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
always be on the lookout for any fancy ways to write letters.

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

Links to ASCII Art Guides, Tutorials and FAQs

I still need to check these links but posting them meanwhile.

Alt.Ascii-Art FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and their answers for the alt.ascii-art Usenet newsgroup. Compiler: CJRandall
Rowan Crawford’s ASCII Art Guide
ASCII Graphical Techniques V.1
Normand Veilleux’s ASCII Art Tutorial
ASCII Art tutorial from Normand Veilleux.
Make a Start in ASCII Art
Tutorial by Danie Au.
Targon’s ASCII Art Tutorial
Targon’s ASCII Art Tutorial
So, You Want to Make Text Art?
Tutorial by Jonathon R. Oglesbee (JRO).
Susie Oviatt’s ASCII Art Tutorial
Susie Oviatt’s ASCII Art Tutorial
Welcome to ASCII-Art
Answers to frequently asked questions in the ASCII art discussion groups. Author: Matthew Thomas.
ASCII ART FAQ by Jorn Barger
ASCII ART FAQ by Jorn Barger
Ye Olde Ascii Art FAQ ( Bob Allison )
Ye Olde Ascii Art FAQ ( Bob Allison )
How to Make ASCII
ASCII guide by Flump.
Allen Mullen’s FAQ
Allen Mullen’s FAQ
About ASCII Art
About ASCII Art – Graphical Images Composed of Text
Scarecrow’s ASCII Art Reference
Scarecrow’s ASCII Art Reference
Scarecrow’s ASCII Art FAQ
Scarecrow’s ASCII Art FAQ – Long Version
How to Display ASCII Art Properly
How to Display ASCII Art Properly
Legal ASCII Art Characters
Legal ASCII Art Characters
Joan Stark: How I Make These ASCII Pictures
ASCII Art Tutorial by Joan Stark/ Joan Spunk.


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.