How to make the most of the Animal Crossing custom designs feature

One of the greatest parts of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is going beyond what Nintendo offers by making your own designs. The custom designs tool uses a mixture of pixel painting and QR codes to create and share designs that can be used on anything from adorable dresses to ground tiles. Make the most of the feature, and you can go from a standard character walking around a deserted island to a clone of Dorothy skipping along the yellow brick road. Magical.

In this Animal Crossing guide, we’re going to list the feature differences between the Custom Designs and Pro Designs upgrade, show you how to get more out of the handy little feature, and round things off with a bunch of resources jam-packed with inspirational designs that, if anything, will give you stacks of new clothes and decorations to use in your town.

Unlocking Custom Designs and the Pro Designs upgrade

Animal Crossing custom designs terminal

Right off the bat, we need to talk about the Pro Designs upgrade. It doesn’t take long to nab this updated NookPhone app, but it will make a big difference to your game. Custom Designs have only four squares to work with. Pro Designs have a grand total of nine. That’s a lot more room to add loads more detail to a wider range of items.

The Pro Designs upgrade adds the Pro Designs tab to your NookPhone app. To unlock it, all you need to do is wait for your tent to become a house, and you’ll be able to pick up the upgrade from the Resident Services terminal for a paltry 800 Nook Miles. With this on your in-game phone, you’ll be able to do far more with custom designs than you could at the start.

Only custom designs can be placed on the ground, so you’ll be relying on this basic feature for floor decorations like cobblestones, pathways, and the occasional crude sand drawing. Pro designs can be displayed when not worn, but only as mannequins to show off your threads.

Making custom designs in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing custom designs editor

All you need to get started with Animal Crossing designs is your imagination. Open up the Custom Designs app on your NookPhone and select an empty slot. If you’re making a custom design, you work on the drawing first and then choose how to use it after the fact. If you’re on the Pro Designs tab, you select the kind of clothing you want to make before starting on your design. Want to recreate Ash Ketchum’s hat? Choose the cap. Have a special beanie at home you want to add in? You can do that. Want to live out your school idol anime fantasies? A balloon-hem dress is probably a good starting point.

Once you’re in the editor, it’s a case of painting with the joystick rather than the Nintendo Switch’s oft-forgotten touchscreen. It’s not the easiest way to do things, but with a bit of practice and some helpful tools, you’ll be working miracles in no time. Failing that, there’s an unofficial tool you can use to convert images into Custom Designs automatically. Upload a photo, see the blocky result, scan the QR code it spits out, and your custom design is ready to be used. Don’t expect a fancy balloon-hem dress here, though. Remember: Custom designs and pro designs aren’t wholly the same.

How to download custom Animal Crossing pro designs

Animal Crossing designs downloads

The internet is awash with Animal Crossing designs these days. You’re probably seeing codes and creator IDs in every other post on your social media platform of choice. How do you use these? It’s pretty straightforward, but you’ll need the Able Sisters shop to get started.

Mable shows up to sell her wears in the town plaza a few times a week. Talk to her enough times (or buy enough stuff, it isn’t really clear), and she’ll soon decide to open up a full-fledged shop on the island, bringing her sister along for the ride.

Once the business is all up and running, you’ll find a terminal in the top right where you’re able to enter Design and Creator IDs to track down new custom designs. It’s here where you’ll want to enter the codes listed on people’s shared designs online, or you can enter the creator ID of someone whose style you like enough to browse through all their shared designs.

Once you’ve found a design you like, it’s simply a matter of saving it to an empty slot. You can save up to 50 Custom and Pro Designs at any one time. Reach that limit, and you’ll have to save over another entry.

Animal Crossing design resources

Beyond looking up clothing ideas online, the many-million strong Animal Crossing community has already been hard at work conjuring up almost every custom design pattern you could ever want. You just have to find them.

There are multiple purpose-built Animal Crossing pattern share websites with a bunch of cool features for cataloging these things listed below. Another method is to follow the Twitter trail. Slap the #AnimalCrossingDesigns hashtag into the search bar and be ready to scroll for days. There’s no guarantee of quality doing this, but it’s a good way to find some cool designs made by non-English speakers who’re unlikely to use some of the other resources.

How to import designs from New Leaf and Happy Home Designer

Animal Crossing 3DS import screen

If you’re a long-time Animal Crossing fan, you probably have a few designs in your New Leaf and Happy Home Designer games you’d love to breathe new life into. Both games also use QR codes to share designs between users, meaning you can use the Nintendo Switch Online smartphone app to drag them straight into New Horizons.

To set it up, all you need to do is download the app, sign into it with the Nintendo account you use on your Switch, and tap into the Animal Crossing hub on the homepage. From there, you’ll want to press the Plus Sign (+) button on the Animal Crossing: New Horizons titles screen to access the game’s settings, where you should see mention of the Nintendo Switch Online app. Fire that up, let it do its thing, and then reboot your phone app when it’s all done. Tap back into the Animal Crossing hub while playing the game, and you should see all its cool new features.

With that all set up, just bring up your designs in your New Horizons or Happy Home Designer games and scan them in with your smartphone. Now you just follow the standard method. Open up the Custom Designs app in-game and hit the Plus Sign (+) button to download scanned designs into your game.

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