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

How to Create ASCII Art (Text Pictures) with Your Keyboard

Whether you know it as ASCII art or didn’t know a proper name for all that text art made with standard keyboard characters, you can do it yourself. It really is much simpler than you may expect.

I’ve been creating ASCII line art since 1997. After a few years I left it behind, there were so few places I could still use it once email became HTML instead of plan text. Now ASCII art seems to be making a come back for cell phones and other new technological gadgets which can send simple graphics, in text.

Start with an idea of what you would like to create. Get an image in your mind and then draw a rough sketch, look for a clip art image online or any other way you can get a visible image in front of you. When you are starting and still learning it is important to keep the image clean and simple. Stick to something with only a few lines and not many round shapes. (Circles are one of the more complicated shapes to create and will take some practice.)

Once you have your image where you can see it, open a text editor. I still use the plain, old text editor that came with Linux. You can use Notepad in Windows, it is simple – you will already have a fixed width font ready to use. If you use a graphic editor or anything other than a basic text editor you will need to make sure the font is fixed width. This means all the characters (letters, numbers and symbols) are the same standard space apart from each other. From W to I they take up the same amount of space. Other fonts will give you a very different result and are harder to work with when it comes to displaying text art. (At the very least they will always lean to the far left).

I like to be set up with my text editor taking up about half the screen and my inspiration image/ picture on the other side (unless it’s a print image and then I prop it up in front of me on my desk).

The first thing I do is make some empty working space on the text editor. Just use the enter key to go down a few lines. Start working on a level that is comfortable for you to view – not too high or low on your screen.

No one can tell you exactly what characters to use. That is all up to your own judgement. Base your choices on what will fit/ suit the image you are creating from. Look at the direction the lines go and then find a keyboard character that will work. Take your time, change your mind a few times, try different numbers and letters as well as the basic shapes with / \ | > ( ) < and the small dots from punctuation characters ‘ . –

Use the space bar to move to a new spot you want to type in. You need to create the blank spaces in order for them to appear. This is a time when the mouse is second fiddle. The enter or carriage return will take you to a new line. Backspace erases anything you want to change. This may seem obvious but we have grown comfortable using the mouse – it does take getting used to just working with the keyboard.
As you work notice how different characters set on different levels. Some are higher and some lower. Use this to your advantage. _ , – ‘ `

When you want to make eyes there are a lot of options @ o 9 a e b q p d c g 6. Try them all. Each gives a different personality to the image. A combination of q p (for instance) can create eyes and a nose or snout.

Take a look at letters like Y T and W. Those will give you some basic shapes too. When you create smaller ASCII text pictures the shape of letters and numbers matter and can give you exactly what you need in a small space. Y makes a nice nose for a cat’s face.

For making a box I like to use .——. to join it to the sides at the top and then .____. to join it to the sides at the bottom.

For shading/ making a dark area # works well. Some people get more complicated and create greyscale ASCII art. This takes some practice, some familiarity with the keyboard characters and how they combine to create a finished image. Don’t try something too complicated for your early work.

Experiment and learn as you work. Look at the ASCII art done by others and see how they used different letters, numbers and characters to create the shapes they wanted. Think of it as a puzzle, a jigsaw puzzle, where you are fitting the pieces together to create the complete image.

If you have a print image you can hold it up to your screen and match your text to the shapes by comparing how they fit under the paper it’s printed on. I never did this myself. It seems to take away some of the creativity and ingenuity for me. But, if that gives you the will to keep trying, go ahead and do it.

Leave a couple of lines above and below your finished ASCII text art. I also like to keep my work a few spaces over from the left hand side of the screen edge.
Once you are fairly happy with your creation save the text file on your computer. Give it a name and add it to your hard drive. If you have software to capture your file as a graphic image file you can do that too. I just use a screen capture that lets me pick the size I want to save instead of the whole screen. It is much easier to share and post text/ ASCII art in an image file.

Don’t forget to add your artist initials to your finished work. ASCII art is usually shared freely, often adapted by other artists (diddled as we used to call it in the ASCII art newsgroup) but the initials should be kept with the art as respect to the original creator of the art. Plus, when you find something you really like you have a chance to find more of it when you know who made it.

Passwords in ASCII Art

I haven’t thought about ASCII art text images being used for passwords in a long time. I remembered the idea when I read a post written by hackers who were trying to create software which would crack ASCII art passwords based on repeated characters.

ASCII art as a password is pretty unique still. Don’t worry too much about hackers cracking your password. Just make your ASCII art a bit more complicated, using more variety in the characters you choose and include numbers and letters too.  Of course, the ASCII has to be one line too.

Think of it as a good reason to work on creating new one line ASCII art.

Digital Character Art

WRT: Writer Response Theory

WRT is a blogging collective dedicated to the discussion and exploration of digital character art – any art involving electrons and making use of letters, alphanumerics, or other characters in an interesting way. Our primary focus is on active and interactive works, in which users input text and receive textual responses as output.

They have a category just for ASCII art.

Heister’s Digital Art