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CK Basics: Lesson #3

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CK Basics Lesson #3: Exterior Mechanics





Welcome Back, Student!


Before you begin this lesson be sure you have completed the course Introduction as well as Lessons #1 and #2. In this lesson we will be stepping into the exterior world of Tamriel, but we'll be coming back to that interior, so make sure you have finished so you can keep up later.


If you haven't done so yet, bring up the CK and load your mod, remember to set it as the active file so your changes this session will be applied and saved.


Part I: Navigating Exteriors


The first thing we want to do is take a look at the Cell View Window. The default worldspace displayed is Interiors. Click on the drop down menu and select the worldspace Tamriel to load Skyrim's exterior cells in the Cell View Window.




:smarty:Smarty Says: Tamriel is the only exterior worldspace you want to build in if you want your mod to appear in the exterior game world. Many of the other worlds, like SolitudeWorld, are child worldspaces. If you build outside the city walls in SolitudeWorld, your house will be in the void that is outside the city walls when you are inside the city as a player. SolitudeWorld is just for the city interior part of Solitude. That said, if you want to build something in the city, like a new shop for example, then you would build in the SolitudeWorld worldspace. If you want a house outside Solitude's walls, then you need to build in the Tamriel worldspace at the coordinates outside the city.


Once Tamrie's cells have loaded we need to select a cell we can build in. Before you go rooting through the CK, have a look at a detailed map to find a location. A modder's resource grid map that displays the cell grid numbers would be best so you can look up your selected cell by its coordinates using the X.Y filter on the Cell View Window, but for now we'll be using a detailed locational map. [This section will be updated in the future with a grid map]




For this tutorial we will be building in a cell located near Half-Moon Mill. In the first column in the Cell View Window you'll find all the cells listed alphabetically by their Editor ID names. Scroll down the list to HalfMoonMillExterior and double click to load it in the CK.




Click on the Render Window and zoom out using your mouse wheel to get an overview over the Half Moon Mill Exterior. As you navigate the window, be very careful not to disturb anything. We want to maneuver in the render window into a neighboring cell that is open for development. Click B to bring up the yellow cell border grid that shows where cell boundaries are and navigate to wilderness cell -12, -14


Part II: Developing Exteriors


Now that we found our cell we want to rename it. In Skyrim, there are thousands of wilderness cells and we don't want to hunt up the grid number every time we want to work on it. Scroll over to the Editor ID of our cell and click on it once in the cell view window. A flashing cursor will appear and you can type in a new name for our cell: aaDRTutorialExt01. This time our naming convention is the same as our interior, except we've made the end Ext meaning Exterior. Now if you click on the Editor ID heading, our cell will jump to the top, just scroll up to find it, and then double click on the cell name to load it in the render window.


:smarty:Smarty Says: If the cell you have chosen to alter is already named something other than Wilderness like the neighboring cell HalfMoonMillExterior, STOP, do not rename it. Renaming a named cell can cause conflicts if another mod references that cell by its original name. Just make note of that cell's name so you know not to clean it out later on accident, but leave it in tact.


Welcome to our exterior cell!




The cell grid borders will continue to help you stay within the boundaries of our selected cell. If you go outside the boundaries when modding you are affecting another cell. If you want to keep the changes you made outside your target cell, you will want to rename that cell as well. By naming the cells you change, you can make sure you don't accidentally delete any of your hard work later when cleaning the mod for release.


Let's zoom in now and get to work!


First thing we need to do is select an exterior static for our tavern/house, this will help us make judicious choices about how to adjust the default contents of the cell to accommodate it. In the Object Window, under Static, look up the Farmhouse statics 01-06, as well as FarmhouseSmith01 and FarmInn01. For this project any of these exteriors would do really, but the one we're interested in for our class work is FarmhouseSmith01.


Drag and drop the farmhouse static into the render window, but be certain you are dropping it into our claimed cell and not one of the neighboring cells. Use the Z key to lower the farmhouse closer to the terrain and position it relative to the road; right about where that big tree trunk is laying facing the road. You don't want a structure to rest on top of the ground; you need to lower it so that all sides are sunk into the ground, about halfway up the foundation stones at least.


A close inspection will show a number of trees, rocks, and landscape debris poking through our farmhouse and generally getting in the way.




Do NOT delete these object refs. Deleting vanilla objects can cause possible mod conflicts later and even CTDs, always try to be mindful of the impact of other modders in the gameworld; you're not the only one making changes so make them as compatibly as possible. A good rule of thumb is move it if you can, disable it if you can't. :good:


So, instead of diving into mass deletions, use your camera and mouse to move things away from the farmhouse static. Be careful not to cross the cell borders. The game remembers these objects belonging to this cell, if you cross them out of the cell, you can get errors about objects being in the wrong cell for their stored location. Be sure to move things out from under the house static as well. When you're finished you should have a clear setting for your tavern/house.




:smarty:Smarty Says: Heya Students! Is your workspace darker than what you see in the pictures? Press A to toggle your work light on to shed some light on things! Still too dark? Try toggling on the Sky instead of the worklight to shed some good Skyrim sunlight on it.


Then add a WalkwayStairs8 and Farmhousedoor01 to the front of the farmhouse so players can walk up to the walkway around the house. Add a second walkway to the side porch as well. When finished you should have something like this.




:smarty:Smarty Says: Did your house disappear?! :faint: v1.4.23 of the Creation Kit has a bug that makes some large statics fail to load. The easiest solution to bring it back in the CK is to tap F5 to refresh the render window. If the house is gone in game, make sure you are using a clean save and avoid fast travel, in many cases fast travel produces the same load fail in game. Entering an interior and returning to the exterior may reload the game version. These fixes are not permanent, the house will disappear anytime it fails to load just repeat the reload actions.




This Lesson is Continued Below :down:

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Part III: Landscaping Skyrim

We can get a good look at the house now that we have that clutter cleared out of the way and while it's off to a great start, there's still a bit of work to be done in the exterior. We have some grass cropping up through our stepways, the uneven ground around our foundation is sloped on one side, and the pathway up to our steps is overgrown.

Landscaping can be very intimidating to new modders, just remember the most important part of the Newbie Mantra: modding Skyrim is fun, not scary. With a little practice you'll be landscaping like a pro in no time, so let's get started. :ok:

Tap H or the landscape toggle on the toolbar Tool09.jpg to open the landscape editor. You'll notice your cursor has been replaced by a red circle, which is the visual guide for our edit radius. This illustration will outline the primary parts of the landscape editor so you can understand the basics of what this tool can do.


To be a better landscaper it helps to understand how the landscape works. Just like the exterior is made up of a grid of cells, those cells are made up of nodes or vertices that are placed together like a huge patchwork quilt. By moving vertices higher and lower we can create hills and valleys. Great big hills can become mountains, and deep low valleys can become lakes. What we're going to do now for our tavern/house is on a much smaller scale, and much simpler.

The first landscaping job we want to sort out is the grass under the steps. Grass is the modder's bane, it gets into everything, and while 3D grass renders in the CK, it doesn't adjust real time as we make changes. Think of the CK grass as a reflection of what's in game because it's going to be different as we go. Let's start with the grass around the main steps, zoom in for a closer look.


With a good angle and the landscape editor open, HOLD ctrl and right click on the grassy area. This will make your active texture (displayed in the window) one of the primary grass textures in the area you clicked. There are five textures at play here so you might have gotten something different than the example, that's okay, the rest still applies. For the example, the CK brought up LFieldGrass02 as the selected texture. The point of this is to see what texture you are looking at. Once you know that, you will be able to replace it with a NoGrass version while maintaining the overall look of your landscape.

Just below your grassy version you will see an identical NoGrass version; you may need to expand the Editor ID column to see the NoGrass suffix on the ID. Click on that version to make it the actively selected texture. This is what you are going to paint with now to eliminate grass.


For such a small area make sure your Edit Radius, or brush size, to 1, and set your Max Opacity to 100. Full opacity is what prevents grass from other textures in the area from invading our NoGrass territory.


Once you have your texture selected, and your brush and opacity set you're ready to paint. The best thing to do is make one click strokes with your right mouse button and paint your texture carefully over the areas under our steps that have grass. Oblivion modders had the luxury of being able to undo numerous bad strokes, the creation kit will only undo the last couple so don't get carried away and expect to undo it easily.

:smarty:Smarty Says: When you painted your texture what did you see? A grassy texture? Or just black paint?! :shock: A texture that paints black means you may have too many textures in that quadrant.

In Skyrim, each exterior cell is made up of four quadrants and each quadrant can have no more than six unique texture types painted in it. If you try to add a seventh, the texture will simply paint as a matte black color; it will turn black in game as well. Not to fear, this isn't like the black texture bug of Oblivion infamy, this black paint can be undone, or painted over, just like every other landscape texture. If this happens you'll need to consolidate your textures. :down:

Part III.a: Consolidating Textures

While positioned over the full texture quad with the landscape editor, tap i to open the Land info dialog box. This window will show you the four quads for that cell and the textures contained in each. To find the trouble making quad, look for the list with more than 6 textures. Right click on one of the lesser used grass textures and choose REPLACE. Swap this grass texture with one of the NoGrass textures you've been painting with to consolidate them into one.


To be cautious, use replace to consolidate rather than delete which does more damage. Also, leave the top textures alone. Their use percentage tends to be high and the outcome of replacing or deleting the primary texture could be unpredictable.

Once you have a NoGrass texture that's painting effectively, finish painting under both sets of steps to clear a walkway for players. Your changes won't reflect in the CK, but you'll be able to double check your work in game.


Our next task is to create a path from the road to our structure so players aren't wading through grass to get to the steps. On the toolbar find the Grass Toggle Tool14.jpg and toggle off the grass to make it easier to see where our path is. [Note: There is a bug in the toggles that may render some features on even when the toggles are off. If your grass toggle is off, click it on and back off to shut off your grass.]

When the grass is off, select a new dirt texture from those already in the cell like LDirt02 and paint a narrow path from the steps to the road. This will clear the grass out for us in game and prep the path for cobbling.


The next landscaping technique we're going to explore is raising and lowering the landscape mesh. Let's start by setting the Edit Radius to 2. A size 1 radius is excellent for painting textures with more precision, but for moving the terrain you can get better results with a slightly wider brush.

Position that red circle over the footpath we drew near the base of our steps. Then left click+hold and ever so gently push your mouse down to create a subtle indention in your path. Then release your hold. You're going to repeat this process all the way down the path to the road to create the effect of wear.


Repeat this landscaping in little sections, lower the terrain a bit, rotate your camera, and then lower a little more. Terrain can trick the eye, it can look absolutely beautiful from one angle, and then hideous from another, so by rotating your camera you can be certain it looks good from all sides.


Road stones in Oblivion were painted textures, but in Skyrim, road stones are made up of placed static cobblestones. The road stones are listed under Statics in the object window beginning with the prefix "Road". There are different types for different locations. If you're near a road like we are in this cell, try to use the same type of road chunks, in this case use RoadChunkM03, RoadChunkM04, and RoadChunkL03 to plot a broken path up to our tavern on the dirt path we just molded. Sink them in up to the top edge of the static, even if you need to adjust the landscape to suit the mesh; these look displaced if they sit too high on the terrain.


Now that our footpath is complete and leads out to the road let's have a look at the foundation of our house. The one side of our cell slopes rather dramatically. While the landscape around your house doesn't need to be perfectly even, you don't want half the foundation exposed either.


Next we're going to lift the terrain around our foundation wall, same technique as lowering our path only in reverse. Just use one click movements so you don't overdo it. When you're finished you should have something like this.


Lastly we're going to smooth a few rough edges! Change your Edit Radius back to 1 and check the flag next to "Soften Verticles". Using one click at a time, click the terrain where our changes may have made any jagged edges or points. This will soften the rough edges slightly to blend the old terrain into our changes.

:smarty:Smarty Says: Doing one-click actions with the powerful flatten and soften tools can save you big headaches! If you make a mistake, simply hit ctrl+z to undo and try again!


Part IV: Map Markings

The next thing we need to do in our exterior in this lesson is add a map marker. MapMarkers are the CK object that creates a point on the in game map for this location. It's also what makes those cool titles appear when you find a location the first time. Under WorldObjects>Statics find the Object called MapMarker and drag it into the Render window. This green tablet marker is where the player will land when they teleport into that area by fast traveling. Place the marker with our cell, but a bit toward the start of our path out by the road. Once placed, double click on it to open its reference box. Click on the tab called "Marker Data" this is where we will set the details for our marker.


  • Name: Is the name that appears when you get close to the marker in game as in "You have found Half-Moon Taphouse" This should NOT be the ID name.
  • Type: Tells the game what sort of place this is so it gets the proper icon on the map
  • Visible: When flagged will make the marker visible on the map even if the player never found that place before. Unchecked and it will be invisible until the player "finds" the location.
  • Can Travel To: When flagged players will be able to fast travel to this location even if they didn't find it first. Use in combination with the visible flag. :up:
  • "Show All" hidden: When flagged, locations can remain concealed despite show all scripting.


For this tutorial, name your house to match your interior name, select settlement under type, and check the visible flag so you can find it in game!

:smarty:Smarty Says: Everything you add to the render window becomes a reference, that's why when you double click on it, it has a reference box! Each reference box contains information (data) for ONLY that object, so it's okay to change reference data like, scale and ownership for example or in this case MapMarker Data, since it will only apply to this specific instance of that object.

Part V: Linking Doors

One more step left for our classwork this lesson. Time to get a door on this tavern and link it up with the interior we made earlier. Under WorldObjects>Door, find FarmHouseDoor01, drag/drop it in the render window and position it in front of the faux door on our house exterior. Make sure the door handle is facing outward for realism sake.

Once it's in place, double click on the door to open its reference window. Select the Teleport Tab and there you'll find two drop down slots. Cell is where you choose the destination cell. In this case our house interior aaDRTutorialInt01. In the drop down box called Reference, you will select which door you want to link to from the available doors inside; another farmhouse door should be your only option at this point, so once your teleport tab looks like this click Ok.


:smarty:Smarty Says: Oh no! When you chose the Cell there were no doors to choose under Reference!! Did you forget to add a door to your interior cell? You'll have to go there now. In the cell view window, change your worldspace to Interiors, select our interior house and double click to load it. Add a FarmHouseDooor01 to your interior. Once in place, double click on the door to open the reference box and select the teleport link. The rest of the instructions are the same except you are going inside out, same results though, promise.

When the Reference box closes you will see a translucent yellow block merged with the front of your door now. This is the actual door marker.


With your mouse, click on the door and drag that block out of the door. You will see it has a yellow/orange beak on it. Imagine that block is a person, and the beak is that person's nose. Set the block in front of the door with the beak pointing AWAY from the door. That will be where the player appears when they come out from that door.

Once in place, double click on the marker and a message will appear saying "View Door reference for this Door Marker?" Say Yes! This action will teleport you to the other door inside our house where the yellow block is still in the door. Pull it out and position it as well, with the beak pointing toward the interior and away from the door.

:smarty:Smarty Says: Keep your door marker close to their doors where a person would be standing when they enter. A door marker several feet from the door would be an unnatural landing point.

Great job, you have now completed the longest lesson so far, Lesson #3! You now know how to claim and edit an exterior cell, do some landscaping, add doors, and mapmarkers! Well done, I'm very proud of you and you should be proud of yourself! :bow:




For your homework this go around you will be sprucing up our exterior. Use some creativity and find some unique statics to get your assignments done. This Main Assignment is worth 10pts, Extra Credit is worth 5pts. Post a screenshot here when your assignment is complete.



As in earlier lessons, you may add any statics you'd like to practice with, but your exterior is required to have these items and students may not clutter the side porch exterior at this time.
  • Add some respawning barrels and crates around the front of the building
  • Add a functional farmbench to the front porch
  • Add a workbench or farmtable to the exterior
  • Add some hanging pelts or hanging wall baskets to the exterior
  • Add a well and buckets

Extra Credit

  • Add a static light and light object to welcome travelers at night
  • Add a woodpile with woodchopping block (Hint: Find it under Furniture)
  • Design a small resting place for horses
  • Add woven fence or stone wall statics around the front of the yard at the road edge

In Lesson #4 we will be refining the skills you have learned so far and explore the value of testing and tweaking. Also, now is a good time to start browsing the Credit Challenges, these are small modding tasks that are worth big points. Most of you will be required to do at least two to finish the class. Keep up the great work, students!

When you've finished with this class visit Lesson #4: Design Refinement

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Floating Grass Fix: CK v1.4.23

In this version of the creation kit, 3D grass does not properly update when landscape editing. While this bug will likely be resolved in later versions of the CK, modders using this version (1.4.23) can resolve floating grass with a series of ini tweak (thanks to Somnyus on Bethesda forums for posting the solution publicly)

Open up both Skyrim.ini AND SkyrimPrefs.ini and at the bottom of the [Grass] section add/alter this:




Then, in the skyrim installion folder open SkyrimEditor.ini and at the bottom of the [Grass] section add:




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I think I finished Lesson 3 :)


I probably overdid it a bit with the trees... though, I love a lush vegetation :D

Please let me know when you require more screenshots, not sure I covered all. The images might requite to be clicked twice for full resolution.


I made certain the grass would not poke through anything.



To View of my estate (also marked the cell, which I renamed)



Entrance with Fence



Linked Door (incl. marked Values) and porch bench 1



My stable for my horsy , wood chopping marker, well with two buckets and the map marker incl. values



CloseUp of my Well (I made certain the grass/ground cover is not inside the mesh. The stuff at the right side is really outside the well ;-) )




Lights & Work Bench, Wall Baskets Deco, Crates and respawning Barrels (there are no crates that are containers only statics)

I used glowfillmed to enhance the lights, when it is dark.



Ingame Porch



InGame, bench in front of the porch at my little pond (bleh, need to find better water)



InGame Barrels, Crates & House



House again, to show that I was a good girl and did not clutter the side-porch :)



InGame my horsy in its stable



InGame Porch at night with lights:



I hope I covered all :)

Edited by Rhian

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So here is what I made (you can click to open full-size image):



Barrels, crates, farmbenches, workbench and wall baskets:


Respawning Barrel:


Well and buckets:


Lights Day:


Lights Night:


Woodpile with woodchopping block:




No grass:


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Hello Darkrider, I found your tutorial while searching to find a way to edit grass from in front of my first House Mod, first I want to say thank you!!! Your tutorials are most outstanding! Now a question, I followed your instruction in the segment on removing grass from the terrain but when I apply the brush nothing is happening in the render window. Although this is my first house mod I've been working with the CK for a while but this is my first time with the landscape editor. Any suggestions or ideas would be most appreciated.




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Hi there, always nice to hear someone is enjoying my tutorials, thanks :)

In post #3 of this thread there's some info about a grass fix, can you verify if those ini settings are in your ini? If not, try adding them and see if that resolves the issue :idea:

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Thanks DarkRider, I checked the files and had to add the complete lines in the slyrimprefs.ini file it was in a subfolder called skyrim. Then I edited the other two files and added a couple of lines that were missing. The only thing I noticed different was there was no skyrim.ini file bit there was a skyrim_default.ini so I edited that one which only had part of the script noted in  post three. Anyhow, thanks for your help and I'll be checking to see if it made a diff later on.


much appreciated!!


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Shot from the CK with the markers.



Broad look at the house



Furnished stable, with horse. No idea how to do a player owned horse yet. But he is free to ride, no need to steal him.



Chopping block, barrels and crates




Closer look showing the farm table, wall baskets, benches.



That should be everything. Mowing the grass turned out to be a bit harder than I thought it would be, and I probably overdid it. Took a while to get it right.

Edited by aussie500

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Thanks DarkRider, had a bit of trouble with lesson 4, but will see if I can work it out, my red house was turned to blue, but now it is too dark. The CK lost a light effect, but I notice it is still  there in the game even though I cannot delete it, since the Ck cannot see it.


It has done a few strange things that cannot be undone.

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Looking good so far, you need to raise the land up more to meet the bottom of the steps, as is NPC characters will have a hard time climbing that first high step. The other areas you raised should be a bit lower. Just even things out a bit and repost screens :good:

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At last, I managed to have the ck do what I wanted it to do. :D
Here is a general view of the place, with extras, in the ck:




and ingame at night:


It's a bit empty but I'll see to this later. :)

Edited by ladyonthemoon

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Great job both of you, head to Lesson #4, and when ready, the Credit Challenges :good:

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Great job both of you, head to Lesson #4, and when ready, the Credit Challenges :good:

Thanks! :D


I have slightly modified the design of the place. I wasn't comfortable with using pieces of Whiterun architecture for the small horse shed, so I remade it using a piece of farm porch, pieces of farmdivide walls and a stone floor. I also swapped the well and the new stables:




In game, at night:



Edited by ladyonthemoon

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Here’s my Lesson #3 work with extras. This part was a lot of fun. :)
Farm bench and hanging baskets plus linked door.
Loading dock with farm table, crates, and respawning barrels.
Woodshed with chopping block.
Side view showing walkways, well with buckets, and rustic fence. (I had the worst time with the dang fence!)
Stable with cart horse relaxing.
Night view with lights to welcome travelers.
Map marker on the map.




(Edit: fixed link.)

Edited by Grits

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