What is the process of making ASCII art?

Quoted from my answer on Quora:

I open Notepad (on a Windows PC) and start working on an idea. It’s like a puzzle to fit the characters together in a way that creates an image.

Some inspiration comes from searching for images or those I find. I look for clean lines so it will be easier to adjust when I need to figure out the spaces, characters, slopes for lines, and so on.

The font you work with makes a difference. Notepad uses FixedSys (or one of the newer offshoots). I seldom like how ASCII art looks when it is shown in another font. Courier and others use a thinner line which makes the ASCII art seem washed out. Plus, even though they are monospaced, the lines in columns don’t match up exactly the same.

I know some people would make a pattern or sketch and tape it to their monitor. So the ASCII art would be like filling in the lines (connecting the dots). I’ve never done that. Most often I have a general idea and add some characters, sit back a bit and see how things are shaping up as I go along.

Don’t delete a bunch of stuff and start over too often. Sometimes just adding a bit of detail will pull the whole image together. Circles and curves are one of the hardest things to work with, especially if you make a smaller ASCII art image. Close lines, like trying to make fingers for a hand, are pretty much impossible unless you make a bigger image or settle for a hand with just three fingers. I avoid hands and just have people holding things. This works well cause it adds more details to the image and explains what it was meant to be.

I don’t use any alt characters. ASCII isn’t about anything but the standard keyboard characters. You can do a lot with lines and dashes but I find a way to use numbers and letters too. It seems a bit bare without them.

What is the process of making ASCII art?

via – What is the process of making ASCII art? – Quora.

I Like Making ASCII Art

This post was originally posted to Squidoo while I was writing there. That site was closed in 2014.

I Like Making ASCII ArtMaybe you have seen ASCII art and didn’t know what it was.

I make pictures using my computer keyboard – the characters of the keyboard, the text letters, punctuation marks and the numbers too. I enjoy ASCII art. Working with text to make a picture instead of words is like a puzzle, trying to fit the pieces into the right places and finding which text characters work best in which spaces.

I always thought I couldn’t draw so ASCII art became my outlet to put images from my mind into something I could show in print. (Because no one else can see all the stuff in your head).

My Experience as an ASCII Artist

1996 to Current

For me, ASCII art began in 1996 when I was new online and noticed amazing work done in keyboard text and used as signatures in email and online forums. I had to search to find the actual name, ASCII art. Those were the pre-Google days. I actually found it by asking someone on a website which was a one man project. I wish I still had the link so I could give credit to him. But, I don’t even know if the site is still active, or even still online.

My first ASCII art was a house with a tree and other touches added in. It wasn’t any house in particular so I had the freedom to create it however I liked. It did not turn out as well as I hoped. I was glad to have completed something in ASCII art myself but it wasn’t something I was going to show off.

In 1998 I found a group of ASCII artists on the newsgroups. You can still find those newsgroups, they were eventually taken over (and the archives kept) by Google. Take a look at Google Groups, search for ASCII art and you will find two groups in the alt and rec sections. There are actually even more ASCII art groups if you look for those in German and other European languages. Now and then I use a translator online because there is some really great ASCII art in those groups too.

I met several artists in 1998. My early attempts were given fair critics, some suggestions and only a little snickering behind the computer screens where I couldn’t see it. Joan Stark became famous for her ASCII art in those days. But, there were so many others who had wonderful ASCII art too. Joan was the most prolific and later, the most broken hearted as more and more of her ASCII art was stolen – credit for the work ripped off or claimed by someone else.

For a few years in between the late 1990′s and about 2010 I dropped out of making ASCII art myself. Most of the people from the group were also winding down. Our newsgroup was plagued with spam, our art was being stolen, some was taken to be coloured by people using IRC (Internet Relay Chat) but they also took the credit for our work off and claimed it was their work because they had changed it so much. Another problem was someone who took the art and perverted it into obnoxious jokes and then posted it to the group just to aggravate everyone. Myself, I was disheartened when a set of jack-o-lanterns I created was ripped off – a woman in Australia claimed them as her own. She even posted them to the ASCII art newsgroup and asked everyone what they thought of her great ASCII work.

At the end of 2010 something sparked in me and I once again took up ASCII art, just for myself. I had enjoyed it so much when I was just creating something for myself and then showing and getting feedback, tips and encouragement in the group. Almost no one was left from the group and I have only tracked down a few of them since 2010. But, I found it didn’t matter. My skill had somehow improved over the years, even though I had done almost nothing.

I began making ASCII art for holidays, like Christmas and Halloween and some which had very little (to none) ASCII art – like Groundhog Day. It became fun again and I didn’t mind working alone.

Lately I have been getting requests for ASCII art. I didn’t put my name out there so it was nice to be asked for something special. I have made ASCII art for a print literary magazine. They offered to pay but never did, so I won’t be mentioning their name. The rest has been freebie work and at least it’s honest freebie work. I have created ASCII art for a text based game and have a ‘contract’ to work on larger images for another game which wants ASCII art backgrounds. I’ve also created ASCII art for family events like a friend’s wedding, the birth of my sister’s first baby and my nephew, Zack, who started living on his own while attending his first year of university.

Doing More With ASCII Art

ASCII art in itself is nice but you can do things with the ASCII art you create. I’ve got a list of things you may not have thought of.

ASCII Art in HTML Source Code – Now and then if you look at the source code (the HTML code) of websites you can find ASCII art. Its like a secret surprise for those who dig a little deeper.

ASCII Art as Image Tags – If you know what the alt image tags are (and where they are) you could give this a try.

Passwords in ASCII Art – One line ASCII art can be used as a unique password.

Word Play with ASCII Art – Rebus Puzzles, also known as Wordies can be created with ASCII art.

Places to Find ASCII Art Online

Curlie – ASCII Art  – I founded and still maintain the links in this category at the web directory, formerly known as The Open Directory Project.
Chris’s ASCII Art Collection – Still actively maintained but a more selective collection of ASCII art.
ASCII Art Dictionary – My favourite ASCII art collection, the easiest to search, but not as actively maintained.

These were comments from the original post on Squidoo. I couldn’t find a good way to import them but didn’t want to leave them behind. Right now the links to the images and profiles will work. I expect that will change when the entire site is due to be pulled offline in October, 2014.

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

How to Create ASCII Art (Text Pictures) with Your KeyboardWhether 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.)

How to Create ASCII Art (Text Pictures) with Your KeyboardOnce 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 judgment. 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.

How to Create ASCII Art (Text Pictures) with Your KeyboardExperiment 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.
How to Create ASCII Art (Text Pictures) with Your KeyboardOnce 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.