Creating Token Art From For-Print Media

In most cases, your Adventure or Monster/NPC Content is going to need token art created for the VTT version of your product. There are three ways Publishers handle this situation:

  1. Contract a token artist to create tokens for you

  2. Contract a token artist to commercially license some of their existing token libraries for your use

  3. Use a commercially licensed character builder such as Portrait Workshop, Token Vault, etc. to create the tokens you need

  4. Create bordered tokens from all applicable art in your line of products to fill out the needed bestiary.

Note: Unless you are the IP holder of a Compendium, you CAN NOT use Compendium token art!
This article will walk through route four to create bordered tokens.

Create Your Token List

Review your content and create a list noting all the NPCs, monsters, and creatures. This includes not only the custom creatures and NPCs featured in your product, but also every monster/NPC being used from your system's ruleset. You Can Not Use Token Art from Compendium Drag and Drops! If you have a 5E encounter that pits the party against a pack of wolves. You will need to create your own token art of a wolf to use, even if one is already available from the 5th Edition Monster Manual.

Token art can be skipped for creatures or NPCs that are referenced but are unlikely to be placed down on the Tabletop.

We recommend not only keeping track of the names of your monsters/NPCs/etc, but also the page numbers where they're listed on. This can make the final review of your conversion a lot easier since you can use this list multiple times to cross-reference your Token Art, Journal entries, and Pages.


Choosing Your Artwork Sources for Tokens

Your book's content will unlikely have portrait art for every single creature or NPC that is required in your conversion. You can make your token library stretch by finding portions of a larger image to use for individual token graphics.

For example: Say you have an illustration where several hunters are clashing with wolves. Each hunter's face could serve as an NPC/class token and those wolves can serve as one or more monster tokens.

When looking through your image catalog to find material to use for token graphics, ask yourself the following:

  1. Can you not see at least 3/4ths of the character’s face? (Helmeted figures and figures with well-defined profiles bypass this criterion)

  2. Is the character’s face too far away?

  3. Does the character’s face lack detail?

If the answer to any of the above questions is “yes,” don’t use that artwork for creating Tokens. Otherwise, they work great for creating token art.

Guidelines for Creating Bordered Tokens

Bordered Tokens are commonly rounded images that feature portrait art of a creature or individual contained within a decorative border. Most Bordered Tokens are round, but you don't have to follow that rule. Whatever style you go with, you just want to keep its border shape and colors consistent throughout your products. You also want your design to have enough contrast to distinctly pop out from whatever map you plan for them to be resting on top of.

Roll20 internally creates token graphics using three size variations.

Large_Token.png Medium_Sized_Token.png TinyWithGuide.png

Large Tokens 

560 x 560 pixels

PNG Files

for large, huge, gargantuan, etc. creatures

Medium Tokens 

280 x 280 pixels

PNG Files

for small and medium creatures

Tiny Tokens 

280 x 280 pixels
(with transparent padding)

PNG Files

for tiny or smaller creatures

For D20 systems like D&D and Pathfinder, the size of the creature determines its token size. For other rule systems that don't stipulate creature size, like Call of Cthulhu, you can uniformly use Medium sized tokens for all token graphics.

You can stretch image resources further by using the same piece of artwork for multiple tokens. For example, an image of a brown bear might function as a token for a black, brown, and polar bear. In this instance, use different background colors to distinguish between them if they were all dragged to the Tabletop at once.

Creating and Using Token Templates


The above is an example of a Token template within Photoshop with artwork placed in the "Place Images Here Folder", positioned and scaled to feature the face and identifiable features of the creature.

We recommend creating a template in your image editing software that has the border pre-configured with preset masking so all you need to do is drop your images in and then simply export out the resulting PNGs.

Creating Text Tokens

There may be situations where you simply lack any workable artwork at all to create a required token. In this situation, a text token can be used. These are Bordered Tokens that contain the name of the NPC or creature within the border instead of artwork. You'll want to ensure that your font is legible when the token art is placed on the Tabletop in the VTT.

Note: Text Tokens should be used as a last resort. Going this route for a majority of your tokens will cheapen the final product in the eyes of the Customer.

PNG File Naming Conventions

We use the following naming convention for our internal conversions to help collaborate over multiple projects: Page Number, NPC/PC, and type of creature/name of NPC (in this order).

For example:

  • 12 npc aarakocra.PNG
  • 12 pc aarakocra.PNG
  • 57 npc liara portyr.PNG
  • 57 pc liara portyr.PNG

You can use whatever naming convention you want here. Still, you'll save yourself a headache if you come up with one before you start exporting your graphics and stick to that methodology throughout your conversion.

Check Your Work

Once you've completed creating all the token graphics you need for your product, you'll want to review them against your monster/NPC list to make sure you aren't missing anything.

Always check how your tokens look against a White Background. This way it allows you to spot token art peeking through your masking work or errant drop shadows displaying where they shouldn't or cropping abruptly.

Additionally, check for token quality, paying attention to the following:

  • Are the images clear enough to warrant a token?
  • Are the tokens the correct size for the creature?
  • Are there issues with the drop shadow or token mask? These might look like edges of the picture that are cut off with a hard line outside of the border.
  • You might need to look at tokens on a different background to see oddness around the edges.

Photoshop Tip: Checking Token Art with Photoshop’s Contact Sheet II Command


Photoshop has a feature that will allow you to quickly check a folder of images against a variety of backgrounds, to easily spot irregularities. This is located in File > Automate > Contact Sheet II… menu option. This command will build a Photoshop document that places every image in the folder onto it, with the image file name listed as a caption below, as well as the layer name that holds each asset. The settings for this feature can be difficult to get just right, so here is a guideline on how to make a Contact Sheet that will display the images in their true pixel resolution.


1: Select the folder of images to be processed. Note how many images are in the folder. The settings we are using will produce rows of ten Medium sized tokens (280 X 280 pixel images)

2: Set the Document Width of the contact sheet to 3000 pixels and the Vertical and Horizontal Spacing between images to 20 pixels (280px image +20px gap = 300px • 10 columns = 3000pixels). Set the Document Height to at least 320 pixels per row, and then add about 10%. It’s better to have a value that's taller than you need. If you don't have enough vertical space, the token images will be resized upon placement. Slight resizing is not critical, but it’s always best to review your images at their original size.

3: Set the Document Resolution of the contact sheet to 72 pixels. (This may be Macintosh-specific. If the image looks oddly sized or spaced, try 96 pixels, which is the Windows default)

4: Set Thumbnail Columns to 10 and set the number of Thumbnails Rows to the number of total images in your folder/ divided by 10 and round up. (ex. 27 images in the folder would require 3 rows)

5: Set font to a readable size. This may require experimentation.

6: Press OK to run the command. If you're processing a lot of images, this is probably a great time to get yourself a cup of coffee while you wait.


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