Animal Crossing: New Horizons Guide to Terraforming

Animal Crossing: New Horizons offers a world of endless customization options. With the latest version 2.0 update, both returning and new players can now indulge in a complete island makeover using the terraforming feature. This highly anticipated mechanic has excited long-time Animal Crossing fans since its introduction in New Horizons. To reshape the landmass around your island, you’ll need to unlock the terraforming app, also known as the Island Designer App, on your NookPhone. In this article, we’ll guide you on how to unlock terraforming in Animal Crossing: New Horizons and provide helpful tips for using it effectively.

Unlocking the Island Designer App

Unlocking the Island Designer app in Animal Crossing: New Horizons can be a time-consuming process. To gain access to this feature, you’ll need to complete several tasks and reach certain milestones. First, you must build the campsite and invite the first camper to live on your island. Next, create three housing plots and complete the corresponding DIYs to construct the houses. Once this is done, invite three villagers to move into these vacant houses. Lastly, decorate your island with bridges, inclines, and various items to achieve a three-star rating.

Although this process may seem a bit frustrating, increasing your island’s rating is relatively straightforward. Once the villagers have settled, place furniture, flowers, and trees around your island to enhance its appearance. This will help speed up the rating improvement, especially in the initial stages. Keep in mind that once you obtain the terraforming app, you’ll have to pay 50,000 bells per house if you want to relocate them. So try your best to place the houses in locations where you’ll be satisfied in the long run.

Unlockables for the Island Designer App

Once you’ve successfully obtained a three-star rating, Tom Nook will reward you with the Island Designer app on your NookPhone. Initially, the available terraforming options will be limited. You’ll only be able to create two types of paths: Grass and dirt. However, as you continue to terraform and progress in the game, you’ll have the opportunity to unlock additional path types from the Nook Stop machine in the Residential Services building.

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There are eight different paths to choose from, and each offers a unique aesthetic. The stone, brick, dark dirt, arched tile, sand, terracotta, and wooden paths can be purchased using Nook Miles, with each type costing approximately 2,000 miles. Additionally, there is a Custom Design path available for 2,300 Nook Miles. Each path type also has its own distinct sound when walked upon, providing an extra layer of customization for your island.

Furthermore, you’ll have the chance to unlock the waterscaping and cliff construction permits. These permits can be purchased separately for 6,000 Nook Miles each. The waterscaping and cliff construction tools are essential for transforming the overall look of your island. While the cost may seem steep, the ability to reshape everything according to your vision makes it well worth the investment.

Using the Island Designer App

Before diving into terraforming, it’s helpful to plan and visualize how you want your island to look. Several online tools can assist you in mapping out your dream island. One notable example is Fichman’s Island Planner, which allows you to design your island’s layout from a top-down perspective.

Familiarizing yourself with the options provided by the Island Designer app is also crucial. The in-game manual contains valuable information about each tool and how to operate them effectively.


Waterscaping is a powerful tool within the Island Designer app, but it may take some practice to master. It allows you to create ponds, rivers, and even waterfalls. When using waterscaping, you can dig a trench by pressing the A button. Connecting multiple water tiles will round out the edges, while pressing A again will remove the tile completely.

Building bridges requires spanning at least four water tiles, so keep this in mind when planning your river routes. It’s worth noting that characters can jump across a single tile of water, allowing you to create smaller stone paths without the need for bridges. However, if you want villagers to cross the river, you’ll need to build a bridge as they cannot jump.

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Waterfalls can also be created using the waterscaping tool. Stand at the base of a cliff to create a new waterfall or expand an existing one. Breaking into the cliff using the waterscaping tool will result in a waterfall, while filling it in at the top will remove it.

Cliff Construction

Compared to waterscaping, cliff construction is relatively straightforward. You can build and destroy cliffs starting from the base and working your way up. Just like rivers, cliffs can have rounded edges. When facing a corner, press the A button to round out the cliff tile. Pressing A again will remove the tile entirely.

You can build up to three tiers of cliffs, and the game will not allow you to build any higher. Additionally, you cannot construct a cliff directly against the edge of another cliff. The game requires a small gap to allow for climbing using a ladder.

Keep in mind that villagers cannot climb cliffs, so you’ll need to build inclines if you want them to access higher areas. Villagers with homes on cliffs without inclines will be unable to reach them.


When you first unlock the Island Designer app, your path options will be limited to grass and dirt paths. Although the grassy path may seem out of place, it’s useful for erasing mistakenly placed tiles. Different path types will not sit flush against each other, leaving a small outline of grass around each new square of a different tile.

By placing tiles of the same path together, you can create rounded corners. After laying down a tile, press A again to round the corner. Pressing A a third time will remove the tile. This feature allows for creative designs like hearts or other unique patterns. Lay down a 3-by-3 square pattern with one corner missing, and round the two sides nearest the empty corner.

Each path type functions differently. Grass, dirt, dark dirt, and sand paths can be dug into and used for planting flowers and trees. Terracotta, wooden, stone, arch tiles, and brick tiles, on the other hand, prevent flowers from growing, allowing you to manage the presence of flowers in specific areas.

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Paths can be immensely helpful in planning your island’s infrastructure. For example, you can use dirt paths to mark out spaces for villager houses. This ensures that whenever you need to relocate a villager’s house, it ends up in the exact location you desire. Additionally, when building a structure over a path, the path will automatically disappear and be replaced by regular grass.

Custom Designs

Custom design tiles offer even greater creative freedom for shaping your island’s appearance. This tool allows you to create your own designs or download codes made by other players, enabling you to customize your pathways and the overall look of your island.

Custom designs function similarly to other paths but are easier to erase. Simply press the Y button to remove a custom design tile. Custom designs can also be layered with standard paths. To achieve this, ensure that your custom design contains at least one transparent pixel. Lay down your standard path first, and then place the custom design tile over it.

Custom designs are versatile and easy to update. If you decide to change an aspect of your custom design path, simply access the Custom Design app on your NookPhone. Switching the design in the app will automatically update all corresponding squares where the custom design has been laid.

By following these tips and exploring the possibilities offered by the Island Designer app, you’ll be able to transform your Animal Crossing: New Horizons island into a personalized paradise.

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