Basics of Hammer

So now that we have downloaded and started Valve Hammer Editor we now have this weird new screen in front of us. In this tutorial I will only explain the most important basic bits in the editor.

After Hammer is started up we see the main screen. Click File -> New to create a new map file. Now you should see this:

This is where we will have all the fun.

This is where we will have all the fun.

Maptools Bar

Maptool Bar

If you don’t want explanation of the tools and just want to get mapping right away, I’d suggest you go to the next tutorial. (over on the Source SDK wiki)

You can always revisit this tutorial of course. Let’s break this screen down in a few important areas, starting with the so called“Maptool Bar”:

Maptool Bar

Here’s a quick list of each tool in this toolbar:

  • 1. Selection tool: Select something in the 2D views.
  • 2. Magnify (Use the scroll wheel to zoom instead.)
  • 3. Camera (Press Z, then WASD to fly around in the 3D view instead.)
  • 4. Entity Tool: Place an entity in the map.
  • 5. Brush Tool: Place a brush (arch, block, cylinder etc.)
  • 6. Toggle texture application: Apply a texture on a side of a brush.
  • 7. Apply current texture (Use “Apply” in texture application instead)
  • 8. Apply decals: Place decals on a side of a brush, like: blood, bullet holes, graffiti etc.
  • 9. Apply overlays: Basicly, overlays are warped decals like roads for example)
  • 10. Clipping tool: cut a piece of a brush (this tool has three modes)
  • 11. Vertex tool: Change the points of a brush manually

We won’t use some tools until some time later.

Toolbar at the top

Now let’s proceed with the bar at the top. Some of this stuff may be a little hard to explain.


Sorry if the numbers are hard to read

Mapview Bar

  • 1. Toggle grid: Turn the grid on and off.
  • 2. Toggle 3D grid: Turn the grid in the 3D view on and off.
  • 3. Smaller grid: Scale the grid to smaller units. (a “unit” is the name to measure size in Hammer)
  • 4. Larger grid: Scale the grid to larger units.
  • 5. Load window state: I believe this is broken, it just puts each view in a seperate window.
  • 6. Save window state: Same as above.


  • 7. Undo: Undo last action. (you can set the undo levels in the options window)
  • 8. Redo: Redo last action.

Mapoperations Bar

  • 9. Carve: You shouldn’t know this. >:D
  • 10. Create associative group: Group several objects together. (so you can select them all at once)
  • 11. Ungroup the selected groups: Ungroup several objects. (make them single objects again)
  • 12. Ignore groups: Very useful, let’s you select a single object in a group to edit.
  • 13. Create new visgroup: Creates a new group that you can turn on and off. (turn visgroup off for better overview in the map)
  • 14. Hide unselected objects: Hides everything that isn’t selected. (be sure to put it in a visgroup first!)


  • 15. Cut: Cuts selected objects to clipboard.
  • 16. Copy: Copy selected objects to clipboard.
  • 17. Insert: Paste objects from clipboard.

Mapoperations Bar cont.

  • 18.  Toggle cordon tool: Turn a special box on and off, only the objects inside this box will be compiled.
  • 19. Edit cordon boundaries: Edit the size/position of the “special” box.
  • 20. Select by handles only: Turn this off so you can select object by their edge too instead of only their center. (OFF by default)
  • 21. Toggle auto-selection: Turn this on to select objects with the selection box without pressing enter.
  • 22. Texture lock: VERY useful. Keeps textures locked on their brushed when you move them.
  • 23. Texture scaling lock: Stretches textures to the brush when you resize a brush.
  • 24. Texture face alignment: Align the selected texture to the world units or to the face (a side on a brush) coordinates.
  • 25. Draw displacement: Turns displacements on or off. (Same as in the visgroups.)
  • 26. Render displacements 3D: Toggles rendering of displacements ONLY in the 3D view.
  • 27 Disp mask walkable: Pretty useful. Turn this on to see the non-walkable (too steep) areas of displacements. (makes them yellow)
  • 28. “DA”: I don’t really know what this does to be honest… I don’t see any difference.
  • 29. Run Map!: Opens compile window so you can compile and play your map. Everyone needs this.
  • 30. Toggle helpers: Toggles things like the origin of brushes. (origin is the “center” of an object)
  • 31. Toggle models in 2D view: Turn off so you don’t have lots of wireframes in the 2D views.
  • 32. Toggle model fade preview: Turn this on so you can see when models fade ingame.
  • 33. Toggle collision model: Shows a purple collision model around models. The player (and other moving objects) will collide with this collision model.
  • 34. Toggle detail models/sprites: Toggles things like grass and trash in the 3D view.
  • 35 Toggle nodraw faces: Toggles faces with the nodraw texture on and off.

3D View navigation

Use WASD in the 3D view to move. Press the Z key to enter “mouselook” mode in the 3D view. This toggles between arrow keys and mouse control. Press Z again to exit this mode and return to regular mouse control. You can click objects with mouselook on.


The next tutorial (on the Source SDK wiki) will explain how to create your first playable level. You’ll learn to add brushes (shapes like a block, wedge, cylinder), apply textures (materials), add entities (like a player start, light) and finally compile and run your map!

Click here to venture on in this wild adventure. 😛


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