How to Make ASCII Art Pictures with Keyboard Keys

Originally published to my HubPages account. Moved here.

I make ASCII art. I started in 1998 and I still take time to type out a picture now and then. Usually, the holidays inspire me to get creative with the keyboard. Making art is a nice change from using the keyboard to type out word and sentences.

Finding Notepad on a Windows Computer

Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> Notepad

Click Start or the Windows graphic at the bottom left on your computer. This will pull up a list of programs. Select All Programs, so you can see everything. Then go to Accessories and find Notepad on that list. Open Notepad by clicking it.

Actually making ASCII art is simple and straight forward.

Start with an empty (clean, untouched) Notepad on your computer. In MS Windows this is a plain .txt (text) file. When you open this file you can tap your mouse on the empty space to set your keyboard cursor in the right place. Go down a few lines, use carriage returns. Then use the space bar to move the cursor out towards the middle of the page/ screen. This gives you a little working space above and to the side, so you don’t start typing on the first line, as if you were going to write. This time you’re going to make art and you want some space over and under your cursor. Consider this blank text file to be your canvas. Don’t be intimidated.

Look at your keyboard. Unless you have an old (faded and worn) keyboard (or use a language other than English) your keyboard should display everything you need right there. My own keyboard is a bit faded and worn for most of the letter characters – I’ve done a lot of touch typing. But, I know where things are. Still, it is easier to work with a keyboard that shows all the characters. If you want to start making ASCII art this could be a good reason to get a new keyboard, treat yourself.

Before you begin, have an idea of the picture you want to create.

I like to have a simple line drawing or clip art to work with. I often make my own doodle/ sketch if the idea has come from out of the blue, inspiration from my own mind. Having the drawing is a great help when it comes to actually creating a picture. I don’t see it as stealing art when I have a drawing from someone else. I am not copying it – but using a different medium to create my own vision, my own point of view of the original drawing. Trust me, my finished creation may not look much like the original once I’m done.

When you create art with the keyboard some things have to change in order to fit in with the text medium which you are using. For instance, you can’t put a line or a space exactly where you want one to appear. It has to be where the keyboard types it in. So you work with this and sometimes you can even make it work for you. Also, of course, you are working with the keyboard characters as they are. So you can’t make a J just a bit taller. You can’t make W thinner. You get the idea, or you soon will once you start working with all those characters.

Actually getting started is easy. You don’t need any extra supplies like paper or pens or guide books or whatever else you may imagine. A fresh coffee is nice, but that’s a personal touch.

Pick a place on your drawing/ sketch to start from. Look at the shape of the line.

The Shapes of Keyboard Characters

Does it have a curve?

) ( 6 9 C D c j S

Does it go straight up and down or does it lean?

| / \ l i L I : ; T t

Does it branch out?

Y V v U u W w K H X

Or is it a flat line?

_ – = +

Does it bend?

> < U N W R 7 2 ?

Maybe you want a circle?

O o () CD q p d b e

Do you need something high or low?

‘ , – ~ ` _

Do you want to make a dark space?

% & # @

As you type above and below your original work use the space bar and your mouse to move the cursor. You will need typed spaces in your work to line things up right.

When you begin typing in the next row of your picture start by moving the cursor to the spot that matches up with the work you have already done.

You can make an ASCII art picture in all sizes, from tiny to huge. But, start with something a bit smaller. Mainly, it’s just easier to work with something that isn’t sprawling across the whole screen. A small sized ASCII art picture is easier to see as a whole when you begin working on how all those keyboard characters will fit together to shape a whole, finished picture.

You Don’t Need an ASCII Art Generator

Don’t be afraid to make your own ASCII art. Of course it won’t look just as you imagine, or want, right away. Mine didn’t. There are still ideas I start working on and end up deleting because they just aren’t working out. If something still has hope, I keep it. The point is, don’t get discouraged too easily.

Don’t be lazy either. Software can convert an image into text, that doesn’t make it art. Computer generated images are not art. Computers are not that advanced yet. A human still needs to be part of the process. If you’re just using software to copy art created by someone else… why are you bothering? Make something of your own.

Lastly, don’t steal or claim art as your own. Try making something of your own and don’t decide it’s too hard before you have really tried.

How to make your own ASCII art with your computer keyboard

I use Notepad with MS Windows. No extra features, nothing fancy. My favourite font with Notepad is FixedSys or Consolas. Change your Notepad settings by going to Format and then Font. Don’t use italics or bold. Later, if you save your ASCII art to an image file, you might see if it looks better using bold. Leave it off while you work on creating it. Set your font size to something you can work with. A little bigger helps but too big just doesn’t help at all.

Start with a stick figure. Pretty simple to make those basic shapes and then add details. Don’t try to start making some epic masterpiece on your first try, or your second, probably not your third either. Keep it simple while you figure things out.

Give yourself room to work. Start creating in the middle of the Notepad screen, not at the top or right at the side.

It can matter what part of the picture you start making. ASCII art relies on spacing, not just the space between characters but the space the letters hit on the page. Not everything meets up where you would like it to. Experiment, it’s the only way to really figure out how the letters, numbers and symbols work together. A stick figure is a good way to begin to understand this.

Start with the head. Go with a small head or try something bigger. Curved lines are harder to build. You will learn to layer things to make your curves. Don’t forget you can also skip a space, leave it empty, that can work better than adding more characters to fill in every space but make your picture look cluttered and complicated to work with.

You’re going to need to go back and forth, a lot. As you type in ASCII characters things move around and get out of place. The backspace key is the one you are likely to use more than any other on your keyboard. Pull characters (typewritten/ font characters) back into place with the backspace key. To move them the other direction, just use the space bar. Have patience! Moving things around can be a fiddly thing.

Add lines for the body, arms and legs. Feet can be a simple line too. Hands are easier to work on if your stick figure is bigger. Smaller pictures require more experimenting. You have less space to work with and only so many ASCII characters will fit in the space where you want them to.

Add a hat to your stick figure. Give it something individual, original and uniquely you. Or, try adding hair.

Get creative, try different characters to create the face for your stick figure. Can you change the look with just a small change to the face?

What will your stick figure wear? Try shoes instead of the simple flat feet.

Save what you have along the way. Just copy and paste your work as is and leave one as a reference and the other as a working copy. It helps to look back and see what worked before you made more changes. You might go back to what you had before, with a modification or two.

Don’t forget you have capital and small letters to work with. Every character you can see on your keyboard is available. A few are great for just that spot you needed a little something for.

Work on bigger and fancier images when you get the general feel for it. Consider using line art, my favourite, or get into shading and other more complicated methods.

Last tip – Don’t work in the dark. It’s really hard to see the keyboard that way.

When you’re done, or happy enough with what you’ve made, add your artist initials or your full name as a signature and artist credit.

 

Ambigrams

Note: I did have this saved in plain text so it would post the ASCII art. But, it seems there is always something, some detail, which changes somewhere and messes up the formatting. Even when I use the code formatting plugin. So I am posting this ‘as is’ rather than leave it sitting on my to-do list. The original source link follows and then the contents. The ASCII art is messed up. It seems the only reliable way to show it is to copy and paste it into an image file. I may do that at some point. But, for now this is an archive of the original because I thought the post was interesting and I wanted to preserve it. 

h2g2 – Ambigrams (sweJ6!qwe).

Ambigrams (sweJ6!qwe)
Created Jan 12, 2001 | Updated Nov 19, 2002

6 Conversations

Look at this ascii art picture:

,-. Henry Segerman
|/
|,–. /\ |\ |/\,–. ,
/| | \/ | \ | /\ | |/
‘ `–‘\/| \| \/ `–‘|
/|
uewJ363S hJu3H `-‘
‘Yeah’, you say, and apart from the odd cryptic bit at the bottom, maybe you just think it says ‘henry’ in ascii art. Well pick up your monitor, flip it over on its top, and look again (or you could flip yourself over on your top). That’s an ambigram. And so is the h2g2 logo (at least it is at time of writing).

Ambigrams seem to have been invented independently by a few people around the 1970s. Their first public appearance was in Scott Kim ‘Inversions’ (1981), followed by a walk-on part in Douglas Hofstadter’s ‘Metamagical Themas’ (1985).

So how do you do them? Well the above is a rotational symmetry one, though you can also do them with various kinds of mirror symmetry, and even translational symmetry sometimes. This entry will concentrate on the rotational symmetry type.

The simplest way to do them, is to try to write the nth letter in such a way that the other way up, it looks like the nth letter from the end of the word. So in ‘henry’ above, the ‘h’ is written to look like a ‘y’ upside down. Many letter pairs work well here. For example, d-p, m-w, n-u, b-q, h-y and a-e. Note there are two ways in which ‘a’ is written: ‘a’ and ‘a’. You want the one that looks like an ‘e’ upside down. If the two ‘a’s are not appreciably different, then you don’t have the font ‘Lucidia Sans’ on your computer – the other way to write an ‘a’ is handwriting style – see the example below.

These letters work well with themselves: I, N, o, s, x, z.
You can also make most letters look like themselves upside down, with a little tweaking. For example:

_
_ _ \
/ \/ \ |
/ / _|_
\_/\_/ |
|
\_
…are ‘a’ and ‘t’. But then you could see that anyway.

Sometimes matching single letters together doesn’t work. No matter what you do, a ‘m’ isn’t going
to look much like a ‘l’ the other way up. Well have one large letter be more than one smaller letter
upside down:

/\ o |
\/ /\/|/| | | | /\/
/\/ | | | |/|/\/ /\
| o \/
Hopefully you can see that is ’emily’. Here the ‘m’ is being the ‘i’, the ‘l’ and half of the ‘y’.

As well as the ‘a’ and ‘a’ options, a few other letters
can be written in more than one basic style, e.g. ‘s’ (normal) and ‘s’ (script handwriting style, again apologies if your computer doesn’t have the font ‘Lucidia Handwriting’), and
many other variations on serifs and other twiddly bits/handwriting style effects can be useful in matching letters.
Capitals give you more options too – though it does look a lot better if the capitalisation is correct for the word. For recognisability, the
first and last letters are the most important to try to get looking right.

Sometimes there’s a really horrible problem with an ambigram which isn’t working. For example, it’s pretty hard to get an ‘O’ to look like anything other than
an ‘O’ upside down. Or double letters. Your brain automatically accepts a surprisingly varied selection of ways of writing a letter, but if you’ve got the
same letter right next door in a different style, it doesn’t like it. There are sometimes ways round double letters – use both of them in constructing some
large letter the other way up:

_ _ |_ |_
/\ /\ / \/ \ | |
| | | / / | | |
_| _| \_/\_/ \/ \/
| |
… or just be lucky and find you can do them the same style. Some words just don’t work at all –
then sometimes you’ll try it again months later and it all ‘clicks’ and people won’t realise its an
ambigram, at least until you turn it upside down.

That’s about it for basics.
Beyond here, mess about with words with pencil and paper, have a look at other people’s ambigrams
and
always be on the lookout for any fancy ways to write letters.

_
,-. / \ ,-. ,-. ,-.
/__|_ / | | /
/ | \ / \_|__ /
/ | | / | /
`-‘ `-‘ `-‘ \_/ ‘-‘
A592643

Create Your Own ASCII Art to Illustrate Your Blog or Website

I Make my own ASCII Art. So Can You.

Start by looking down at your keyboard. The typical keyboard has every character (letter and punctuation mark) that you need to make your own ASCII art. Anything not already on that keyboard is not used for ASCII art. If you use extra characters you’re making ANSI art.

Always work in a font which is a fixed width. Notepad, the Windows defaul text editor runs on a fixed width font. I always use a basic, simple text editor when I’m making ASCII art. Even now using Linux, there is a plain text editor.

First, decide what you actually want to create. I like to have a sketch I’ve done myself or find some clip art online to guide me while I work. Whatever works to give a plan, a simple outline – it does help.

Use your own keyboard as an aid to figuring out what will work for the shapes you need for your design/ picture. If you work on something small you’re going to need to be pretty specific with the shapes you pick. So, try something a litle larger in size. This gives you leeway to create shapes with several characters rather than just one. (This will make more sense once you are actually started).

When you’re pretty happy with your creation, don’t forget the final touch – your artist initials! Mine are ldb.

You Can Get Fancy with Your ASCII Art

Add colour, make it bigger, change the whole style of it even.

Change to another fixed width font and you can alter the look of your ASCII art. I prefer FixedSys font but it’s not available with every text editor. Try other fonts, like Consolas and Dark Courier. Some of them will give you thinner lines. Some will use shorter lines. You can see the difference a font makes in the Canadian flag illustration.

Use an HTML editor to resize your ASCII art and add colour to it. This even lets you change the background dark and your ASCII art can be light on the dark. You will need a screen capture software to save your image from the HTML editor screen. You can try various other options but this is what I’ve found works best for me.

I use Kompzer as an HTML editor (it runs with Linux).

Now Put your ASCII Art on Your Blog/ Site

I’ve seen people post guides to making ASCII art. Most of them have never actually made any ASCII art. They may have used software to create something, but that’s not the same. It isn’t hard to make ASCII art, don’t cop out with software. Try DIY first. Of course, you won’t be an expert on your first try – so try again and then take some time away from it and come back for another try on the same image/ picture.

Look at tutorials and guides, look at ASCII art created by other people, keep trying it.

Put your creations up online. Let other people see them. Chances are they will be far less hard on your work than you will yourself.

Try formatting the ASCII art but if that isn’t working just turn it into an image file and post it like any other jpg, gif or png file.