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How to terraform your island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Your guide to terraforming

(Image: © Nintendo)

Want to make your Animal Crossing: New Horizons island truly unique? Then you're going to want to know how to terraform.

Terraforming in Animal Crossing: New Horizons allows you to create paths, rivers, cliffs and much more, turning your island into the paradise of your dreams – while giving you the little bit of extra control over its look.

Interested? Then strap on your hard helmet and have your Nook Miles at the ready, because here's how to terraform your island in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

How to unlock terraforming in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

First things first, to access terraforming, you need to have the Island Designer app for your Nook Phone. Tom Nook will give you this after K.K. slider performs on your island for the first time.

However, to get to this point, you need to complete the game's main missions. That means doing all the tasks Tom Nook asks of you such as constructing the museum and Nook Shop, building new houses, attracting new residents and then, finally, getting your island up to a three-star rating.

So, if you haven't done any of this, it could be a while before you can access terraforming – sorry. 

Once you've got the Island Designer app, though, you're ready to get started.

How to buy permits and paths in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Before you begin terraforming, you're going to want to pick up any relevant permits you may want to use. 

Path permits allow you to create paths, while a waterscaping permit is needed to terraform rivers and a cliff construction permit is needed to build and tear down cliffs.

The Island Designer app comes with two types of path permits already: grass and dirt path. But if you're wanting more choices then you should head over to the Nook Stop at Residential Services.

You can buy all the relevant permits you will need from the Nook Miles Store at the Nook Stop, with path permits costing 2,000 Nook Miles each and waterscaping and cliff permits costing 6,000 Nook Miles each. There are eight different path styles available for purchase – including a customizable path that allows you to make a path out of a custom pattern. You only need to buy a permit once to unlock it permanently in the Island Designer app.

How to terraform in Animal Crossing: New Horizons

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Open the app on your Nook Phone and you will be presented with four options: "start construction", "request cleanup", "check the manual", and "nah" (used to close the app).

To begin terraforming, select "start construction" and watch your avatar pop on their hardhat. If you then proceed to press '+' you can pick which path you want to lay down, followed by 'A' which will lay this path type at your feet. Pressing 'A' again on an already laid down path will delete it.

If you want to take your terraforming one step further, you can use a waterscape permit to create, reshape or delete ponds, rivers, waterfalls and lakes. To place a water tile, simply follow the same steps as you did with a path. But it's worth noting that you can't place water too close to trees, nor can you create river mouths.

To create a waterfall, climb on top of the cliff you want your waterfall to cascade down from and place the water tile there.

Cliff building follows the same format, with you placing cliff tiles in front of your feet using 'A'. However, it's worth noting that while you can build cliffs up to three layers high, you can't access cliffs that are that high up, nor can you build cliffs too close to trees. 

Vic Hood

Vic is an award-winning games journalist, bringing experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table.