Hammer Tutorial: The Basics

Modding & Development Source

Learn how to install the Source SDK correctly and how to use Valve’s Hammer Editor.

Hammer Tutorial: The Basics

How to Install Source SDK

Note: This installation method is now outdated, click here to read our updated beginners tutorial.

If you are interested in creating maps for Half-Life 2, Portal, Team Fortress 2, or any other Valve game, you first need to know how to install the proper tools to start.

Load up steam and head to your Library. Head over to the Tools tab.

After you’ve headed to the Tools tab, you should see a list of dedicated server programs and a few other tools. Find and select, “Source SDK”

Be sure to install the tool if it is not already installed.

Once Source SDK is fully installed, you should see a menu that looks somewhat like this:

Before you change anything, be sure to hit, “Reset Game Configurations” under UTILITIES. Once you’ve done that, change your Engine Version to Source Engine 2009 and select the game of your choice. For this tutorial, I’ll be using Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

If you are just interested in mapping, simply double click the “Hammer Editor” on the very top. I never use Model Viewer and Face Poser, so you can experiment with thoughs yourself if you wish.

Wait for the “HAMMER” title to go away before you start. The first thing you might notice is the Messages at the bottom of the editor. Ignore this, it is nothing too important.

Head up to File and select that and hit, “New”. This will load up 4 boxes. Three of the boxes are 2D grids, while one is a 3D view of your map.

The Tools

You may have noticed a bunch of icons on the right side of the window. These are all the tools you will be starting off with.

The Selection Tool

The Selection Tool is mainly used for selecting a block to either move or reshape the block. Selecting the edges of the block, clicking/dragging over the blocks, or clicking the center X on the block will select it. Once selected, the block will appear entirely in a red hue. To unselect, simply click somewhere in the grid.


Don’t worry about this tool. It is used to zoom in on one of the grids. Using your mouse wheel is much more efficient; however, if you do not have a mouse wheel for some odd reason, this would be the tool for you.


Another tool you should not worry too much about. This tool simply places a blue circle on your grid that acts as the camera. As you move the camera in the 3D grid, it will also move the blue circle on the 2D grids so you know where you are.

Entity Creation Tool

This tool places what you would call an entity onto the grid. Do not worry about this for now, I will go more in-depth on the Entity Tool in a later tutorial, but basically this is what you would use to create props, like chairs and tables.

Block Creation Tool

Get used to using this tool…a lot. This is probably the most important tool in Hammer. It is used to create blocks, or what you could call floors, walls, ceilings, etc. Once you’ve selected the tool, simply click and drag on one of the grids to place a foundation for where you want to place it. It should appear as a white dotted outline. Once you’ve gotten the block in a position you like, hit ENTER to create it.

Texture Application Mode

This tool is mainly for adding two or more different textures to a single block. Clicking this tool will open a new menu, which will look something like this:

I will go more in-depth on this tool in a later tutorial, so try not to stress out from the looks of this. It’s not as bad as it appears.

Apply Current Texture to Selection

I don’t really know why this tool is here. I never really use this tool at all. What it does is that is applies whatever texture you are currently using to everything you have selected.

Decal and Overlay Appliance Tools

Both these tools add 2D images to your blocks, such as graffiti, blood, dirt, grime, etc. The difference between the two is that you can resize an Overlay, but it uses more memory to process than a decal.

The Clipping Tool

The clipping tool is used to cut a section out of a block. In the picture below, you can see a block and a blue line with two white squares on both ends.

The line is the clip tool. To create it, simply click and drag over the section you want to cut out. The white area of the block will be the part you will keep. Hit enter when you are happy with the results.

Vertex Manipulation Tool

This is used to create complex structures by manipulating the vertices of a block. Select a block, and then click the vertex manipulation button. It should look like this:

I recommend not touching the yellow squares, and only stick with the white squares for now. Click and drag the squares and experiment on what you can make. I will go into this tool in more detail in another tutorial. Hit the selection tool to finish. Try to realistically morph the structure. Making it into something crazy will cause errors.
Non-error causing block after manipulation:


Applying Textures

And lastly, you need to know how to select a texture to use on your blocks. To the very right of the screen, you should see a menu that looks like this:

Hit browse and look for the texture of your choice. You can even search for specific textures on the bottom of the menu that pops up, by searching, “wall”, “floor”, “ceiling”, “brick”, etc.

Thanks for reading, and have fun!

Next Tutorial: Absolute Beginners’ Guide to Source Mapping


  1. Hey, pretty good basic tutorial you wrote, some things aren’t explained 100% though and are a bit unclear, for a beginner i guess.

    I don’t quite see the reason for writing a basic tutorial nowadays though, seeing there are already tons of them out there.

  2. Hey thats my map in the Article Image, Yay 😀

  3. Nice Tut.

    Btw how you did the orange skin? Looks great!
    There is a download?