Terraforming Guide | How to Use the Island Designer App | ACNH - Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)

ACNH - Terraforming Guide | How to Use the Island Designer App
This is a guide on how to use the Island Designer app to terraform your island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) for the Nintendo Switch. Learn how to terraform your island using the different construction permits to modify cliffs, rivers, ponds, and waterfalls!

How to Use the Island Designer App

Path Construction Build roads and pathways
▶︎ How to Create Paths
▶︎ Top Custom Design Patterns for Paths, Floors and Ground
Waterscaping Create and modify rivers, ponds, and waterfalls
▶︎ How to Make Shaped Ponds
▶︎ How to Make Waterfalls
Cliff Construction Create and destroy cliffs

Create Roads and Paths

ACNH - Mix and Match Paths.png

You'll be able to freely create roads anywhere on the ground. In the untamed wilds of the deserted island, bring in a sense of order and civilization with clear roads paving out the environment and showing how to reach essential facilities and services.
How to Create Paths

A variety of types of roads available

ACNH - Types of Roads
To add a sense of variety to your town, you can use different kinds of roads for different purposes, so you can make an island that best fits your style.

List of Path Permits and Cost
ACNH - Arched Tile PathArched Tile Path Permit
2,000 Miles
ACNH - Brick Path PermitBrick Path Permit
2,000 Miles
ACNH - Dark Dirt PathDark Dirt Path Permit
2,000 Miles
ACNH - Sand Path PermitSand Path Permit
2,000 Miles
ACNH - Stone Path PermitStone Path Permit
2,000 Miles
ACNH - Terra-Cotta Tile PermitTerra-Cotta Tile Permit
2,000 Miles
ACNH - Wooden Path PermitWooden Path Permit
2,000 Miles
ACNH - Custom Design PathCustom Design Path Permit
2,300 Miles

Purchasing each of these path permits will allow you to build paths with the associated design.

Let's use custom design paths!

ACNH - Celestial Path

Celestial Path designs by @julesjellyfish (Twitter)

The Custom Design Path Permit allows you to easily place custom design patterns on the ground.

Check out our top custom designs for paths and ground from users all over the world!

Top Custom Design Patterns for Paths, Floors and Ground

Create and Modify Rivers and Ponds

ACNH - Change Paths of Rivers
After you've unlocked the Waterscaping Permit, you can use your shovel to create and change the shape of rivers. If a river is too wide, you can make it more narrow, or change it to any shape you can dream of to make your island easier to live on.

List of All River Fish List of All Pond Fish

Create waterfalls to mesh with your rivers

ACNH - Waterfall Path.png
When you have a river facing a cliff, you can create a waterfall at the top of the cliff to allow the river to pass through. You can combine the uses of the Cliff-Construction App and the Waterscaping App to get the best possible results.

How to Make Waterfalls

Get creative with ponds

ACNH - Star-shaped pondEnlarge Star-shaped pond ACNH - Heart-Shaped PondEnlarge Heart-shaped pond

You can mess around with the Waterscaping Permit to create ponds of different shapes. If you're looking for some inspiration, check out our guide!

How to Make Shaped Ponds

Create and Destroy Cliffs

ACNH - Destroy Cliffs

When you've unlocked the Cliff-Construction Permit, you can change the cliffs on your island to any shape that you like. If there's a cliff that's often in your way, you can push it back a bit or eliminate it altogether to better suit your new society.

Island Designer Limits | What Can't You Do

Cannot Modify the Sandy Beach

ACNH - Cannot modify beach.png
You cannot modify the beach using the Island Designer. The best you could do is to place custom design patterns on them,

It is also not possible to change the shape of estuaries and beaches, so be careful when choosing your island layout at the start of the game.

How to Choose the Best Island Layout

You cannot modify the rocks on the beach

ACNH - Cannot modify beach rocks.png
Additionally, you cannot modify the rocks on the beach with the Island Designer, so take note of that when selecting your island layout.

Cannot Move Facilities with Island Designer

Move buildings at the Construction Consultation Counter

ACNH - Construction Consultaion Counter.png
You cannot move buildings using the Island Designer. You have to talk to Tom Nook at the construction consultation counter inside Resident Services.

Note that you need to have an upgraded Resident Services to use this feature.

What You Can Do at Resident Services and How to Upgrade

You cannot move the Airport and Resident Services

You can move the location of all facilities except for the Airport and Resident Services, so select your island layout carefully when starting the game.

You Can Only Climb Up to the Third Cliff

ACNH - You Can Only Climb Up to the Third Cliff.png

With the Cliff Construction Permit, you can build cliffs up to the 4th level, however, you can only climb up to the 3rd level. You also cannot place items on the 4th level.

Cannot Make Slopes

ACNH - Use Incline Marker Kit Next to a Cliff.png

Although you can make cliffs, you cannot make slopes or inclines to climb cliffs. You will need to have inclines constructed at the construction consultation counter inside Resident Services.

You can, however, use land to have make-shift bridges, but if you want it to look nice, then you can have bridges constructed instead.

How to build an incline partial.pngHow to Build Slopes, Stairs and Inclines How to Build a Bridge.pngHow to Build and Destroy Bridges

List of Permits and How to Unlock Them

Exchange for Miles at Nook Stop

ACNH - Waterscaping Permit.png

After you've unlocked the Island Designer App, all the relevant permits will become available at Nook Stop. Only the basic Construction Permit is available initially. You can buy each of the permits in exchange for Miles.

What Should You Spend Nook Miles on First?

List of Permits

Permit How to Get and Usage
Construction Permit.pngIsland Designer Construction Permit Unlock Island Designer
Building roads and pathways
River Construction Permit.pngWaterscaping Permit Purchase for 6000 Miles at Nook Stop
Creating and changing ponds, rivers, and waterfalls
Cliff Construction Permit.pngCliff-Construction Permit Purchase for 6000 Miles at Nook Stop
Creating and destroying cliffs

Purchasing the Waterscaping Permit and the Cliff-Construction Permit will allow you to perform different kinds of construction across the island. As the Waterscaping Permit will allow you to build land bridges across rivers, it's recommended to buy this right away after unlocking the Island Designer app.

On the other hand, the Cliff-Construction Permit does not allow the creation of slopes, so obtaining it has a somewhat lower priority.

How to Unlock Island Designer

Unlocking Island Designer at a Glance

Days 1-6 (Click to Enlarge)

ACNH - Island DesignerEnlarge

Days 7-12 (Click to Enlarge)

ACNH - Island Designer 2Enlarge

1 Unlock the Museum.
2 Repay your first loan of 5,000 Miles.
3 Unlock Nook's Cranny.
4 Set up the 3 house plots.
5 Make the Campsite.
6 Get your island rating to 3-stars.
7 Have K.K. Slider perform on your island.

When Do You Get Terraforming

Raise the Island Star Rating to 3 Stars

ACNH - Game8 Island 3-Star Rating.png

To unlock the Island Designer app, you will need to raise your Island Star Rating to 3 Stars. As this is essentially the last mission of the main story, you'll need to complete all the requirements up to this point in order for Island Designer to become available. Once K.K. Slider finishes his first performance, Tom Nook will call you to give you the Island Designer app.

Expect to spend a lot of time exploring the game and completing tasks for Tom Nook before Island Designer comes available. To learn what all you'll need to do, check out our full story guide below.
Island Upgrades Walkthrough

Other Players Can Use Island Designer

Once the first player, or the resident representative, has unlocked Island Designer, other players on the island will automatically receive the app as well via phone call from Tom Nook.

What Is Island Designer?

A NookPhone App Allowing You to Design Your Island However You Like It

ACNH - Island Designer on NookPhone
The Island Designer App allows you to create roads and reshape the rivers and cliffs surrounding you. Transform your island into a deserted wasteland ruled by nature's grip, to a curated paradise with every detail tuned to your unique taste.

List of NookPhone Apps and How to Unlock Them

What is Terraforming and Landscaping?

ACNH - Heart-Shaped Pond.png
Both Terraforming and Landscaping are words used for changing the cliff, river and pond layout of your island.

Unlike previous games, you can re-shape most of your island as you wish in New Horizons. You could make it entirely flat, surround everything with rivers or even recreate landscapes from other games, the possibilities are endless!

To do all of this, however, you first need to get the Island Designer App from Tom Nook.

Related Guides


All Tips & Tricks

Reshape Your Island

Reshape Your Island
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palm trees partial.pngHow to Get Palm Trees on Your Island Cherry Blossom Tree partial.pngHow to Get a Cherry Blossom Tree
How to Break Rocks Banner.pngHow to Break Rocks How to Plant Flowers partial.pngHow to Plant Flowers
How to Build and Destroy BridgesHow to Build and Destroy Bridges How to build an incline partial.pngHow to Build Slopes, Stairs and Inclines
house plot partial.pngHow to Get More Housing Kits | Selling Plots of Land change island tune partial.pngHow to Change the Island Tune
How to Use Island Designer AppHow to Use Island Designer Create Paths partial.pngHow to Create Paths
Shaped Ponds partial (1).pngHow to Make Shaped Ponds waterfalls partial.pngHow to Make Waterfalls
How to Keep Trees SmallHow to Keep Trees Small and Stop Tree Growth Building And Plot Sizes_Partial Bottom Image.jpgAll Building and Plot Sizes
ACNH - How to Make Good Looking Cliffs.pngCliff Ideas | How to Make Good Looking Cliffs ACNH - How to Make Natural Rivers Banner.pngHow to Make Natural Rivers


7 Anonymous28 days

>>6 nope

6 Anonymous10 months

Can I use this app on my brother’s town? I have my own switch and my own town. Can I travel to a different Island and alter their islands? With their permission of course.

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