The first thing that needed to be done is scale. I needed something that would be appealing visually, just like a miniatures game. A suggestion on the VASSAL website was to make 1 pixel equal 1 millimeter. The reasoning was that when you had to place somethng, it could be translated easily into pixels and all you would need to do is plug in the coordinates. No translation required. Simple enough. However, I decided on 2 pixels equals 1 millimeter. The reason i did this is because 1 pixel equals 1mm was simply too small to see the detail on the figures. The graphic to the left illustrates what I mean. The graphics are relatively small and have clear backgrounds. We will get into that later.
The first item on the agenda was maps. Maps are easy. Whatever map you want, you can make it easily by first, expressing the size of the map in millimeters and then creating a graphic that is twice that size in pixels. For example, a 2 foot by 2 foot map would be 600mm on an edge. This translates into 1200 pixels on an edge. Once the graphic is created, you can use a fill of your favorite color for the ground. I wanted my map to be an olive color. The second thing you need to do is transform the map into an irregular array of different colors. I used an HSB noise function to do this. Finally, I blurred the image with a heavy blur. This created a nice texture that is reminiscent of a game mat.
For the miniatures themselves, I modified and reused miniatures from the Junior General site. There are quite a few drawings for paper miniatures. Each unit is a clear graphic with several miniatures on them. The games I play all use a standard base size for a game called DBA. Most stands will have either 2, 3 or 4 figures on them. They all are 4cm wide and variable in-depth. My first problem was that using real sized graphics, I could not fit the proper amount of figures on the stands. So what I did was adjust the size of the stands to 4.8cm wide and then when I scaled them for the game, I simply used 80 pixels for the size and the stand were scaled correctly for the virtual environment. Obviously, you will need some knowledge of how to use a paint program like Paint Shop Pro. There is also a free program called Inkscape. I have not learned how to use it but it seems to be quite nice.
The clear background is useful for keeping the size of the miniatures graphics down. The units are by the graphic size but the color of the map will provide the background of the miniatures. The miniatures simply float on top.