Terraforming Guide and Ideas | ACNH - Animal Crossing: New Horizons (Switch)

Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH) - Terraforming Guide and Ideas

To use Terraforming to shape and change your island you'll need to unlock the Island Designer App by raising your island's rating to 3 stars in Animal Crossing: New Horizons (ACNH).

Find ideas on how to modify cliffs, rivers, ponds, and waterfalls with our guide!

How to Terraform Using 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
▶︎ How to Make Good Looking Cliffs

Create Roads and Paths via Terraforming

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - A resident stands on top of a constructed incline

You'll be able to freely create roads anywhere on the ground.

Bring in a sense of order and civilization with clear roads paving out the environment to show how to reach essential facilities and services.
How to Create Paths

A variety of types of roads available

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - A resident tries to select from a variety of path permits
To add a sense of variety to your town, use different kinds of roads for different purposes to 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

Let's use custom design paths!

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - A resident sits on top of a Crescent Moon Chair with the Celestial Path Custom Design Path visibly shown

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 via Terraforming

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - A resident terraforms a river
After you've unlocked the Waterscaping Permit, use your shovel to create and change the shape of rivers.

Make a river narrower or wider, 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 - Terraforming Guide - A resident stands in front of a terraformed river and waterfall
Combine the uses of the Cliff-Construction App and the Waterscaping App to get the best possible results.

When you have a river facing a cliff, create a waterfall at the top of the cliff to allow the river to pass through.

How to Make Waterfalls

Get creative with ponds

Star-shaped pond Heart-shaped pond

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 via Terraforming

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - A resident destroys a cliff

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, push it back a bit or eliminate it altogether to better suit your island.

Island Designer Limits | What Can't You Do with Terraforming

Cannot Modify the Sandy Beach

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - A resident unsuccesfuly tries to modify the Sandy Beach
You can't modify the beach by terraforming using the Island Designer.

It's 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 - Terraforming Guide - A resident unsuccesfuly tries to modify the rocks on the beach
Additionally, you can't 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 - Terraforming Guide - A resident talks to Tom Nook in Resident Services
Buildings can't be moved using the Island Designer, since it requires talking 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

All facilities' locations can be moved except for the Airport and Resident Services. Select your island layout carefully when starting the game.

You Can Only (Normally) Climb Up to the Third Cliff

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - A resident unsuccessfully tries to climb up to the fourth level

With the Cliff Construction Permit, you can build cliffs up to the 4th level. Normally, the 4th level can't be accessed.

However, through the help of a glitch we've discovered, you'd be able to access and place items on the 4th level. For more information, check out our guide below!

Cliff Glitch - How to Climb the 4th Level

Cannot Make Slopes

ACNH - Terraforming Guide -  A resident tries to place an incline amidst cliffs

Inclines and slopes can only be constructed at the construction consultation counter inside Resident Services.

ACNH - How to build an incline partialHow to Build Slopes, Stairs and Inclines ACNH - How to Build a BridgeHow to Build and Destroy Bridges

List of Permits and How to Unlock Them

Exchange for Miles at Nook Stop

ACNH - Terraforming Guide - Selecting the Waterscaping Permit in the Nook Stop

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. 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
ACNH - Construction Permit iconIsland Designer Construction Permit Unlock Island Designer
Building roads and pathways
ACNH - River Construction Permit iconWaterscaping Permit Purchase for 6000 Miles at Nook Stop
Creating and changing ponds, rivers, and waterfalls
ACNH - Cliff Construction Permit iconCliff-Construction Permit Purchase for 6000 Miles at Nook Stop
Creating and destroying cliffs

Purchasing the Waterscaping Permit and the Cliff-Construction Permit allows you to perform different kinds of construction across the island.

As the Waterscaping Permit allows 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)

Days 7-12 (Click to Enlarge)

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 - Terraforming Guide - Isabelle tells the player that the island has reached a 3-star rating

To unlock the Island Designer app, you will need to raise your Island Star Rating to 3 Stars. This is essentially the last mission of the main story.

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.

To learn all that you'll need to do, check out our full story guide below!
How to Unlock Terraforming Guide

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 - Terraforming Guide - Island Designer on NookPhone
The Island Designer App allows you to create roads and reshape the rivers and cliffs surrounding you.

Transform your island from 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 - Terraforming Guide - A terraformed Heart-shaped pond
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 can 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

Beginner

All Tips & Tricks

Reshape Your Island

Reshape Your Island
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