NewbieDM Tutorial – Counters, Tokens, or Pogs

Posted on November 22, 2008 by


Welcome to what is by far the most popular post on NewbieDM.   More than 20000 (!) of you have made your own tokens for use in your games, and I’m thankful that I’ve been able to help DM’s out there run a better D&D game.  I invite you to take a look around the site, there’s tons of good stuff here for DM’s, both new and old alike.  I’m also proud and honored that NewbieDM was selected as one of Wired Magazine’s Top 5 Greatest RPG Blogs, and again, I invite you to take a look around the rest of the posts on the site.  Happy Gaming!


I’m going to make my first attempt at making a tutorial here, and try to show you how I make my D&D tokens.  It’s not as simple as cutting out little papers or cardstock, I like to make them durable and permanent.

Presenting…. NewbieDM’s Kick Ass Token Makin’ Tutorial!!!

Okay, this tutorial assumes a few things…

  1. That you own a copy of, and have some experience using Photoshop.  If not download Gimp, an open source equivalent.
  2. That you also own a copy of the TokenTool software, a free token making utility.
  3. That you have 1″ metal washers.  A bag of 8 costs $1.00 at Home Depot.
  4. That you own a 1″ hole punch.  They are available at craft stores, or Ek Success PSPNP13 1-Inch Paper Shapers Circle Nesting Punchhere.
  5. That you have an Elmer’s Glue Extra Strength Glue Stick.  I bought it at Office Depot.


If you plan to use Gimp, try to follow along.  I don’t know Gimp at all, I’ve never used it.  Also, if you do use Photoshop, keep in mind that I am not an expert on it.  I know just enough to do what I have to do and that’s it.  I may be doing something that you know can be done differently and faster, then by all means do it.

Okay, the tutorial then.

Open Tokentool and drag a picture unto it.  I find pictures on the web, or on pdf’s.  The higher the resolution, the better.  I searched for a hi-res picture of Gandalf on Google.


Make your width and height 256, and select a frame/border for the token.  Once you do that, you can adjust the zoom level and in the upper right corner, you’ll see what the final token looks like.

Open photoshop, and grab the token image on the top right of Tokentool, and drag it unto photshop, where it will open as a .png file called .token.drag.  Then go ahead and create a new CMYK document. From what I understand CMYK will match what color is on the screen to the paper better than RGB.  Right, sounds like Chinese, I know.  Anyways, I print on 8×11 photopaper, so that’s the size I pick, “Letter”.

It is very important that your resolution matches the size of the token height/width you picked in Tokentool.  If you picked 256 then your photoshop resolution has to match.  I usually go with 200, don’t ask me why… As long as the resolution on Tokentool matches the resolution of Photoshop, you’ll be fine.


Once your new document is created, go ahead and drag the .token.drag. file unto it.  You’ll see that it keeps its 1″ size, and I’m assuming you have the ruler visible in photoshop.  If not, go to View>Rulers to make it visible.  Position the token on the document at about 1″ off the top and the left margin, to allow for printing margins.  And now, we will duplicate it, so the token has two sides, as we’ll make the flip side of the token it’s “bloodied” equivalent.  Duplicating it is easy:

Hold down the ALT key, as you grab it with the select tool, and drag it to the side.  You’ll actually create and drag a duplicate.  It’s that simple.  That duplicate will become layer 2 on your document.  Position it where you want it.


So now that you have two versions of Gandalf there, we need to bloody him up.  I flip the tokens at the table when a PC or monster is bloodied.  Here is a full size .png of the blood file.  Save it, and open it in Photoshop.


Okay, so now you’ve got the document with the 2 Gandalf’s, the blood, and the original token.drag. of Gandalf all open.  You can go ahead and close token.drag.  No need to save it either.


Go ahead and grab the blood, and drag it over the second Gandalf over to the main document.  Photoshop will create a new layer, and have it highlighted on the layers box.  The blood should be a little larger than the token, so we have to adjust the size.  (A note on this:  You don’t really need to adjust the size of the blood if you don’t want to, when you punch the token out with the 1″ hole punch it won’t really make a difference.  I resize it in order to keep the blood nicely within the frame I selected in Tokentool.)  Go to EDIT>TRANSFORM>SCALE and there it will let you adjust the blood size.  Hit the select tool and it will ask you to confirm the transformation.


Okay, now the blood seems to be a little too dark, and Gandalf is barely visible.  Let’s make the blood more transparent.  Right click Layer 3, the blood layer, and go to “Blending Options.”  Once that window open up, find the slider that says “Fill Opacity” and drag it to about 60.  That should look better.  See this image below:


See the difference?  Next, let’s go ahead and label Gandalf by name.  With minis, it is hard to keep track of what mini is what, and a fight with 10 enemies can get confusing for a DM trying to keep track of what mini represents what guy on the battle map.  Not with tokens though.  Just add text and numbers, and it’s very simple to run fast paced combat.  Goblin 1, Goblin 2, etc…

Okay, click on the text tool, and write “Gandalf” over on the left token.  Find a font that’s easy to read, as these tokens are only 1″.  If you want, you can curve the text to match the curve of the token.  When you type, a T with a curve button will be available on the top bar of photoshop.  That allows you to select a curve for your text.  You select the text, click that  “T” button and pick a type of slant or curve.  Position and size the text so it fits over your token.


Then just like we did earlier with Gandalf, grab it with the select tool while holding ALT, and duplicate it as we drag it over to bloody Gandalf.  Notice the text is a different color in the second pic, and it has an outline?  You can select your text color while you have the text tool active, and the outline is called a stroke.  You would right click your text on the “layers” window and pick Blending Options, just like  we did for the blood transparency.  Pick the checkbox at the bottom that says “Stroke”, and select a color.  It defaults to red, I usually do white text with black stroke.  Pick a stroke width, I usually go with 1.


Now, you’re not going to waste an entire paper on two tokens, so repeat the steps above and fill the paper with monsters, labeling them as you go.  Keep track of your layers, as they can get confusing.  Rename them in the layer window as you work and merge down layers you have finished.  It’s very easy for the blood layer to sometimes end up over the text layer, and you don’t want that, you want the text always on top.

This thing with the layers can be the most confusing part.  If you are not too familiar with photoshop go and  find a basic tutorial to help you with layers.


You like my Homer Simpson handwriting?  So does my wife.  Okay, so you now have a document full of tokens… Let’s get them to the game table!  Print them out at the highest quality your printer allows, using the best paper.  I use glossy photo paper.  It simply looks the best.

Once it prints out, check it out.  You should have a 1″ pair of Gandalf tokens.  Now it’s time to use your supplies.  Use your 1″ hole punch to punch these suckers out, using the window on the punch to align them perfectly.  You may need to cut them into strips from the printout, so they can fit in the hole punch.


Next, apply your glue directly unto the metal washer and stick and stick Gandalf on there.  Then just flip him over and apply more glue, and stick the bloody Gandalf on the other side, and  there’s your token!




If you decide to use these, you’ll see that it leads to faster game play.  Everyone knows who’s who at the table, monsters have numbers to make running them simpler, and players can custom design their own look.  I gave my friend elf ears in photoshop and he uses his own picture.

One last thing.  When I first started making these, I made the mistake of making minions like this as well.  Minions never get bloody though, so I was wasting time and ink.  What I do with minions is diferent.  I print them out on cardstock, and stick them on 1″ round wooden disks.  Michael’s Craft store has a bag of 52 alphabet circles for $2.  They also come with an adhesive built in.  Just peel the backing and stick your monster. They work perfectly for minions, since it’s possible to have so many of them at the table.  They are a lot lighter than metal washers as well…

Lara’s Wood Painted Package Sticker Alphabet Circle (Pack of 6)alphacircles

Well, that’s it.  Wow, that was long… If there is anything you don’t understand, leave me a message and I’ll try to help you out.

If you found this tutorial interesting and useful, perhaps you’d like to purchase your supplies for it using the following Amazon links, and help out the site at the same time:

Ek Success PSPNP13 1-Inch Paper Shapers Circle Nesting Punch

100 count 1″ washers for $9.66

6 pack of glue for $6.49

Lara’s Wood Painted Package Sticker Alphabet Circle (Pack of 6)

1″ Alphabet Circles (6 pack) for $16.14

Let me know if you make the tokens.  I’d love to hear about it, and thanks for reading!

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