An isometric perspective has the ability to thrust your battle maps immediately into the third dimension. More and more map artists are dabbling in it (myself included), but not all virtual tabletops officially support it yet. Luckily there is an easy way around that, and I hope to share it here!
This guide will teach you how to introduce a functional isometric grid into Roll20, but you can theoretically use this method on any virtual tabletop which supports a hexagonal grid.
Before we begin, I wanted to extend a big thank-you to Rootyful, who was the one to first share this method with me, create the original overlay, and allow me to pass it all on. Thanks Rooty!
Step 1: Download your isometric grids
I’ve prepared six isometric grid overlays packaged as PNGs with transparent backgrounds. These tile near-seamlessly and are designed to be used as an overlay on a 70 DPI canvas. More on that to come.
Download the ZIP file here.
Step 2: Prepare your virtual tabletop
Create a new scene (known as a “page” in Roll20) and open its settings by clicking the cog icon in the page-select menu. Set the dimensions to whatever you might need, then scroll down to the Grid section and make the following changes:
- Set the Grid Type to Hex (H).
- Set the Cell Width to 70px (the default).
- Set the Grid Color and Opacity to something visible. This is only temporary.
Step 3: Upload and align your isometric grid
First, switch to the Map & Background layer using the vertical toolbar on the left-hand side of your screen. You must stay on this layer in order to select and manipulate the grid and anything else you might place here.
Next, import the isometric grid of your choice into the scene. If this is the first time you are importing this grid into Roll20, simply drag and drop a PNG file (from Step 1) of your choosing from your file browser into the Roll20 scene. If you have done this previously, it’s better to load your existing grid from the Art Library instead.
The isometric grid should now appear as an object in your scene, though it will likely start out at a very strange scale. Right-click it and select Advanced > Set Dimensions, then enter 16×16 units (or 1120×1120 pixels). Hit Set to confirm your changes.
The grid will now be set to the right scale, and you will be able to move it around and have it snap to the hexagonal grid below it. It should align with the grid like so:
Keep this image in your mind! This underlying hex grid is going to allow for all the token snapping, measurement, and all the other grid-based tools to work with your new isometric grid.
The final step is to return to your Page Settings and set the Grid Opacity to zero in order to hide the hexagonal grid. Your isometric grid will remain, along with all that underlying functionality, and you can now copy and paste your 16×16 grid tile to your heart’s content to fill the scene.
That’s all there is to it! Just be sure to send your battle maps and assets behind the grid on the Maps & Background layer with Right Click > To Back, and utilize the Objects & Tokens layer for anything you will be moving around during play.
If you have any questions or comments please keep scrolling down and share them below. Have fun!
Map and Asset Downloads
As I said, I’ve only dabbled in isometric thus far… Regardless, here they are! Let me know if you’d like to see more — they’re certainly a blast to draw.
Isometric BridgePWYW: $1 or FREE $1.00
Hillside CavePWYW: $1 or FREE $1.00
Goblin BigrockPWYW: $1 or FREE $1.00
Skull CavePWYW: $1 or FREE $1.00
Australian BillabongPWYW: $1 or FREE $1.00
Forest Treetop Map AssetsPWYW: $1 or FREE $1.00
Anvil RockPWYW: $1 or FREE $1.00
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I can't believe I have never realized this. Thank you!
I was in the same boat until Rooty enlightened me! Hex grids are magical.
I was JUST experimenting with iso maps (Absolutely loved drawing isometrics in architectural school) and was ready to write if off as not really working with Roll20 after having to lose the snapping in order for it to work – this changes everything! Thanks for sharing!
Am I missing something here, what do you do when a character needs to go behind a piece of scenery, for example if they wanted to go under the Isometric Bridge?
I’m afraid (in lieu of some new piece of software that could rotate the map) they would be stepping into the “theater of the mind.”
I’ll definitely surprise the boys with this fancy setup!
Thank you Ross!
Amazing idea! Thanks for opening up our eyes to this idea. I used to hand-draw isometric maps back in the old AD&D days of the 80s, but haven’t really done it in a long time, and not at all using modern techniques and tools. Can’t wait to see more maps using this technique!
I’ve followed the directions – very clever! – and purchased one of your isometric maps (the bridge one) but I can’t seem to get the lines on the map to align with the isometric grid. Can you perhaps provide a video?
Hmm, in that case I’d recommend…
Scaling the map to the precise dimensions (23×16 I believe, for that map) with the same Set Dimensions mentioned above.
Using Ctrl+LMB(drag) to disable grid snapping and position the map precisely where you need it.
I hope that helps!
Do you happen to know if Foundry currently supports hexagonal?
I believe it does by default, or with a plugin? I still hope to research the matter myself.
Awesome! Always wondered how to do this, now I know!
You are the best! This is everything I was hoping to find, plus your bomb-ass art packs, thanks so much!
Just re-stumbled across this post. Happy to comment that DM Helper will also be supporting not just standard grids, but also isometric grids and hex maps with a very-soon-to-be-released v2.3!
Great idea, but I have a question.
How do I align battle maps with the new isometric grids? Because the ones you shared don’t contain the measurements (eg 16×16) and therefore I don’t know how to align them
They’re all very flexible, but I’d try 22×16 or 23×16 to start with!