ANSI Art isn’t Really Dead

It’s surprising that ANSI art isn’t far more popular than it is. Instead, only a small group of old gamers, artists and musicians seem to know about it at all. Many people confuse ANSI art with ASCII art when they see it. ANSI art uses all of the keyboard characters including those you can’t see on the computer keyboard itself. You can access these extra keyboard characters with the right extra codes and the alt keys.

I don’t make ANSI art myself. I like the puzzle of dealing with plain text. But I do admire all the colour of ANSI art.

It used to aggravate me when people would post text art and claim it was ASCII art when anyone could plainly see there were all kinds of keyboard characters in there, above and beyond the limits of ASCII characters. Now, I’ve become a little more understanding and I see how there is confusion about ANSI art versus ASCII art.

So let me make it clear. ANSI art uses everything you can get out of your keyboard. ASCII art only uses the standard keyboard characters – if you can’t type it without hitting more than just the shift key, it is not ASCII art.

I hope that helps to clear the whole ANSI/ ASCII thing up.

Get to Know ANSI Art

ANSI art is a computer art form that was used on BBSes (Bulletin Board Systems) in the 1980’s. Like ASCII art, but it is constructed from a larger set of 256 letters, numbers, and symbols. ANSI art (extended ASCII) also contains special ANSI escape sequences that colour text with the 16 foreground and 8 background colours offered by ANSI.SYS.

Some ANSI artists create animations, commonly referred to as ANSImations. ANSI art and text files which incorporate ANSI codes carry the .ANS file extension. ANSI art was used for games like MUDs (multi user dungeons), computer hackers, crackers and demoscene (which was about sound music, ANSI art, creativity and competition). ANSI artists released their finished artwork in files which they call packs.

ANSI art is considerably more flexible than ASCII art. The particular character set it uses contains symbols intended for drawing, such as box-drawing, shading, mathematical symbols, card suits, characters used in languages other than standard English, and block characters that dither foreground and background colour. With clever use of the shading characters, ANSI artists could mix two colours and create more shades from them.

The popularity of ANSI art encouraged the creation ANSI editors, some are still maintained today. The decline of BBSes and DOS made it difficult to view ANSI animations. So ANSI art has lost popularity and become retro, geeky or old fashioned and out dated.

Try Creating Your Own ANSI Art

ANSI art is pretty exceptional. Do you feel inspired to give it a try?

There are still a few software programs which will help you create graphics/ images/ pictures with ANSI art. Explore the links I’ve added here, read the reviews and suggestions from the ANSI artists and then pick which ever software gives you the best tutorial on how to get started and where to go from there.

ANSI Art Links

Text Art to Get your Fingers Typing

Text art includes: ASCII art, ANSI art, typographic art, typewriter art, emoticons and Twitter art. They are all based on keyboard characters, more or less.

Text art includes more than ASCII art. But, ASCII art will come up first and be the largest part of the search results when you look up text art online.

The Text Mode blog on Tumblr has a mix of text art forms and techniques. It’s worth looking through the current posts and the archives too. There’s also a Pinterest account.

On Flickr I found a Text group with all kinds of art involving text. Another group for Text as Art.

What is Text Art?


ASCII artists use the standard keyboard characters (if you have to use more than the shift key to type them they are not ASCII art characters) to create pictures (images/ graphics). This means artists who use more than the standard ASCII art characters are creating ANSI art.


Artists have more flexibility with ANSI art because there are a variety of extended characters and colours which give far more options than ASCII art. It’s funny how ASCII art is still hanging around and is better known than ANSI art.

Typewriter Art

Typewriter art is easy to understand. Take away the computer keyboard and put an old fashioned typewriter down in front of yourself instead. Use the typewriter ribbon to add more effects to the art you create. You can smudge the ink, for instance. You can also hold the paper as you type and move it where you want to type, exactly. This means you can type one character halfway over another – easily done with the old typewriter.

Twitter Text Art

Twitter text art is a version of ANSI art. But, like Japanese ASCII art, it is dependent on which computer, software and operating system you are using. Not all keyboards, systems and languages work alike. These differences bring variety to ASCII/ ANSI text art and this difference is also use for creating text art which works on Twitter.

Emoticons/ Smileys

Emoticons are another simple form of text art, easily explained. You may have seen them as smileys/ smilies. Text art created to show expression and mood in the flat communication of email and online forums and chats. 🙂 The basic emoticon, with the nose in the middle. Confused or don’t see the face? Then tip your head to the left and use some imagination.

Typographic Text Art

Last of all are the typographic text art. These can have a variety of styles. But, they are all formed from text (assorted fonts) and created in a graphics program, like Gimp. Typographic art is the closest thing to being a cross over between ASCII/ ANSI art and typewriter art. If more artists got into this and really thought about how far it can be taken we would have some very creative and unique graphic arts text art.


Typewriter Text Art

You Can Have Designer Tweets with Twitter Text Art

Unicode Twitter Text Art to Create and then Post on Twitter

I began noticing Twitter text art in 2010. I thought it was nice… but most of it was patterns and designs and I wasn’t too interested. A few months later I found there were people making pictures as well. That was more interesting. As an ASCII text artist I like seeing how text can be used to create new art. So I researched this new art and found artists, more art and some information about how it all works.

It’s different from ASCII art. It doesn’t use the standard ASCII art characters, it includes ANSI art characters. Plus using Twitter makes the artists work within the 140 character limit and the spacing has to fit with how Twitter works too. You don’t have limitless width or height.

How to make #TwitterArt By tw1tt3rart

Twitter Art Links

TwitClipArt: Twitter Drawings Library
Twitclipart is an art library of symbols to use on Twitter to describe emotions, events, games and more.
Twitterartist’s Blog
Twitter artist’s blog.
Twitter artist’s blog.
Small Twitter arts of text symbols – fsymbols
Small text art pictures that fit into Twitter. Sometimes referred to as Twitter art, or ASCII art.
Create and post Twitter text art.
Zdnet Downloads | Keyboard Pro
Keyboard Pro helps you create unique texts in seconds! Also has a pay version.

Twitter Artists on Twitter

These are people who post almost nothing on Twitter – except Twitter text art. You can pick one of these Twitter artists and spend an afternoon finding more and more art and artists linking to and from their accounts on Twitter.This list is just a starting point – in no way is it all inclusive.
JM Thellan
Andrea Pacione