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Beautiful ASCII Art

Updated on August 27, 2009

Turning Text into Graphics

ASCII art is a graphic design technique that utilizes computers for presentation and consists of pictures pieced together from the 95 printable characters defined by the ASCII Standard from 1963 and ASCII compliant character sets with proprietary extended characters. ASCII art can be created with any text editor, and is often used with free-form languages. Most examples of ASCII art require a fixed-width font (non-proportional fonts, like on a traditional typewriter) such as Courier for presentation.

How did it all start?

Among the oldest known examples of ASCII art are the creations by computer-art pioneer Kenneth Knowlton from around 1966, who was working for Bell Labs at the time. "Studies in Perception I" by Ken Knowlton and Leon Harmon from 1966 shows some examples of their early ASCII art.

One of the main reasons ASCII art was born was because early printers often lacked graphics ability and thus characters were used in place of graphic marks. Also, to mark divisions between different print jobs from different users, bulk printers often used ASCII art to print large banners, making the division easier to spot so that the results could be more easily separated by a computer operator or clerk.

How does it all work?

Basically, just imagine that people use letters, symbols, and numbers to create pieces of art. That's all it is really, and these days there are automated software programs that do this for you, and these are also freely available online so you can do this for free. This picture of a banzai tree was purposely lowered in resolution so you can get the opportunity to see what it looks like up close.

A close up view of the banzai

A more detailed version of the banzai tree

This can go much higher in detail, but eventually it would be too big for the space here so I had to compromise a little bit. You'll notice that you can start to see the various shapes of the individual leaves of the banzai tree, now just imagine if this was much larger, it would look almost identical to the real picture.

Lets try this again, but this time with a human being.

Since we see that it works with a plant, lets try this again with a human being. Lets see how it looks at high resolution (400 characters wide). You'll start noticing the potential of how detailed a picture can get if it's drawn out with letters. Have you ever seen those large pieces of art where people use colored thumbtacks to create a picture of a person or forest scenery? That is the same type of thing that is going on here, yet with letters instead.

A closeup of her face

This is a close up of her face, you can start to see how detailed it is by seeing the shadowing and outlines of her features by using the text creatively.

Ok, now lets see the whole picture..

Now we are looking at the whole picture, of course it's shrunk because it wouldn't fit on this page if it wasn't. It looks pretty detailed, huh?

Star Wars, in ASCII (Telnet) + Sound! - Someone had too much time on their hands.

Touch up your graphics with graphics programs?


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    • Seasons Greetings profile image

      Laura Brown 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Take a look at the Jave ASCII art editor.

    • profile image

      GrowWear 7 years ago

      I remember ASCII art from way back. It's still rather fascinating. :)

    • svkhereiam1 profile image

      svkhereiam1 7 years ago

      really liked your lens! 5 *

    • profile image

      Light-in-me 8 years ago

      Very cool, I like it !

      Great lens...


    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      This looks very interesting to combine with my 3D art.

      I always liked it but never looked into it. Thanks! 5*