – no anti-aliasing elements in the game
  2. TSAA – temporal aliasing that looks at previously rendered frames instead of a single image
  3. SMAA – post-processing anti-aliasing method that detects and applies filters

As a general rule, you want to keep your graphic settings at SMAA if you can. This setting gives you the best graphics when playing Genshin Impact. However, if you’re noticing an FPS dip, you can go lower to TSAA. The difference isn’t very noticeable during combat, though, so if you’re scraping for performance, you may want to disable it completely.

Additional FAQs

What Is Aliasing and Anti-Aliasing?

Aliasing in images and PC games occurs when the edges of the pixels appear jagged like a staircase. Anti-aliasing methods usually involve softening the jagged appearance of lines through the addition of shaded pixels or blurring the edges of an image.

What Is Anti-Aliasing Graphics?

Aliasing occurs when there’s an under-sampling of rendered pixels that makes smooth lines appear jagged. It normally appears at the edges of a graphic and when using low-resolution displays.

Due to the nature of pixels, you can’t make an anti-aliasing graphic. But you can use anti-aliasing tools to make jagged lines appear smooth in games and photo editing programs.

Is Anti-Aliasing Good for FPS?

The short answer is “no.”

Anti-aliasing comes with a cost and usually, that cost is processing power. The higher you go with anti-aliasing method tiers, the more you’ll see a performance drop. You’ll have to decide which is more important: lightning-quick gameplay or aesthetically pleasing graphics.

Or you can simply buy a higher-resolution display. Just make sure that your processor can take a higher-resolution display. Otherwise, you may run into other problems like screen “tearing.”

What’s the Use for Anti-Aliasing in Games?

Anti-aliasing smooths out those rough edges or “jaggies” and makes graphics more visually appealing. Of course, it does come at a cost, though.

Anti-aliasing methods like SMAA may make your game look stunning, even on a low-resolution display. But you may see a dip in FPS as a result because anti-aliasing takes up a lot of processing power.

Should I Turn Anti-Aliasing On or Off?

If your visuals look great and you have a high-resolution display, you don’t need to turn on anti-aliasing options. Anti-aliasing is for people who experience those unsightly “jaggies” and want to smooth out the edges of their graphics.

Also, keep in mind that when it comes to PC games, anti-aliasing eats up processing power. If you want to dump some of that into graphics, that’s your choice. But if you’re looking to scrape up more FPS, you may want to turn it off.

What Are “Jaggies” and Why Does It Happen?

“Jaggies” is what happens when you see the edges and corners of the pixels in an image. Imagine having a staircase outline instead of smooth curves around your favorite graphic. And it happens for a variety of reasons.

The first and most likely culprit is a low-resolution display. X number of pixels are required to render graphics properly but, a low-res display only has Y to work with. Usually, turning on the anti-aliasing graphic option can help smooth those jagged edges.

To Anti-Alias or Not to Anti-Alias, That Is the Question

Anti-aliasing is a big deal for PC gamers and, to some extent, graphic artists. There are pros and cons for using anti-aliasing tools in both camps, but, ultimately, it’s up to you.

Gamers who use anti-aliasing may see frame rates drop to the point of unplayability. And artists who use anti-aliasing tools may alter images to the point that they look overprocessed.

Those situations are extreme, of course, but the point is that anti-aliasing comes at a cost. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to pay.

Do you use anti-aliasing for your PC games or photo editing programs? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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