How To Make Paper Figures

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Seattle Gamers Assemble!

Seattle Gamers Assemble! (SGA) is a loose community of role-players centered around Seattle, Washington. After several years of operations, we thought it might be nice to share a few tricks.

Zo Zayings

Example of Johnzo's paper figures in action
Johnzo says

You can also get premade paper figures from RPGNow and other places. Some premade figures are rendered by computer with a lot of dark detail; these don't work so well for me. (Here is an example of this.)

If you don't want to spend on predrawn figures, or RPGNow doesn't have what you need, it's pretty simple to make your own. All you need is a color printer, cardstock, glue, stick-tack, and spare change.

  • Oh, and also, some figure images. Since I can't draw worth a damn, I get mine online. Most of my figures come from Patrick Cruciau. Patrick offers nifty figure images for free. He is one of the righteous people. If Patrick doesn't have what I need, I go to Google images can also be useful here, but clipart is a better bet. Cartoony line-drawn images are the best kind of image for this, as intricate detail tends to vanish on a 1" (25 mm) figure.
  • If the illos are side-views (example) then you're all set. If they're front-views (example) and figure facing matters to you, you'll need to create a back view of each image. I do this in a paint program by just flood-filling the entire image in black to make a silhouette of it and then flipping the image vertically. This is what the Disposable Heroes line does, and it works well.
  • Use a word processor to create a two-row table with borders on. Scale your images to the right size (Savage is 1" = 6', or about 25mm = 2m, so I usually make figures under an inch in height.) Put your images in the top table row. Underneath each image, put the corresponding back view of the image. For a side-view figure, this will just be a vertical flip of the image. For a front-view, it'll be the back view of the image that you made in the previous step.
  • Print this page on cardstock. Fold along the line between the two rows and glue, then cut the figures apart.
  • Trim the figures and get rid of big splatches of unprinted cardstock. This is not necessary, of course, but I think it really improves the look of them.
  • (Optionally) laminate the figures. You can self-serve laminate for free at Kinkos. My laminated cardboard figs are far more durable than the plastic Mage Knight / D&D figs I use.
  • Use pennies and stick-tack for basing. Or you could buy dedicated basing material, but I've never seen the need for that.

Kedamono's Korner

Kedamono also suggests
  • One method is to use fonts: Greywolf's character fonts and Sparks Fonts. The best font size is 42 points for these fonts, that creates a character that is about the right height. Use Notepad or TextEdit to create the characters, as you'll get a better meeting of the font glyph tops and bottoms.

Seaman's Suggestions

Charles Seaman adds
  • To make quick images, I've used HeroMachine (version 1.1 is free) with good results
  • I typically print the stand-ups on glossy photo paper.
  • On the backside, rather than just black-fill, I have experimented with charcoal rub effects and found the result to be more pleasing. This is simply a preference of course.
  • When I print nameless combat thugs, I have done different things:
    • Sometimes I print the picture on front and a number on the back (1,2,3, etc to identify each NPC)
    • I've also just put the number on both sides. This is less dramatic, as there isn't a picture, but it is easier for players to verbally and visually identify the NPCs
    • I've also put the image at 50% transparency, with the number over it. On the back I make the shadow 50% transparent, with a number also.
  • I have various lengths of 1" diameter clear plastic tubing. By standing the tubing on its end under the stand-ups, I can put things literally in the air.

Anemone's Advice

Mechante Anemone says
  • Arion Games makes paper miniatures that are sold on RPG Now, Your Games Now, e23, and Fantasy Downloads.
  • A useful way to move formatted documents to a different printer (e.g., to go print at a copy center) without headaches is to save it as a PDF file. You can find several freeware or shareware utilities that act as PDF printer drivers; I have had good success with PDF995.
  • Freeware and shareware for picture editing:
    • GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program — Open source, free, available for Mac, PC, Linux, etc. Allows quite a bit of editing and drawing; highly recommended.
    • XnView — Excellent for image viewing and editing, and format conversion.
    • EasyThumbnails from Fookes Shareware (just like it says, great to create thumbnails in batches.)
    • PhotoFiltre — Mostly useful for photos, allows retouching and post-production filters.
  • Not freeware or shareware, but darn affordable:

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