Map Editor

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Cities: Skylines comes with various editor tools for customizing maps and assets. The map editor allows you to create your own maps to be used in-game.


Mouse Controls

  • Move pointer – Mouse / track-pad motion
  • Select item / activate button – Left mouse button
  • Control camera – Edge scrolling
  • Rotate camera – Middle mouse button (hold) + move mouse left and right
  • Zoom camera – Scroll wheel (up = zoom in, down = zoom out)
  • Tilt camera up/down – Middle mouse button + move mouse up and down
  • Cancel current selection – Right mouse button
  • Build a road – Left mouse button (click) + move mouse + left mouse button (click)

General Controls

  • Control camera – W, A, S, D
  • Rotate camera – Q, E
  • Tilt camera up/down – 🏠 Home/End
  • Zoom camera – Z/X
  • Exit current tool – ←Esc
  • Bulldoze tool – B
  • Screen capture – F11 (Steam screen capture F12)
  • Options menu – ←Esc

Game Speed

  • Pause – ␣ Space
  • Normal (x1) – 1
  • Fast (x3) – 2
  • Fastest (x9) – 3

Pause Menu[edit]

The Pause Menu has the following options:

  • New map – Start editing a new, empty map. You can choose a new terrain type when starting a new map.
  • Save map – Save the current map. You can also choose to publish the map to be playable in-game in the same window.
  • Load map – Load a previously saved map to continue editing it.
  • Options – Options include various settings for the game such as graphics, audio and gameplay.
  • Exit – Close the Map Editor.

Save and publish a map

Saving and publishing interface (click to enlarge)

The save dialog also allows you to publish the map to make it playable in-game. There are some features that need to be checked before the map is ready to be published.

Selecting a preview image
You can take preview images of the map with the Snapshot tool. When you publish the map, you can choose one of the snapshot images to be used as the preview image in the map selection screen of a new game.

Tip: Clicking the folder icon opens up the snapshot image directory. It is possible to edit the snapshot images further in image editing software.

Naming the map
You can give the map a name by typing it in the provided field. The map name can be different from the save file name. The game displays the map name alongside the chosen preview image when browsing the maps in the map selection screen of a new game.

Checking requirements and recommended features
The checklist helps you make sure that the requirements for a functioning map are met before you publish it.

Publishing the map
Checking the ”Publish Map in New Game Panel” box and clicking Save will publish the map so that it is available for use in-game.


The Map Editor, Asset Editor and Content Manager can be found in the Tools menu.

Tools Menu (click to enlarge)
Choosing the environment (click to enlarge)

Map Editor - New Map
To start a new, empty map in the Map Editor, select New Map.

Selecting terrain type
Before starting a new, empty map you need to select one of the terrain types to be used in the map: Sunny, North or Tropical. Each terrain type contains different textures, trees and lighting conditions.

Map Editor - Load Map
You can load a previously saved map by selecting it from the list.

User interface[edit]

Map Editor GUI (click to enlarge)

Game Time[edit]

To simulate the water flow mechanics, the Map Editor features a Game Time panel similar to the one found in-game. You can adjust how fast the time passes in the Map Editor by using the Time Panel. Unlike in-game, however, the date does not change while in the Map Editor, and the game uses the default date when the map is played.

Tip: You can also use 1, 2 and 3 keys to adjust the game speed and ␣ Space to pause / resume the game.

  • Play/Pause – Pause or resume game progress.
  • Accelerate Time – There are three speed settings for the in-game time. Normal, fast and very fast. Fast speed is three times the normal speed, very fast is nine times the normal speed.


Map Editor brush interface (click to enlarge)

Several tools in the Map Editor, such as terrain editing tools and resource placing tools, use brushes to modify different aspects of the map.

Brush Size
The Brush Size slider allows you to change the size of the brush. The sizes range from 50 to 2000. You are able to manually input the size by typing it into the number field.

Note: When painting forests, a size '50' brush will place single trees on the map.

Brush Strength
The Brush Strength slider allows you to change the strength of the brush. The strength ranges from 0.01 to 1.00.

Tip: For example, with a lower strength the terrain manipulating will be less drastic, allowing for better control over the changes, especially with the Shift and Level tools.

Brush Selection
The game features a collection of differently shaped brushes that are suited for different types of terrain editing, such as carving a river bed or sculpting a mountain range.

Tip: Clicking the folder icon opens up the brush directory used by the Map Editor. You can add new brush shapes into the Map Editor by placing the brush images in .png format in this folder.


The Map Editor in Cities: Skylines features powerful yet easy-to-use terrain editing tools.

Shift Tool
Lower and raise the terrain under the brush. Left click will raise and right click will lower the terrain. Changing the brush strength gives better control of the tool.

Level Tool
Level the terrain under the brush by first selecting the desired height and then leveling the terrain to that height.

  1. Right click on the terrain to select the target height.
  2. Left click on the terrain to level the area to the target height. The brush strength value dictates how drastically the tool manipulates the terrain.

Tip: You can also set the target height by either using the Terrain Height slider or by typing the height into the number field located on top of the Brushes panel.

Soften Tool
Smooth the terrain under the brush. Left click to smooth softly and right click to smooth strongly.

Tip: Soften Tool is useful for adjusting shorelines and other hard edges.

Slope Tool

Slope Tool (click to enlarge)

Create a slope on the terrain from the current height to the desired height.

  1. Right click to set the final position of the slope on the terrain.
  2. Left click and drag toward the final position to create a slope.

Import Heightmap[edit]

Import Heightmap (click to enlarge)

Painting an entire terrain with brushes can be time consuming and it is very difficult to achieve natural looking hills and surfaces. By using heightmaps, you can bypass this part of map making and focus your attention on the playability of the map instead of editing each nook and cranny of the terrain.

A heightmap is a 2D image which encodes the terrain height at each texel. The whiter the texel color, the higher the terrain. Most terrain generator programs allow users to export heightmaps that are usable in the Cities: Skylines Map Editor.

The required heightmap dimensions are 1081px x 1081px. The recommended format is a grayscale, 16-bit .raw or .png file.

The game attempts to convert RGB and RGBA images to grayscale whenever possible. It and also supports 8-bit images. However, the precision of 8-bit images is so low that they will create noticeable steps in slopes instead of looking smooth, which is why 16-bit images are preferred instead.

In 8-bit images the grayscale shade of 255 (white) equals to the height of 1024 metres in-game. Difference between two grayscale shades (e.g. 255 and 254) equals to 4 metres. In 16-bit image the white value is 65535, so one shade equals to 1/64 metres (1,5625 cm). Length of a side of the map is 17,28 km so one city tile side equals 1,92 km. One pixel represents the height of the nodes, with nodes spaced every 16 metres (17280 m / 1080 px).

Heightmap directory
In Microsoft Windows, the heightmaps are located under the game sub-folder \Users\[Your Name]\AppData\Local\Colossal Order\Cities_Skylines\Addons\MapEditor\Heightmaps. For Ubuntu/Linux, the heightmap directory can be found at /home/[Your Name]/.local/share/Colossal Order/Cities_Skylines/Addons/MapEditor/Heightmaps and for Macintosh, the directory is ~/Library/Application Support/Colossal Order/Cities_Skylines/Addons/MapEditor/Heightmaps

Heightmap Grid Template

Heightmap Grid Template

Heightmap grid template, this image is an aid to locating the desired play area when creating a custom map, the grey area represents the 25 tiles of the game play area. Aligning a custom heightmap to this image in a suitable image editing application allows the play area to be selected as desired.

Export Heightmap[edit]

Export Heightmap (click to enlarge)

The Map Editor enables you to export a heightmap for use in 3rd party software. You can export any map you have created in the Map Editor to be further edited with suitable image editing software.

Precision setting allow you to export the heightmap in 8-bit or 16-bit format.

Note: Some 3rd party image software may not be able to edit 16-bit heightmaps.

The format setting allows you to export the heightmap in three different file formats: .png, .raw and .tiff.

The exported heightmap is located in the same sub-folder as other heightmaps, Files\MapEditor\Heightmaps.


Water areas are a requirement for a functioning map. Water is available in two different forms in Cities: Skylines: As a static sea level and as dynamic water sources that can be placed around the map.

Note: At least one water area is required in the starting area of the map. This can be a lake, a river or the open sea.

Water Source
Water sources are used to create lakes and rivers on the map. A water source functions as a spawning point for water. Its capacity dictates how much water it is able to generate and drain. Its height dictates how high it will raise the water level in a closed area such as a lake bed. If the height is below water level, it will also function as a drain.

Lakes are created by carving a suitable area for the lake bed and placing a water source in the middle of it. Adjusting the height of the water source will settle the water level and not allow it to overflow the shoreline. The water source generates water until it reaches the set height, and then maintains the water level by draining excess water away. Water sources have a height of 50 game units, therefore when setting up a lake, water sources should be placed on terrain 50 units below the desired shoreline.

Rivers require a single water source at the top of the river and either a river mouth at sea level or a lake with another water source to work as a drain so that the river does not overflow.

Tip: To have a strong current in a river, you will require a tall, high capacity water source. River characteristics affect the water flow and fine-tuning is usually required to create a well-functioning water flow.

Place Water Source
Left click to place and right click to remove.

Water Source Usage (click to enlarge)

In the Water Capacity panel you are able to adjust the capacity of the source. This determines its ability to generate and drain water.

Clicking and dragging the top of the water source will adjust the height of the water source and control the water level.

Sea Level

Adjusting sea level (click to enlarge)

Sea level is stationary and will always stay on the set level, no matter how many rivers flow into the sea. You can set the sea level to any height between 0 and 500.

Move Sea Level
Sea level can be adjusted in three different ways. You can use the Sea Level slider to change the height or manually type a number in the field. You can also drag the sea level up and down similarly to how the height of a water source is adjusted.

Ground Resources[edit]

Ground resources are divided into three types: Ore, oil and fertile land. Ground resources are painted using the various brushes available in the Map Editor. Ground resources (as well as forest resources) are required to gain access to specialized industry when in-game.

Resources cannot be painted over each other to create multiple layers of resources, but can be painted to replace each other. A resource must be removed using the same resource type brush.

Left click to place ore under the brush and right click to remove ore from under the brush.

Left click to place oil under the brush and right click to remove oil from under the brush.

Fertile land
Left click to place fertile land under the brush and right click to remove fertile land from under the brush.

Forest Resources[edit]

Ground resources (click to enlarge)

Forest resources include several types of trees and bushes depending on the terrain type.

Note: Forest resources are also used in-game as one of the resource types for specialized forestry industry.

Tree types
Each terrain type has a collection of trees and bushes suitable for that terrain. There are beech and alder trees in the Sunny terrain, conifer and pine trees in the North terrain and palm trees and palm plants in the Tropical terrain. There are also bushes of varying sizes in all of the terrain types.

Outside Connections[edit]

Each map requires outside connections such as highways, train tracks and ship and airplane paths to be playable in-game. With the Outside Connections tools you can add these into the map.

Note: The Checklist keeps track of the outside connections you have at any given moment on the map.


  • Toggle Snapping – Allows you to create roads with proper right angles as well as smooth curves with the curved road tool.
  • Straight Road – allows you to draw roads in straight lines only.
  • Curved Road – allows you to make roads that curve and bend. To make a curved road, the first left mouse click makes a point which is used for bending the road, and the second click will build the road.
  • Freeform Road – allows you to draw straight and curved roads.
  • Upgrade Road – allows you to upgrade existing roads to a different road type. City service buildings and other overlapping objects can prevent roads from being upgraded.


Highway Connections (click to enlarge)

Highway connections are necessary for any map to function properly. Highway connections go from one edge of the map to another. A properly connected highway displays a green arrow next to the edge of the map, showing the direction of the highway.

Correct outside connections (click to enlarge)

The Map Editor limits the highway connections to four incoming and four outgoing connections. Lanes going to opposite directions need to be built separately.

Note: The starting area requires at least one incoming and outgoing highway connection to be playable.

Highway Ramp
Highway ramps are used to connect highways together.

Train Tracks[edit]

Train tracks offer another outside connection. A properly connected train track displays a green arrow next to the edge of the map.

The Map Editor limits train track connections to four on the map.

Ship Path[edit]

The ship path determines where cargo and passenger ships enter and exit the map area. Ship paths are displayed as yellow dotted lines on the map and must be drawn on water. Ship paths can also cross each other. A properly connected ship path displays a green arrow next to the edge of the map.

The Map Editor limits ship path connections to four on the map.

Note: Ship paths are required to be close enough to the playable area so that the harbors can connect to them on straight lines.

Airplane Path[edit]

The airplane path determines where the airplanes enter and exit the map area. Airplane paths are displayed as purple dotted lines on the map and can be drawn on land and water. Airplane paths can also cross each other. A properly connected airplane path displays a green arrow next to the edge of the map.

The Map Editor limits airplane path connections to four on the map.


Environment tools allow further decoration of the maps.


Sand zone (click to enlarge)

The Sand tool allows you to paint sand textures on the map, creating beaches and other such sandy areas.

Place Wildlife Spawn Point

Wildlife spawn points (click to enlarge)

The Wildlife Spawn Point tool allows you to place spots on the map that generate wildlife. The animals wander around their spawn point in a few hundred meter radius.

Note: Wildlife cannot cross roads.

Map Settings[edit]

You can determine the starting area and take a preview snapshot of the map in the Map Settings.

Start Area

Changing the start area (click to enlarge)

The Start Area tool allows you to change the starting area location on the map. For example, if you don't have a water area in the center of the map, you can change the location of the starting area to a square that meets the requirements of the starting area.

Snapshot Tool

Snapshot Tool (click to enlarge)

With the Snapshot Tool, you can take a preview image of the map that can be used when the map is published. The chosen snapshot image is then displayed as the preview image for the map when the player is in the map selection screen.

Tip: You can take multiple snapshots of the map, which are then saved on your hard drive. When publishing the map, you are able to choose from these images the one you find most suitable for preview purposes.

Free Camera Mode[edit]

You can toggle Free Camera Mode on and off with this button. While Free Camera Mode is on, you can move and control the view unrestricted.

The game UI is hidden while the Free Camera mode is on. You can return to normal game mode by pressing the ESC button.

Info Views[edit]

Info views - Water flow, resources, wind speed and heights (click to enlarge)

The Info Views offer insights into different aspects of the map, such as water flow, natural resources, and wind speed. The map view changes with the active info view, highlighting the selected feature.

Info Views are useful for checking water flow directions, elevation differences and the quantity of natural resources.


The Checklist helps you keep track of the required and recommended features of the map. It also displays information and limitations of various tools as you use them.


Checklist (click to enlarge)

Features in the Requirements section are parts of the map that are mandatory for it to be playable. The requirements are:

  • Water stream in the starting area – There needs to be a place where the player can build a water pump and a drain pipe for the city to have running water and plumbing.
  • One highway incoming connection – Citizens, tourists and cargo transport must have a connection into the city for it to grow.
  • One highway outgoing connection – Citizens, tourists and cargo transport must have a connection out of the city for it to grow.

Features in the Recommended section are not mandatory but will give the player more options when they build a city on the map. The recommended features are:

  • Train track outside connection – Train tracks bring tourists and cargo into the city.
  • Ship outside connection – Passenger and cargo ships bring tourists and cargo into the city.
  • Airplane outside connection – Airplanes bring tourists and cargo into the city.
  • Natural resource areas on the map – Natural resource allow specialized industry to operate in the city.

Official video tutorials[edit]

Basics of Map Making Part 1 by Fluxtrance. (Cities: Skylines Official channel) (2019-06-27)
Basics of Map Making Part 2 by Fluxtrance. (Cities: Skylines Official channel) (2019-07-04)