Portal 2

Portal 2

174 ratings
Rector's Guide to Making Better Maps (Hammer included)
By Rector
Learn how to make better, fun, logical and enjoyable maps with this guide! I can't guarantee instant results after reading this but hopefully this helps you guys better understand how to make better quality (Hammer) maps. (Hammer) maps require lots of time, practice and patience to get it right.
First things first, I'm the realest. I am not nor do I claim to be the best map maker out there. Why am I saying this? Because some people will hate and be like "OH WHO ARE YOU?! YOU'RE NOT THE BEST MAP MAKER! YOUR MAPS SUCK AND YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO HAVE AN OPINION."
Just because someone's maps isn't the best, he is not allowed to have an opinion? That's like saying you are not allowed to eat if you don't have perfect teeth. Absolutely ridiculous.
Anyway, that's beside the point. I'm not the best out there, but I am at least positive I am better than the common Workshop players, so I would appreciate it if you gave me your attention for these few minutes while you're reading this.

Secondly, I want to say that I may present myself and come out as somewhat aggressive in my words but trust me when I say I mean no harm deep down. You will also see vulgarities and may find some of this content offending. Obviously don't take my words too seriously, especially my "threats" and "insults". But if you are easily offended, this guide is not for you. Leave while you still can.

And finally, expect quite a few gifs from Gary Barlow on this guide. His reactions just speaks so much to me, and nothing else can describe how I feel other than these.

Moving on...
NOW, let's move on to the guide.

Before I start with how to design and make a great map, here are a few things you need to have beforehand before advancing further into this guide.
  • The will to learn and improve. This is acknowledgement that you can still improve no matter how good you are now.
  • Thick skin (an elastic heart isn't mandatory), because you can easily get offended by this guide if you are one of those people.
  • [HAMMER MAPPERS ONLY] Advanced Hammer knowledge such as building a simple room, using instances, lighting basics and constructing Portal test elements.

Have all these? Then you're good to go!
The Problem with Front Page puzzles
The most important part of every Portal 2 map is the puzzle (after all, Portal 2 is a puzzle game), so make sure to
Design your puzzles well. I cannot emphasize that point enough. I've seen so many garbage maps on the front page with such atrocious puzzles that it makes me sad and pīssed at the same time.
Don't worry, you'll get to see these beautiful pieces of art in a moment.

Now, I know what you're thinking:
Originally posted by Typical Ghetto Workshop player:
Yes, and there is only one simple reason why it's popular. Because it's f**king easy.
Press switch, get cube, put it on button, activates laser, shoot laser to catcher, opens door, done.

These are the kind of maps that the typical Workshop players thumb up. Because it's easy, and they can solve it, so they thumbs it up. More thumbs up means more popularity and more popularity means front page which means EVEN MORE people play it.

Below is a collection of maps compiled by wildgoosespeeder that are mostly front paged but are either pathetically easy or flawed in some other way.
It'd be good to avoid playing and making these types of maps.
What do you mean by 'flawed'? You'll find out soon enough.

It's these numbskulls and simpletons that take up what should be your place on the Front Page.

What's more, these people be hatin'. Because they're so used to playing stupidly easy puzzles and never really experienced a real, great, logical puzzle, they have the cheek to RATE DOWN on such maps because they are too hard for them. That audacity. If you are stuck, ASK for a hint in the comments! Don't instantly rate it down just because you are stuck. It's not the map maker's fault you are inexperienced.

So, how do you design a puzzle well? Well, before I tell you what you SHOULD do, here's what you SHOULDN'T do.
The Common Flaws of Puzzle Design (seen on the Front Page)
Flaw 1: Pathetically easy puzzle
People, just STOP with your "basic" chambers. NO ONE wants to play your chambers and learn the basics again. (Unless it's a new element/mechanic) If they want to, they'll go back to the story mode. Absolutely no satisfaction, no fun, nothing. Just pure time wasting.

Players will probably look like Gary after solving your test

Flaw 2: Sh*tty title
"My First Chamber", "My first ever map!!"

Search "first chamber" on the Portal 2 workshop and it will give you 828 pages of maps.
Honestly, give your chamber a nicer and cooler name than "My first chamber" -- EVEN if it is your first chamber. People are more likely to skip over/skim past your chamber when choosing maps to play because first chambers normally mean pointless, uninteresting, pathetically easy puzzles that are not worth their time. You might be naming them that so people can be more lenient with their comments and constructive criticism but hey, try a little harder next time.

If you can't think of a clever name, try to at least name your chamber something related to the puzzle. Even super generic and cliche titles like "Push", "Pull" and "Bridge the Gap" works. Names like "what" or "ImpOSibLe" just puts people off your map.

Still having trouble? Let me name your chamber for you:

Flaw 3: Default chamber shape
For the love of God, if you want to design a chamber, CHANGE THE SHAPE OF THE CHAMBER. The default chamber shape just makes your map look so unprofessional and rookie-like. If you can't even change the shape of a chamber, there is no way you are designing a good chamber. This is usually paired with the pathetically easy puzzle flaw (Flaw 1).

Flaw 4: Story mode chamber remakes
Go away. If you want to remake original chambers from the story mode or mods, just stop mapping. For overgrown remakes, I know you're trying to test your Hammer skills by making an overgrown map but remake one of your maps, not one from the story mode because EVERYONE has played the story mode. No one wants to play the same puzzle again.
If you're doing it as a homage in an adventure map (such as remaking the relaxation vault), I can understand that but if you're just doing it because "why not?" then no. No originality, no creativity, no point, no satisfaction, no fun, nothing.

Flaw 5: Horrible space management
Utilize your space in the chamber so that it fits with your puzzle. Don't make it too small but don't make it too big either. This flaw is usually accompanied with the pathetically easy puzzle flaw (Flaw 1).
Making it overly huge just makes you look like an overly huge ᗰoron. People don't want to walk a thousand miles just to take a cube then walk back another thousand to get back to the button.
Also, don't even try to draw something in the chamber with white tiles/light strips. This isn't a drawing board. If you want to write "TEST", learn Hammer.
Making your chamber too small is just plain claustrophobic, don't. Remember those long-aᔕᔕ tight, dark corridors in some maps? Yeah, none of those.

Flaw 6: Useless elements because it 'looks good'
Don't put useless mechanics in your chamber for aesthetic purposes. They probably look good in your eyes but it looks ugly as f**k to others. Things like angled panels and stairs cause performance issues in slower computers when in bulk so stop doing that. Just put whatever is needed to solve your test in your chamber. The lesser the better.

Flaw 7: Abuse of BEEMOD
People use BEEMOD to get a different 'style' for their chamber, to get more mechanics, and then there's these few who use it to get to the front page with their custom thumbnails. Seriously, get out of town.
What's worse is that this is usually accompanied with the pathetically easy puzzle flaw and the default chamber shape flaw (Flaws 1 & 3) AND the people who use the theme normally have a puzzle that totally differs from the theme. For example, a laser and funnel puzzle in the underground theme. For real mah boy? Just don't. Try to learn Hammer someday, mate. (And don't repeat the same mistake)

Flaw 8: Turret annoyances (Abuse of Turrets)
Turrets, if used correctly and placed strategically, can make chambers challenging and interesting. However, 98% of the Workshop maps use them incorrectly, and that makes the puzzle annoying as f**k.

You're doing it wrong if...
  • You punish the player with it (placed behind switch-activated angled panels, see Flaw 9)
  • You place a sh*tload of them and expect the player to kill them all, but in the end you left the ceiling and the walls all white so the player can portal behind all the turrets and go to the exit instantly. (Even if the latter didn't happen, that doesn't mean doing the former is correct. Both are wrong, and is the worst thing you can ever do to a player. All kinds of nope.)
  • You place them faced behind/behind glass (without detouring) so they pretty much serve no purpose.

Turrets, when placed strategically, are supposed to block an important puzzle element (such as a cube or the exit) and prevent you from progressing. To defeat them, you need to work your way around the turret and kill them from other elements such as lasers or funnels.

Here is a map from Demon Arisen that uses a turret correctly and strategically
Flaw 9: Punishing puzzles
Don't punish the players if they choose a wrong move. This is usually seen in co-op maps, where the only solution to progress/get out of an area when stuck is suicide. In single player, it usually applies to maps with turrets hidden behind angled panels that activates when the player presses a switch directly in front of it (see Flaw 8), or when you get/are forced to dropped in the Goo after making a wrong move, as the only way out. Put a faith plate in there to prevent trapping, for Pete's sake.
You might get a laugh at that "fail" or "troll" but we'll see who gets the final laugh at the end with the thumbs down rating.

Flaw 10: Mazes
You might think mazes are a-maze-ingly fun and interesting but contrary to popular belief, they're not. Mazes are time consuming and no fun. Don't.

Flaw 11: "Rollercoasters"
"Rollercoasters" are maps filled with faith plates leading to one another until you reach the exit. Totally pointless. Just stop.

Flaw 12: Playground maps
Playground maps are maps that include every mechanic and have no objective and puzzle. The sole purpose of it is to "allow the players to play and experience the different mechanics" and the sole result of it is getting a bad rating on the map.

Get out of town.

Flaw 13: Glitches
Do not revolve your puzzle around glitches (such as the funnel flying and portal bumping glitch). Not everyone knows them and making use of them just breaks the whole puzzle and the fun of Portal. Stop.

If you really must use it, say so in the title and the description so players can avoid your map.

Now that you are aware of these, please do not commit any of the these flaws.
What makes a Great Puzzle?
So, what makes a great puzzle then?
LOGIC! Logical maps are chambers with easy execution puzzles but have the solution hidden in plain sight, which gives the player a sense of satisfaction and achievement ('AHA' moment) afterwards.

  • It should have a relatively simple and clean layout.
    It should look like a very simple puzzle at first glance, and should give players the impression that "Oh that looks super easy, it'll take no longer than one minute to solve." but in reality it wouldn't. It would take an average Portal 2 player 5-10 minutes to see the solution, where a Portal veteran would take one-two minutes.

    Play it for yourself!

  • The exit should be in plain sight and should NEVER be hidden.

    You would want the player to know where the exit is from the start, and how to get to and open it as soon as possible. That way, they would know what they should look out when solving the puzzle.
    As you can see in Demon Arisen's map, the exit is right beside the entrance, and the player needs to bring a cube (and the laser, see picture below) over to open it.

    If you put the exit on a different level or an otherwise secluded, hard-to-spot location, make sure to put glass instead of walls to allow players to see the exit.
    If your chamber has multiple levels, put light strips on the way up/down to point players in that direction.

    Play it for yourself!

  • The chamber should be brightly and appropriately lit.
    Not too bright, but not too dark either. Balance the usage of the number of light strips and the observatory rooms. Light up areas of interest, such as the exit, the area around cube droppers, and mechanics such as funnels, bridges and lasers.

    Play it for yourself!

  • The solution should be logical and should not require any hard execution maneuvers and ninja-moves to solve it.
    As mentioned before, this gives the player the 'AHA' moment, and the "Oh that's simple, I'll just...oh wait never mind...." feeling. Hard execution solutions (such as tight timing puzzles and difficult maneuvers) and ninja-moves will just frustrate the player off your map.
    If you are introducing new mechanics/solutions in the map, put in a tutorial room before the main puzzle to familiarize the player with the mechanic and solution.

    Play it for yourself!

  • The chamber should be appropriately sized and have an appropriate number of mechanics
    Notice how much space is used and utilized in the chamber. It's not small but it's not too big either. Be sure to include some extra walking room for players to stop and think, and extra funnel room to allow players to "wiggle" off the funnel (if there is a funnel, which there is in this example map).
    Also notice how there's only 3 tests elements in this puzzle: laser, funnel (not in picture), and fizzlers. The lesser the elements doesn't necessarily mean it's better, it means that the player should focus on them more, meaning less confusion.
    Normally, having three or more cubes is discouraged, and having three or more main puzzle elements (such as lasers, funnels, gels, and bridges) is a no-no. If you have two or more puzzle elements, try to spread them out or barricade them around the map to make things a little more difficult. Not too much though, or you'll get the horrible space management flaw (Flaw 5).

    Play it for yourself!

  • Plenty of playtesting
    ALWAYS playtest your maps before releasing to the Workshop. This is to make sure your chamber isn't breakable, broken, trappable, and exploitable. After you playtested it, ask another person to help you playtest. This can greatly help as a second pair of eyes can help you understand what other players look out for first and see solutions you yourself never saw.

    When people give you advice and constructive criticism, don't take it as destructive cynicism, a personal attack or an insult. They are trying to help you improve. Just say thank you, update the map and move on.

If you keep these points in mind, I believe you'll be able to make great, logical maps like the ones in the hall of fame. (see the "The Hall of Fame" section below)
Making Great Hammer Maps
You've got your puzzle down and now what's left is the Hammer process. How would you do this?
Now, obviously I'm not gonna teach you what everything is but I'm gonna give you a good amount of tips and things to keep in mind to make better Hammer maps.


    Always start a Hammer map from scratch because exporting a PTI map causes horrible visleaves and performance issues in slower computers. LEARN IT. The reason you're using Hammer is to get away from PTI. If you're using Hammer to edit your little PTI map to re-texture your walls or to add some things that PTI doesn't have, you can do better than that. If you're exporting your PTI map just to get a custom thumbnail, get out of town.

  • ALWAYS compile with FULL COMPILE. (found in Expert mode of the Compiler)

    Why? Because it makes a significant difference when compiling the lighting of your chamber.

  • ALWAYS check and make sure your textures are NOT MISALIGNED. If I see any misaligned textures, I will misalign your....
    ....I don't know.

  • Have autosaves. Nothing pisses players off more than dying and having to re-do the same sh*t again when the map restarts them all the way to the start. Use a logic_autosave.

  • Include the global_ents instance for fog usage. This makes your chamber a little more "spacious" and somewhat "brighter".

  • DO NOT EVER use vertex textures. They flicker and change their brightness according to your location. No-no.

  • Apply nodraw texture to surfaces that isn't seen by the player.

  • Optimize your map. Read this page for more information.

  • Have texture variation.
    Try not to keep the walls, floors and ceiling in 128x128 blocks. Have it be in 64x128, 256x128, 512x256, etc but don't overdo it either. The example above is overdoing it a little.

  • Do not use wall textures for the floors and ceiling.
    Don't do it the other way round either. Search for "floor" and "ceiling" for their respective textures.

  • Don't abuse world portals. Sure, they're fun and trippy but if you don't have a clever way to use them, do not even. They usually end up being used in sh*tty and tedious ways, like OH! NEVER ENDING HALLWAYS! and boring time travel maps.

  • If you have a leak, DO NOT EVER seal your map in a giant-aᔕᔕ hollow box. This causes performance issues in the map. Go to Map > Load Pointfile and find the red line to fix it.

    If you don't fix a leak, vvis doesn't run, and when vvis doesn't run, vrad doesn't run and when vrad doesn't run, no lighting is compiled so your map will be fullbright, and gels won't show up on your map. If your map is fullbright and you have no leaks, check to see if you have any lights.

    Fullbright maps look totally ugly, rookie-like, unprofessional, stupid, and trashy, like this:

    Remember the common flaws of puzzle design? This is accompanied with Flaw 1, which is the pathetically easy puzzle flaw for those too lazy to scroll back up.

    Read more on the Leak page on the VDC.

  • Have an env_projectedtexture in your map. This casts dynamic and ᔕexy shadows on your map which makes it look 100x better. For the projected texture to work, you need to Enable Shadows to 'Yes' and tick the 'Always update (moving light)' flags. The global_ents instance is also needed for the projected texture to work as there is a logic_auto in there with the following output:

    OnMapSpawn > command > Command > r_flashlightbrightness 1

    If you are not using the global_ents, create a logic_auto and point_clientcommand named "command" and add the above output on the logic_auto.

  • Remember to put the little Aperture Science logo when turning corners and at the start of the connection during the placement of indicator lights.

    Checkmarks should be preferably placed only on the exit door.

  • Apply tideline overlay on the walls just above the Goo.

  • Cubemaps are essential in a map or mechanics will turn up "white and shiny".

  • Fizzlers should be embedded into the wall.

    Cut a hole in the wall where the emitter is about the size of the fizzler so that when it deactivates/activates, you can see it go in the wall and not through the wall. Apply the nodraw texture to the inner area, and apply the ceiling texture to the top and the floor texture to the bottom.

  • Fizzlers longer than 128x128 should be cut into fizzler_l, fizzler_center, and fizzler_r, then grouped together.
    The fizzler_l and fizzler_r should only be 64x128 (lxh), while the fizzler_center should be _ x 128, where _ is the gap between the l and r portion of the fizzler. Stretch the center portion horizontally and click "Fit" in the texture window. Do the same for the l and r after resizing them to 64x128. After all is done, group them together and do the usual (tie to portal cleanser). Don't forget to apply the nodraw texture to the other parts of the fizzler not seen by the player!

Why are you looking at me like that? Didn't I already say this guide requires advanced Hammer knowledge? So you should be able to do all these stuff!

The few things REQUIRED in MOST maps
  • Arrival and departure elevators, not forgetting the transition entities (unless in exploration and transition maps, in which case, hallway transitions are used)

  • Test Chamber Sign
    Because people like seeing what they are going to get before going in the chamber.
    Normally placed in a separate hallway before the chamber or on the chamber itself. (unless in exploration, transition and underground maps)

  • Background music and ambient soundscapes. Create them using an ambient_generic and env_soundscape respectively to make your chamber more enjoyable and less eerie.

  • Exit and arrow signage
    Let's be real here, we're all used to seeing those two signs in PTI so just put those in to let people know it's the exit. What's good is that with Hammer, you can add lights to the signage. Just put a light entity in front of it (not too bright of course) and watch it shine bright like...I'm not gonna do it.

  • Dialogue. Create them using a logic_cheoreographed_scene and inserting the GLaDOS choreo instance found in "instances/choreo". To find your dialogue speech, go to this page[theportalwiki.com] to find your desired line. Click on/mouse over it, and look at the name of the wav. That is the name of the scene file. Double check by copying and pasting it in the scene finder in Hammer. You might also want to include the "beep" before and after GLaDOS speaks, which is titled "labs/ding_on" and "labs/ding_off" respectively. Use ambient_generics.

  • Easter egg

    Make your chamber a little more interesting and add replay value if you include a hidden easter egg in the chamber. Whether is it a Rat man's den or a radio, it gives the player another reason to go back in and search for it.
Theme specific Tips
This is a list of tips specifically for the different styles and themes.


  • Textures - Black: black_wall_metal_005a-e.

  • Textures - White: white_wall_tile003e, 4a-i, white_wall_state002, white_floor_tile_004d

    You may also use clean textures for half-reconstructing half-clean themes. Clean textures below.

  • Panels with reconstructing animation.

  • Ceiling destruction: Cable, "wall_dest" models, square beams, pipes, falling ceiling panels.
    If there is a destroyed ceiling, put floor debris on the floor directly below it as well.
    Don't forget the light_environment! Look here for the recommended values.

  • You might also want to put a little debris floating in the Goo if you want.

  • Projected texture: In the ceiling skybox (outside), observatory room with broken glass.

  • Remember to change models to their dirty skin. Applies to cubes, cube droppers, fizzlers, switches, buttons, and panels.

  • Apply dirt/stain overlay on the walls, floors, and ceiling.

  • Place an info_particle_system with particle name "water_mist_512" (or 256) above a pool of Goo to produce a misty/pungent smell effect.
  • Put suitable music and soundscapes to fit in the style.

  • Common mechanics: Lasers, bridges, faith plates, piston and track platforms, turrets, laser relays, momentum.

Read more on the Reconstructing page on the VDC.


Exactly the same as Reconstructing, sans the panels. Add plants and vines in the ceiling and floors, and place them in realistic places. If there is a destroyed ceiling in the middle of the room, put them around or near the ceiling and floor, not in the corner with no sunlight.

Don't forget the env_wind to make the plants move! The plants must be a prop_static and have the Ignore surface normal for computing vertex lighting set to 'yes' or '1'.

Common mechanics: same as Reconstructing.

Read more on the Overgrown page.


  • Textures - Black: black_wall_metal_002a-e. Try not to use 003a-f and 004a-d.

  • Textures - White: white_wall_state, 001, white_wall_tile001a, 003a, 3c, 3f-l, 004a, 4j.

  • Cold lighting from light strips, although some warm lighting may be present.

  • Just try to stray away from anything PTI related: 128x128 blocks, the usual 5 soundtrack, 256x128 observatory room with projected texture in it (including the sound), etc.

  • There may be an abundance of white walls to give the impression of cleanliness.

  • Projected texture: Observatory room, any opening in the walls/ceiling (square beams/pipes)

  • Common mechanics: Bridges, funnels, lasers, faith plates, momentum.

Read more on the Clean page.


I have no experience in this, but here are a few things you should take note off

  • Textures: Search "underground".

  • The dome exterior model

  • Underground models. Elevators, catwalks, cubes, cube dropper, fizzlers, buttons, switches, etc

  • Exterior: Trusses with/without "stadium lights", cables, gel pipes, Goo at the bottom

  • Underground chambers can be lighted by "neon lights" or "stadium lights", inside or outside.

  • Make sure you do a good job of sealing and placing your chambers to prevent players from using elements from the first puzzle (if you have two puzzles)

  • Make use of the different materials available. Some plywood don't allow gel at all, while grates prevent gel from sticking on it (goes through).

  • Common mechanics: Gels (repulsion, propulsion, conversion, water), momentum.

Read more on the Underground page.


  • Textures - Black: Same as Clean, with black_wall_metal_006a-f.

  • Textures - White: Same as Clean, with checkered tiles (white_floor_tile_002b and white_floor_tile004b).
    Checkered tiles are used on the floor/walls more often to point an important location (such as where to funnel, where the funnel ends, etc).

  • Distant explosions.

  • PotatOS on the Portal Gun.

  • Wheatley screen (with dialogue).

  • Goo replaced with bottomless pits.

  • Exposed panels and cables behind walls. Cables may spark.

  • Exterior: "Test chamber blocks", fire, pipes, square beams, cables, pillars.
    Things like pillars and "test chambers" can crash into the chamber, which may leave only the square beams intact.

  • Projected texture: Outside behind square beams, pipes with cubes flowing through, observatory room (glass may be broken).

  • Common mechanics: Funnels, lasers, bridges, faith plates, laser fields, gels, momentum.

Read more on the Wheatley page.


Not much experience either, but here are some things to note.

  • Textures - Walls: Search "metal" (exclude test chamber walls), "bts", "concrete".

  • Textures - Test chamber blocks: Search "plastic", "panel".

  • To get the blue foggy vista, encase your map on all 6 sides with huge tall walls and textured skybox.

    Go to Map Properties and change the Skybox Texture Name to sky_black. Trigger the bts fog in the global_ents and you're good to go.
    Alternatively, texture the walls with toolsblack_noportal_skybox.

  • Include the death fade out if it's possible to fall to your death.

  • Those blue/yellow pillars? They are brushes with the textures "metal_beam_001a-c".
    Don't forget the pillar joints when the pillars meet. They are models titled "pillar_joint". Search for "pillar" in the model browser and you'll get all the things for the pillars.

  • Doors: Sliding, heavy, push-bar, handle (made from brushes), metal gate, "fake" back faced push-bar. The last one is actually a texture and should be placed on "test chamber" blocks that are out of reach.

  • Catwalks, with support and end cap. (in red)

  • Vacuum tubes.
    Make interesting patterns with the tubes. You may put cubes/turrets/gel/boxes in it to let them flow around with the help of trigger_push. Just remember to spawn/kill the models out of sight (such as above/below inside the "test chamber") and texture the inner "test chamber" with toolsblack.

  • Air conditioning ducts.

  • Outer panel arms hanging on the "test chamber".

  • Common mechanics: None. Mostly exploration and portal obstacles.

Read more on the Behind the Scenes page.


Read up on the Art Therapy page if you want learn more about this theme.

If you need to refer, decompile the official test chambers in the story mode and see how VALVe did it.
The Hall of Fame
This is a list of Portal 2 mappers that make/have made remarkable maps, whether with the in-game editor or with Hammer, in no particular order.

* Authors are Hammer focused but have at least one Puzzle Maker map published publicly.

In the event of a private profile, add "/myworkshopfiles/?appid=620" to the end of the URL to search for their maps.

Below is a collection compiled by BlumCoLe if you're interested to play only the co-op maps.

Give their maps a try! You won't regret it.
Also try their favorites, cause these guys have good judgement and know what they're doing.
Here are a few guides and videos to read up on to further improve your knowledge of good puzzle design and other stuff.

Additional information on how to design your chambers more effectively
Learn how to create great logical tests
Learn more about the tips and tricks, and glitches of PTI
Learn how to properly use the logic gates in PTI (BEEMOD)
Learn when to properly use antlines, signages and hiding
Learn how NOT to trap the player
Duplicate links when updating a map in PTI? Read up on this

New to Hammer? Here's a good starting point
Not that new? Here are some basic and advanced stuff you can do in Hammer

Why you should rate fairly and comment on every map you play

Informational videos about how to make better puzzles.

How To Make Great Test Chambers
Experienced mapmaker Demon Arisen teaches you how to make great test chambers in easily digestible short video format. With 80+ test chambers, 180 followers, 5 years of mapmaking experience, and tens of thousands of players, Demon Arisen is a trusted, friendly voice in the Portal 2 community, and these videos will help you get started if you're a budding mapmaker. More videos are being made all the time, but they take a very long time to make due to it being tightly scripted and highly edited, so be sure to subscribe to Demon Arisen's channel for all the latest updates.

Demon Arisen teaches you how to get started when making a test chamber.
Demon does a live playthrough of one of his own tests to showcase good map design.
Demon explains how to come up with good ideas for your test chambers.


Want playthroughs of your map on YouTube? You can submit them to me or hit these guys up. They're super nice people!

Quirky young YouTuber who uploads daily and gives amazing feedback. Also streams fairly regularly.
Charming British gentleman who uploads daily and gives amazing feedback. Streams occasionally on YouTube and regularly on Twitch.
A cornerstone of the Portal 2 community, DeathWish takes playthrough requests (no commentary except in rare cases)
The creator of this marvellous guide you're currently reading, expert mapper and Take That fan, Rector edits hilarious reactions and witticisms by YouTuber DashieGames into his playthroughs. Multiple uploads per week. Also has a second channel where he uploads occasional map playthroughs with commentary.
Cynical and short-tempered, Konclan roasts your maps in hilarious fashion. Playthroughs are usually done in livestreams.
Entertaining and friendly yet sarcastic and deadpan, ViiNTAGE uploads multiple request videos per week, as well as Front Page maps and Workshop Hell once per week each.

Descriptions courtesy of Demon Arisen.
A Message to the Offenders....and Offended
If you are offended by this guide, remember not to take my words too seriously. I may come out as a raging a-hole and a huge d-bag with my words but I mean no harm deep down. These are merely just suggestions to improve on your maps. If you don't want to heed my advice, fine, go on ahead. Doesn't bother me in the slightest. Personally, I commit these puzzle design flaws myself, but I learn from my mistakes and improve from it. That's just how life works, and I hope you can learn from it.
Just lighten up, take it easy, and have a little patience. You'll get there.

The End
And there's that! I hope you learned a little something from it!
Wishing you good luck with your future maps.

Think I left out something important? Wrote the wrong information? Something needs more explanation? Missing any names or if your name is in the wrong category in the Hall of Fame? Comment down below!

I'm not doing Art Therapy though, it's too hard and is a less popular style to make your map in. Read the VDC regarding that.
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maninblk Jun 17 @ 10:14am 
Nice article! I wouldn't mind getting actual feedback on my chamber. Long time Portal player, Newbie at creating.
I apologise in advance if you are offended by me posting my map link here. I really need feedback in order to decide if I want to continue making maps.
LittleNinja Jun 4 @ 1:44pm 
Ok. Read this. I've made wrong choices, but only for a theme. Example: Wheatley's Terrible Levels Part 3 has a little trap in it, and has light strips for words. Just a theme. Also, I made a Glitch level and I CLEARLY showed in both the Desc. and the title. People still clicked on it so... Glitch level name: NTKG 1 (read Desc.).
Libbybapa May 31 @ 10:53pm 
I like this guide but this part is really strange to me. "It should look like a very simple puzzle at first glance, and should give players the impression that "Oh that looks super easy, it'll take no longer than one minute to solve." but in reality it wouldn't. It would take an average Portal 2 player 5-10 minutes to see the solution, where a Portal veteran would take one-two minutes." A good map is one where a Portal veteran can see the solution in 1-2 minutes? What? Am I reading that right? If I can see the solution in 1-2 minutes then the map is insipidly easy and completely disappointing - not even worth the time loading the map.
EthanFroehlich May 26 @ 2:41pm 
I find that whenever I'm trying to test some sort of new puzzle element that I don't know if it will work, I usually resort to creating a huge hollow box around my map just so that I can test it. I don't know if that's a good exception to that one tip somewhere in this guide, but it works for me. I usually try to fix any leaks once I'm ready to upload my map.

Give me grace though, I'm pretty new to map design.
Wyld Drew Apr 25 @ 11:41pm 
@Spacekitty, I know..
It would be nice to have my name there but its great being recognised. 😁
Spacekitty Apr 25 @ 4:22pm 
"potentially this guy" hahaha, I gotta get back to mapping soon :p
LoDef Apr 12 @ 7:12pm 
Hey, you should probably include MisterLambda in the Hall of Fame for his amazing decoration skills, especially his hammerisation of a Demon Arisen map, Fluid. Good god, is it cool.
Shockmaster5000 Nov 9, 2019 @ 4:58pm 
I'm not a map maker, but as a player of community maps for years I wanted to say thank you for writing this. Even if you aren't making maps with hammer, the first 3 chapters is something every map maker should read.
ThePlayaJam Aug 22, 2019 @ 5:05am 
So that's why the env_projectedtexture wouldn't work no matter what I did with it. I needed to put r_flashlightbrightness to 1.
Alloniya Mar 1, 2019 @ 9:13pm 
I get older while read this x_x