Roll20 Beginner's Guide

A Beginner’s Guide to Roll20

What follows is a short guide to using my 2-Minute Tabletop maps, assets, and tokens with the Roll20 virtual tabletop.

This guide will only cover the very basics required to get you started with my content, and is designed for those new to the platform who might be paralyzed by the many tools and features on Roll20 and want to know where to start.

I have split this tutorial into four sections to cover each of the main kinds of content that I create; battle maps, map assets, tokens, spell templates, and set pieces. Let’s get into it!


Importing Battle Maps

Some of my most convenient pieces are battle maps, exciting top-down scenes fit for a combat encounter or skill challenge. Click here to browse my battle maps – you may want to download one for free and follow along.

Setting up a new page

  1. Create a new page in Roll20 by opening the Page Toolbar (in the top-right of the map canvas) and clicking Create New Page.
  2. Set the Page Settings by hovering over your new page in the Page Toolbar and clicking the blue cog. Change the Width and Height to match the battle map you wish to import.
    • For my newer maps, the map dimensions are declared in their file name, such as
      “Meadow Ruins – Grassy – Day – 22×16.jpg”
    • Older maps are generally 23×16″ but you can check by opening the map’s PDF, enabling a square grid, and counting the grid squares.
    • All this said, feel free to create a large page and simply estimate the size of the map – the exact scale is usually not too important.
  3. (Optional) Give your new page a name by clicking the “Untitled” name field in the Page Toolbar.
  4. Click your new page to navigate to it.

Uploading a battle map to Roll20

Selecting the page layer
  1. Download and unzip (if necessary) your desired battle map to your computer. A battle map is a JPG or PNG file (the PDF files are for printing, not for virtual tabletops).
  2. Switch to the Map & Background layer (see image).
    Assets placed on this layer will appear beneath Roll20’s grid overlay, which is exactly what we need for a battle map.
  3. Drag-and-drop the battle map from your hard drive into the Roll20 browser window to import it onto your current page and layer. An “Uploading” popup will momentarily appear, and the battle map will appear on the page, but likely at the wrong scale;
  4. Set the map dimensions by right clicking the image and navigating to Advanced > Set Dimensions in the menu that appears. Select “Units” instead of “Pixels” and enter the desired width and height. Click “Set” to confirm.
  5. Click-and-drag the resized map so that it fits within the confines of the page.

That’s all it takes to import a fresh battle map into Roll20. If you are interested also in importing map assets and tokens, please continue reading…


Importing Assets and Tokens

All of my assets, tokens, and other resources are uploaded and used in much the same way, so I will explain what they have in common and then I will break down their unique differences. I will refer to map assets, tokens, and spell templates simply as “assets” when the type is inconsequential.

Uploading to the Art Library

Navigating to the Art Library
  1. Download and unzip an asset pack to your computer. Assets are PNG files and are usually organized within a folder labelled as such.
  2. Navigate to the Art Library (see image) and to My Library therein.
  3. Press Upload and, following the prompts, upload as many assets as you desire.
    The assets will upload and appear in your Art Library, ready for use on your page.

Adding Art Library assets to the page

  1. Choose your page layer in Roll20;
    • The Map & Background layer is for assets which will appear under Roll20’s grid overlay, and is the better option for static assets which you do not need to move during play, such as trees, buildings, and furniture.
    • The Objects & Tokens layer will place assets on top of the grid, but these will be clickable during play when you have this layer selected (which is most of the time). Assets on this layer may get in the way during play, so reserve it for objects that need to move, such as tokens, spell templates, and interact-able map assets.
  2. Drag-and-drop your desired asset from the Art Library onto the page. It may help to utilize the search bar if you have a great many. It will appear where you drop it, though at a hard-coded dimension.
  3. Transform the asset; change the position, scale, and rotation using the transform controls that appear when you click the asset. Be sure to hold down Alt to avoid snapping to the grid.
  4. (Optional) manipulate the render order. Occasionally you will find that two assets overlap in an nonsensical way. Right click one of them and select either “To Front” or “To Back” to change its position relative to other assets on its layer.
  • If you need a duplicate of this asset, it is easier to copy and paste it than to repeat these steps each time. You can do this with the right-click menu or by selecting it and pressing Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V.

Map Assets

Though I don’t recommend creating entire custom maps in Roll20, it is very easy to make significant additions such as adding a few extra trees, a campsite, or ravenous, deadly flames. You can click here to browse all of my map assets.

In general, the scale of these assets is not important. I recommend going with whatever looks right and fits the grid conveniently, and placing them on the Map & Background layer unless they are something that will likely move, such as a wagon or trap.

Player and Monster Tokens

Creature tokens are an integral part of any map, as they represent the all-important heroes and villains doing battle! You can click here to view my pre-made tokens, or your can click here to visit the 2-Minute Token Editor.

In general, these tokens are designed to snap to the grid and should be resized to some number of grid squares, but you may wish to tweak them by holding Alt while resizing them.

Assigning a token to a Character

To save a token’s dimensions, other settings, and (optionally) to give another player control over it, you can assign it to a Character.

  1. To create a new character, navigate to your Journal (in the top-right menu) and press “Add” and then “Character.”
  2. Edit the Character by clicking its list entry in the Journal and clicking “Edit” in the window that opens.
  3. Assign a token to the character by first clicking the desired token on the page and then clicking “Use Selected Token” in the Edit Character window. The token image will appear in place of the button.
  4. (Optional) Grant ownership of this token to a player by entering their name in the “Can be edited and controlled by” field.
  5. Press the “Save Changes” button.

After you have set up a Character in this way, you can drag-and-drop it from the Journal and onto the page just like any asset from your Art Library. However, a Character will save its dimensions and other settings no matter the page, unlike an Art Library asset. Handy!

Spell Templates

Spell templates are a convenient tool for aiming your area-of-effect spells, and they look super cool to boot! You can click here to browse my spell assets so far.

Since the dimensions of spell templates are so important and you likely want your players to be able to move and position them, I recommend creating a collection of “Characters” in your Journal for them by following the “Assigning a token to a Character” guide above. Your wizard player will then be able to drag-and-drop his Fireball “Character” from his Journal onto the map whenever they please!

Set Pieces

As a final asset type, there is the map/asset hybrid that I call “set pieces” which includes buildings, boats, and other battle maps with a transparent background designed to be placed over another battle map. You can click here to browse my set piece collection.

The dimensions of set pieces are usually important, as they contain walls and obstacles that conform to the grid. The intended dimensions will be listed in the filename of the asset, which includes the transparent padding around the edge.

You can set the map dimensions in the same way we did for the battle map; by right clicking the asset and navigating to Advanced > Set Dimensions in the menu that appears. Select “Units” instead of “Pixels” and enter the desired width and height. Click “Set” to confirm.

Basic Building Assets and Maps - Banner

Before You Go

If you enjoy my content, you’ll want to be notified when I upload something new. Please come join us on social media, or subscribe to my email newsletter! I aim to make a new map or asset pack once a week. 🙂

For exclusive map variants and even the PSD files, consider joining the amazing community that makes these maps possible:

That’s all for now. I hope this guide has been useful to you! Please leave any feedback or questions in the comments below and, if you are interested in more of our content, please enjoy some of our recent articles below. Farewell!

Cyberpunk Cars map assets - Banner

The Cyberpunk Cars

Cyberpunk cars! Props or map assets fit for a Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, sci-fi or near-future setting. Printable and VTT files inside.

16 comments

  1. Matt DeKok

    Have you seen Foundry VTT?

    1. I’ve only heard of it – I’ll check it out!

  2. I started a campaign on roll20 when the quarantine started in Canada. I love you’re maps, assets and tokens and how they make my story come to life! I’ve definitely recommended your work to all my fellow DMs that I know. Keep up the awesome work!

  3. This is outstanding helpful. I always F’ up the size of the page so thank you (!!) for this 🙂

  4. Charlie Harris

    One of the obvious ones would be Fantasy Grounds. I am looking to import some of your stuff in there and see how it works. I haven’t used it much. Our group has used Roll20 the most but may move over to FG at some point.

    1. Fantasy Grounds is a must-do for me, thanks!

  5. Philippe Boujon

    Yes please check Foundry VTT and create a similar guide for it.

    1. Absolutely! I keep hearing about Foundry VTT and have been meaning to dive in.

  6. We like to use Tabletop Simulator, where we can upload our maps, figurines, and other assets using the game’s built-in feature. Once everything is prepared, I believe that this is the closest thing we can get to an actual tabletop. It does have a few drawbacks, such as limited fog of war manipulation.

    1. Sounds advanced – I’m up to the challenge!

  7. Craig Cartmell

    Thanks Ross.
    I am just about to start using some of your work in Roll20 for my group, so this came at just the right time:)
    As a patron I want to make the fullest use of the materials you have created for us.
    Keep up the great work!
    Craig

  8. Adam Sawinski

    Hey, I love your work. Are there any ways to get involved creatively? I am in school for graphic design and I’m interested in learning more about how these are made.

    1. You can always send me your portfolio at ross [at] 2minutetabletop [dot] com. Though I don’t have any positions open, that might change in the depending on future projects.

  9. Cassie Irvine

    AstralTabletop is also worth checking out

  10. Sabrina S.W.

    I. LOVE. YOUR. WORK!
    I’ve been using roll20 dor Dungeons and Dragons for over 5 years but started DMing just this summer. Now you’ve got me hooked, am a Patron donor and you’ve introduced me to Dungrondraft!

    Thank you for all your hard work!!

    1. Thank you right back Sabrina, and welcome to the community!

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