I use GIMP to crop token images from Pathfinder PDFs, then print and stick-glue them to some scrapbooking cardboard my wife had laying around. I love the resulting tokens. They're almost free, functional, and I get to utilize Paizo's stellar artwork. It's espeically awesome for NPCs and BBEGs because the players can see exactly what they're up against just as I, the DM, see it.
This is pretty much what i'm doing now, only i'm printing directly to the cardstock i have from other projects.
this is what i'm currently putting out: example image these are actually double sided
tonight i ordered a button maker. it's economical since i'm in a band anyway, and music fans like buttons, so we'd have to order a bunch anyways. if nothing else, the tokens will look a whole lot nicer.
I'm planning on running some pfs for my home game group, and I was thinking that if it turned out to be enjoyable (that is me gming, not that i doubt pfs) that i might try to run at a flgs too.
The problem is that you really need to have a battle mat and some kind of representation to run combat in a way that everyone's on the same page. The other gm in our group runs entirely freeform and sometimes it's hard to know what's going on and attacks of opportunity come as a surprise.
Battle mats and markers, flips-mats, and gaming paper are easy calls, the issue is minis. It seems like there's never really exactly what you need in terms of a mini, whether for characters or for monsters. Then you need to invest time painting them, which is worse still if you're not skilled. there's the dnd mini line, but they're not making them anymore and there's still some issues getting exactly what you want.
So i've started scheming up alternatives. I remembered seeing a post about print up tokens like that come out of rptools' tokentool that goes with maptools, and attaching them to 1inch washers. Thinking that that's going to be a lot of weight, i thought to myself, why not just use cardstock. which works okish. but i'm sitting here cutting circles out with an xacto knife.
then it hit me. what i'm doing is almost the same as making 1 inch buttons like bands have! has anyone thought of using a button maker to make up tokens like this?
so, to the point, what's everyone's experience trying to find alternatives to metal minis for combat encounters?
perhaps do it yourself? as a free/cheap publication? free pdfs, use magcloud for printing with a low royalty set?
with free software thats available its possible to get respectable results. you just need someone with some design sense and experience.
since you're a free/cheap fan zine type publication, no one would be expecting paizo level quality to art and cartography. so you could do the maps old school style, or with just basic pattern fills. rather than dishing out for tons of cartography. art could be simple like the paper minis they did for king maker #1.
as long as you wern't going for 96 super quality pages, it'd be doable in your spare time. just not really profitable.