It is hard to match the coolness of gaming with 3D miniatures and terrain, but miniatures can get expensive. A cheaper alternative to miniatures is 2d tokens. Tokens have two major advantages over miniatures: they are much much cheaper, and you can create a token to accurately match any creature in your game regardless of system or genre. Best of all, tokens are very simple to make.
Time and patience (seriously) Circular paper punch
Photo paper Chipboard
Glue stick Wax paper
Select the images that you want to make tokens of. You can find anything you need by simply running a Google image search. I take my images directly from Wizards of the Coast. You have to search around (or click this link), to find them, but all the art from all the 3.0/3.5 books can be found free of charge. (That is one problem I have with 4th edition, most of the art galleries require a DDI subscription)
For player characters and NPCs, use Wizard’s PC Portrait archive. This is a virtual treasure trove of original pc artwork done by some of the best in the gaming industry.
Once you have the images that you want, paste them into a Word or Publisher document. I have seen other sites mention fancy token making software and Photoshop programs, but you don’t need any of those. Simply paste your images onto a MS Word document placing them in even lines. By double clicking the image on the page, you can adjust its size, color, etc.
For some large pictures, you may want to crop the portion that you intend to use. Again, you don’t need fancy software, your computer’s Paint program will work just fine. Make sure the image is larger than the token. For example, a tiny, small, or medium token will be a one-inch circle, so make you image 1.25 – 1.5 inches to ensure you don’t lose any part of the image when you cut it.
Also, don’t bother trying to make a fancy border around your picture, they are hard to cut out and take up valuable space.
Once you have your images arranged on a Word document, you’re ready to print them out. Use a high-grade photo paper. It costs more, but the added quality is worth the cost.
Learn from my mistakes. In the past I have tried several different paper types, sticker paper (don’t cut cleanly, and the image is grainy), various cardstocks (any images will be low quality) to name a few, photo paper is your best bet.
Once your images are printed out, you’re ready to cut. (Note: the printer ink will likely still be wet on your photo paper, so be careful and allow it an hour to dry before messing with it)
Save yourself a world of trouble and purchase a circle cutter from your local scrapbook store. They come in various sizes, and you will need a 1” punch for tiny, small, and medium, a 2” for large, a 3” for huge, a 4” inch for gargantuan, and a 6” for colossal (but you will use this one so rarely you can skip it and cut out squares if you like).
By using these punches, you will save yourself a great deal of trouble and frustration. I started out with just a 1” punch and tried to cut the larger monster into squares. The end product (regardless of the tools used), was not high quality. The circle punch will give you a perfect cut every time and look amazing.
Marvy or EKsuccess brands work well
Next, you will need to glue the circle onto a sturdier material. Some sites recommend washers, but that can get costly, take up more room and weigh a ton. Just use chipboard (thin cardboard) that you can get for next to nothing at the scrapbook store where you bought your circle punch. Punch out several chipboard circles. Glue your photo paper images onto the chipboard circles with glue and you’re nearly done. (Note: don’t try and save time by gluing the photo paper to the chipboard and then trying to punch out the images, the photo paper/chipboard combo will be too thick and you’ll get ragged cuts)
Place your tokens on a flat, hard surface, cover with a piece of wax paper, and place several heavy books on top. Leave the tokens to dry for several hours.