How to unlock the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island Designer app and start terraforming

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island Designer app
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Installing the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island Designer app on your NookPhone is a real milestone in the game. It's one of the headline new features and a pure joy. But boy do you have to work for it. There's a reason why Nintendo calls access to the land-forming license (either waterscaping or cliff-construction) endgame content. You're going to have to graft in Animal Crossing: New Horizons before these features unlock. It took me over two in-game weeks of near-constant play to get anywhere near these features, and yes, I did have to see the 'credits' roll before I could start hacking away at the landscape. 

Here's how to get access to the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island Designer app, but just be aware you're going to need to be a little patient. 

1. Get K.K. Slider to play a gig on your island

(Image credit: Nintendo)

The first step is actually a few weeks worth of Animal Crossing: New Horizons gameplay sessions, as you're going to need to get your island on the map in order for KK to even know your little idyll exists. The full breakdown of how to get KK Slider in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is here, but here's the quick TL;DR bullet point version:

  1. Start Project K by speaking to Tom Nook when the Resident Services building opens
  2. Get more visitors to come to your island
  3. Increase your island's population
  4. Improve your Animal Crossing: New Horizons island rating

Once you've worked your way through that lot, K.K Slider and Tom Nook will strike a deal in which they'll agree for the famous doggo musician to visit your island the very next day. 

2. Attend your first K.K. Slider concert

(Image credit: Nintendo)

That next day, you'll want to head over to the plaza to attend your very first K.K Slider gig performed on your island. In fact, as soon as the day starts you'll find yourself in the plaza surrounded by your fellow residents, Tom Nook, the Nook nephews and Isabelle too. Sit back, enjoy the concert, let the credits roll, and then strap yourself in for Animal Crossing: New Horizons 2.0. 

3. Chat with Tom Nook

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Once the credits have rolled to completion, you'll find yourself emerging from your humble abode - or not so humble depending on how much time you've spent improving your house up to this point. Tom Nook will be waiting for you, with the announcement that he has some 'big news' for you. Not only will K.K Slider be returning to play on your island every Saturday, but he's created a new app that will let you make your island even more appealing. 

Yes, you've guessed it, it's the Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island Designer app! At last! 

4. Buy more permits from the Nook Stop with Nook Miles

(Image credit: Nintendo)

But wait, there's another catch. Initially, the Island Designer app will only let you create paths. While this is a welcome boon for those of us who remember the old style of path creation in Animal Crossing, aka running back and forth until the grass wore away, it means there's a few more steps to total terraforming control in New Horizons. 

You will actually have to buy more permits for your Animal Crossing: New Horizons Island Designer map from the Nook Stop using Nook Miles. Here's the full list with prices:

  • Waterscaping permit - 6,000 Miles
  • Cliff construction permit - 6,000 Miles
  • Arched tile path permit - 2,000 Miles
  • Dark dirt path permit - 2,000 Miles
  • Sand path permit - 2,000 Miles
  • Stone path permit - 2,000 Miles
  • Terra-cotta tile permit - 2,000 Miles
  • Wooden path permit - 2,000 Miles
  • Custom design path permit - 2,300 Miles

The other terrain types are optional, but the waterscaping and cliff constructions are a must buy if you want to fully customise your island.

Sam Loveridge
Global Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Sam Loveridge is the Global Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar, and joined the team in August 2017. Sam came to GamesRadar after working at TrustedReviews, Digital Spy, and Fandom, following the completion of an MA in Journalism. In her time, she's also had appearances on The Guardian, BBC, and more. Her experience has seen her cover console and PC games, along with gaming hardware, for a decade, and for GamesRadar, she's in charge of the site's overall direction, managing the team, and making sure it's the best it can be. Her gaming passions lie with weird simulation games, big open-world RPGs, and beautifully crafted indies. She plays across all platforms, and specializes in titles like Pokemon, Assassin's Creed, The Sims, and more. Basically, she loves all games that aren't sports or fighting titles! In her spare time, Sam likes to live like Stardew Valley by cooking and baking, growing vegetables, and enjoying life in the countryside.