These characters are almost completely
standard, except for a few slight variations which you should keep in mind
when drawing and viewing ASCII art:
look, here's an ASCII picture I drew ...
REQ: xyz (ie, has anyone got any ASCII pictures
suggestions on, or improvements of, other
people's ASCII pictures
a hash sign on most computers, a pound (£-
sign on some British ones
a vertical line in most fonts, but in some
it is split in the middle
differs in size depending on the font used
appears in the middle of the line in some
fonts, at the top in others
' (apostrophe/single quote):
tilts southwest-northeast in some fonts, is
vertical in others
(this also applies to the comma ,).
Here's a small example of ASCII art using
some of these variable characters: a snow-scene paperweight, drawn by Joan
Stark. How good it looks will depend to some extent on which font and computer
system you are using to view it.
.-" +' "-.
jgs / \
People use ASCII art for a variety
of reasons, some of which are:
* it is the most universal computer
art form in the world -- every computer system capable of displaying multi-line
text can display ASCII art, without needing to have a graphics mode or
support a particular graphics file format;
* an ASCII picture is also hundreds of
times smaller in file size than its GIF or BMP equivalent, while still
giving a good idea of what something looks like;
* it is easy to copy from one file to another;
* it's fun to do!
What isn't ASCII art?
The following specialized artforms are
not ASCII art and are not welcome in the ASCII art discussion groups.
Not all "ASCII" is ASCII! Certain computer
operating systems use their own specific character sets which are modified
hybrids of the original 128-character ASCII set. These "strains", if you
will, have been deceivingly dubbed as "Extended ASCII" or "High ASCII"
as they have added symbols beyond the first 128. Realize that while these
extra characters may seem to give you more flexibility in your artwork,
you are severely limiting your viewing audience to those who use the same
operating system as you -- thus defeating the purpose of ASCII entirely!
ANSI or `extended ASCII' art. Many
computer systems have an extended character set of 256 or more characters,
based on the ANSI or Unicode character sets and having the first 128 characters
identical to ASCII. These characters should not be used in ASCII art because
many types of computer system do not support them, and even those that
do may not display them in a standard way (for example, the Windows ANSI
character set is different from the Mac ANSI character set).
HTML art. HTML, the language used in
Web pages, can be used to add special effects such as colours, font size,
and blinking text to ascii art, and HTML can be read by some newsreaders.
However, the key word here is `some'. To many newsreaders, HTML art will
just appear as a jumble of <TAGS> and will be totally unrecognizable.
If you want to create HTML art, do so
by all means, but put it on a Web page and post the page address (URL)
to the appropriate discussion group. Advice on how to do this can be found
This relies not only on the newsreader being able to display HTML, but
and post the address to news:alt.ascii-art.animation.
Please refrain from using these special
characters in addition to the 33 special control codes in the real ASCII
character set. Remaining within the 32-126 range benefits everyone in a
multitude of ways. Not only by maximizing the number of potential viewers,
but it also ensures proper interpretation of your artwork by others and
will alter the way they perceive your abilities. This is just one of the
necessary disciplines of becoming a true ASCII artists. [RaD Man]
What goes on in the ASCII art discussion groups??
In the ASCII art discussion groups people
discuss ASCII art, post ASCII pictures, post improved versions or variations
of pictures other people have drawn, and generally have fun.
Types of messages which we usually enjoy
Types of messages which we usually don't
enjoy seeing include:
messages with the subject `ASCII art'
(try to be a bit more informative, please)
make money fast!!! ... (yawn, yawn, snore)
heres the adress of my web site, come see
it pleez (why should we?)
don't read this, this is a test
(that's what alt.test, misc.test, and
many other `test' newsgroups are for)
There are three ASCII art discussion groups.
is the main group, where most of the discussion takes place.
is identical in purpose to news:alt.ascii-art, but it is a moderated group
-- all messages pass through an intermeddiary (the moderator) who checks
them for appropriateness before sending them to the group itself. The advantage
of this is that there isn't any unwanted advertising in the group; however,
the frequency of postings to news:rec.arts.ascii is very low at the time
of writing (it was resurrected in November 1997 after the previous moderator,
Bob Allison (`Scarecrow') retired in December 1996).
If your news server isn't set up to allow
direct posting to news:rec.arts.ascii, e-mail your message to the moderator,
Don Bertino <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
is specifically for discussion and postings of animated ASCII art [see
do I view ASCII art?
If a picture you see posted to this newsgroup
looks like a complete mess to you, don't panic. There are several reasons
why it may look weird.
If none of the pictures in the newsgroup
look like what the sender describes them as, then you're probably using
a proportional font. To view (and draw) ASCII art, you must use a fixed-width
font -- one where all characters are the same width (like on a typewriter).
If you're not sure if your font is fixed-width or not, check the following
two lines and see if they're the same length.
If they aren't, find the option in your
news reader which lets you specify which font to use. If you just have
a choice between proportional and fixed width, choose fixed width. If you
have a choice of which font to use, try different ones until you find a
fixed-width one (using the `i's and `m's above as a guide). Popular fixed
width fonts include Courier, Monaco, and Fixedsys; anything with `fixed'
or `terminal' will probably be fixed-width.
Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
supply newsreaders to their customers which, strange as it seems, don't
allow them to use a fixed-width font. If this applies to you, there's not
much you can do except to ask them for a newsreader which does, or switch
If you still can't work out what the picture
is supposed to be, try reducing the font size (if you can), and moving
a couple of metres away. If it still looks unrecognizable, then it's probably
a problem with the news program used by the person who sent the message
-- or maybe it's just a really bad pictuure!
If there are a lot of almost-blank lines in
the picture, then the message is probably suffering from `wrapping'. This
wrapping may be being done by your newsreader; see if it has an option
called `wrap long lines' or similar, and make sure it is turned off. If
this doesn't work, then the wrapping was probably done by the news program
of the person who sent the picture, in which case there's not much you
can do -- everybody else will be seeing the same thing.
If there are a lot of < and > symbols in
the picture, with words like HTML, FONT COLOR, B, I, and so on inside them,
then the picture has been sent in HTML format (see Question
2), and your newsreader does not understand HTML (most newsreaders
How do I draw my own ASCII art?
You don't need a special program
to draw ASCII art with. It can be drawn using any text editor, such as
SimpleText or BBEdit in MacOS, Notepad in Windows, nedit, vi, or pico in
Unix, BEd or AZ in AmigaOS, edit in DOS, or any of the various Emacs editors.
You can use a word processor to draw ASCII art, but remember:
(1) use a fixed-width font (see Question
(2) using any special formatting (bold
etc) is a waste of time, as it will be lost when you post the picture.
There are some features of editors/word
processors which can help when drawing ASCII art.
Overtype, also known as overstrike:
removes the need for you to constantly realign characters using the Backspace,
Space, and Delete keys. Try the Insert key if there is one on your keyboard,
or look in your program's Options or Preferences.
Rectangular copy and paste: allows
you to select rectangular sections of text (not just rows or parts of rows).
On programs which have this feature, it is usually done by holding down
a key such as Ctrl while selecting text.
Find/Change: allows you to change all
the characters of one type to another (eg all the ~s to "s).
But before you start, a word about fonts.
For ASCII art you should use a fixed-width font (see Question
4), because every type of computer system is guaranteed to have
one, and that after all is one of the main reasons ASCII art exists --
because everyone can view it. Different fixed-width fonts do vary slightly
in the height of the characters, but for most drawings this doesn't
matter that much.
DON'T try to post pictures drawn in a proportional-width
(ie non-fixed- width) font: even if you specify the exact font you used,
the chances of other people being able to read it are pretty slim (even
`standard' proportional fonts such as Times New Roman can vary in width
from computer to computer).
The other thing to be aware of
with fonts is the difference between serif and sans serif. Here's roughly
how an `m' looks in both:
__ __ __ __ __
|/ \ / \ |/ \ / \
| | | | | |
| | | | | |
_|_ _|_ _|_ | | |
Serif Sans serif
The serif version has little strokes,
or serifs, at the end of most of the main strokes, while the sans serif
version doesn't (sans means `without'). For example, Courier is a serif
font, and Monaco is sans serif. This isn't often important, but if you're
using a sans serif font, just remember to use the vertical bar (|, above
\ on most keyboards) to draw vertical lines, and not the capital i (I),
otherwise it will look weird for people using serif fonts. It also means
that you should think carefully before using characters like L and 7 for
various corners -- they won't always look that good with a serif font.
One way to make drawing ASCII art easier
is to type a row of spaces for however wide you want your picture, and
then copy this row and paste it for however many rows high you think your
art will get. Then turn overtype on, stick your cursor somewhere in the
middle, and you're ready to draw.
If nothing springs to mind immediately,
start with the ASCII art equivalent of the stick figure:
Fiddle with it, and see what you can do...
A _ o _
O Person wearing O` _O_ (< = Person about
/H\ a dunce's hat /H\ Professor XHX Angel /H-' to eat a
/ \ / \ / \ / \ sandwich...?
Gradually you'll be able to add things like
scenery around the person:
/ __\/---. ._,
/ \@-. -(_)-
@ ' ` Person playing a banjo
,P while sitting against a
d'O_, MT palm tree ...
Draw your cat, your toaster, your musical
instruments, your partner, anything that will sit still long enough --
practice makes, if not perfect, then at least pretty good. Whether you
do small drawings (less work involved) or large ones (easier to make a
drawing recognizable) is up to you.
The things which give beginning ASCII artists
the most trouble are usually diagonal lines and circles. Here are some
lines of various angles:
| | / ,' ,-' _,-'
| .' / ,' ,-' _,-'
| | / ,' ,-' _,-' __..--""
| .' / ,' ,-' _,-' __..--""
| | / ,' ,-' ,-' __..--"" _______________
And here are a few circular shapes:
.-' `-. ,dP""Yb,
.' `. ,d" "b,
/ \ d' _ `Y,
_ ; ; 8 8 `b
__ ,'" "`. | | `b,_,aP P
__ ,' `. / \ ; ; """" d'
.' `. / | | | \ / ,P"
_ | | | / \ / `. .' a,.__,aP"
. o (_) `.__.' `.__.' `.___.' `-._____.-' `"""''
The spiral is a good example of anti-aliasing
-- using the particular shape of some chharacters (especially b, d, and
P) to smooth the edge of a solid shape.
A final point: don't use the Tab key. Pressing
Tab will go along a certain number of spaces in your editor/word processor
-- but that `certain number' is differennt for different newsreaders, editors,
and so on, so your picture may suffer from what is known as `tab damage'
when other people try to view it. Just use spaces instead.
Here are a couple links to existing ASCII
(Daniel Au's Tutorial)
(Hayley Wakenshaw's Tutorial)
(Allen Mullen's Site- several tutorials)
should I know before posting ASCII art?
It doesn't matter if it's not
particularly good -- we'd like to see it anyway. We won't be rude about
it (although you'd better tell us what it is, or we might ask :-), but
if it shows potential, you may find that other people will `re-diddle'
it -- change a few characters, make it a bit better, and re-post it.
Are you sending it as plain text? Some
news programs, particularly those built in to Web browsers, read and write
messages in HTML (HyperText Markup Language, the language which Web pages
in ASCII art, but few newsreaders support it, and those which don't will
show a whole lot of garbage text with your picture hidden inside it.
HOWEVER, there are a few things you should
check before you post any piece of ASCII art.
So if you have one of these HTML-sending
programs, PLEASE select the option which tells it to send messages as plain
text only. If you have a picture which uses HTML for a particular feature
(such as colours or animation), put it on a Web page, and post the URL
of the page to alt.ascii-art, rather than posting the whole picture.
Is it under 72 characters wide? Most
news readers can only show lines which are under either 72, 76, or 80 characters
wide, so if your picture is wider than 72 characters it may get wrapped
(see Question 4). Also remove any unnecessary
space characters from the end of each line of the picture, to prevent lines
from being too long (and getting wrapped) without your realizing.
Have you used any control codes? Inserting
control codes (ASCII characters 0 to 31) in a picture can sometimes achieve
interesting effects on your computer screen or news reader, such as reversing
text, changing its colour, and so on. DO NOT post any of these pictures
to alt.ascii-art, for two reasons:
the effects that the control codes have on
your news reader are almost certainly going to be different from those
on the thousands of other news readers that other people use
on some news readers, control codes can cause
messed up displays, messages not appearing, or (in some cases) the news
If your first line starts with one or more
spaces, stick a dummy line (such as -- or .) above it, to prevent the
spaces from being ignored by your news program (this only applies to some
news programs, and only to the first line of the message).
If you're not sure about whether your message
will turn out ok, post it to a test newsgroup (such as news:alt.test
or news:misc.test) first and make sure
(using a different newsreader, if you can) that you can read it ok.
[See Question 10 for advice on posting
someone else's ASCII art.]
I post to ask for some text drawn in ASCII?
Probably not, unless we're REALLY
bored. The reason for this is that there is a program called Figlet which
does that sort of thing automatically -- you type in `Jane Smith', and
you get back
( / ( o _/_ /
/ __, _ _ `. _ _ , / /_
_/_(_/(_/ /_(/_ (___)/ / /_(_(__/ /_
in this and a whole lot of other
fonts (lettering styles). The ASCII text-art produced by Figlet can be
quite stunning, so it's best to try it first before asking for help from
The Figlet home page is at http://st-www.cs.uiuc.edu/users/chai/figlet.html.
This site links to the FTP site ftp://ftp.internexus.net/pub/figlet
where you can download versions of the program for many different platforms.
If you have a Web browser which has form
support (most browsers do), you can run Figlet on the Internet by going
to one of the following sites and choosing your text and options on the
Web page. Different sites offer different options (eg multiple fonts at
once, justification, line length etc). Some of these sites also provide
an e-mail Figlet service for people with browsers which don't support forms.
(Thanks to Shimrod and Veronica Karlsson
for the original url list.)
If Figlet doesn't produce the kind of results
you want, THEN you can post to the newsgroup with your request. Make sure
that you include:
the fact that you have already tried Figlet,
or don't have access to it (otherwise you will probably just get
told to use it)
a description of the kind of lettering you
want, along with any other symbols or logos which you would like incorporated
Can I post to ask for an ASCII art picture?
Yes, if we find it interesting.
Give your request the subject `REQ: xyz' if you're looking for a picture
of an xyz, then in the message describe more exactly what you're looking
for. Generally, the more specific you are, the more likely you are to get
someone to draw what you want: if you just say something like `can someone
draw me a fish' then you're not likely to get many replies, because people
won't be sure whether or not they're wasting their time by drawing something
you won't want. If you don't have Web access, mention this fact, otherwise
you may get replies consisting only of URLs for the kind of pictures you're
How do I get an existing picture converted to ASCII art?
There are computer programs which convert
graphics files of a particular format (usually GIF) to ASCII art. They
go by names such as ascgif, gifa, gifscii, and gif2ascii. Do a Web search
for any of these programs to find places where you can download them. Try:
However, the output from these programs is
often not good (fiddling with the picture in an image-editing program beforehand
may help). In this case, you can post a request to the newsgroup asking
for someone to `asciify' it, but please don't post the picture itself.
To save downloading time for people reading the messages, if possible give
the URL (Web address) of the picture instead.
If you saw the picture on a Web page, you
can find out its URL by right- clicking on it (on the Macintosh, holding
down the mouse button) and selecting `Open this image' (or its equivalent
for your Web browser), then copy the URL from the Location bar to your
news program (make sure you copy it exactly).
If the picture is not on a Web site anywhere,
put it up on your own site (if you have one), or get a friend to put it
up on their site, and post the URL to alt.ascii-art. If you can't do this,
post your request to alt.ascii-art and wait for an artist to reply, then
e-mail the picture to them.
I post or use other people's ASCII art?
Don't assume that if somebody
posts something to a newsgroup, that gives you the right to use it however
you like; copyright laws still apply. For more information, see the article
`Copyright Myths FAQ: 10 big myths about copyright explained' in
(It is also available at http://www.clari.net/brad/copymyths.html.)
ASCII art is often an exception to this
rule, though: generally, ASCII artists don't mind if you copy their
pictures and repost them or put them on your own Web site for your personal
use. There are a few important conditions, however.
If the picture contains a few letters in one
corner which don't seem to be part of the picture, they're the artist's
initials. DO NOT remove these initials -- would you cut away the part of
a Van Gogh painting containing his name? Leaving the initials on is a small
price to pay for being able to use the picture for free.
As for posting other people's ASCII art, after
a discussion in news:alt.ascii-art the following rules were agreed upon:
If you're going to use a picture in your signature
file, or in a place (such as a log-in screen) which means you're going
to be using it a lot, you should really e-mail the artist (or post to the
newsgroup, if you don't know their address) and ask for permission, because
otherwise people may get the mistaken impression that you were the one
who drew the picture.
If an ASCII ART picture has initials on it,
leave those initials on when posting it.
If an ASCII ART picture doesn't have initials
on it, mention that you didn't draw it when posting it.
If somebody posts a picture without initials
and you have an original copy with initials, feel free to repost the original
version. The repost ought not to be taken personally, as we all know that
ASCII art often loses proper credits. Responses to the repost are not necessary.
| \\be polite||
| \\\\ ||
| F \\\\ ||
| A \\\\ite||
| Q |||| ||
| a ||||___||
`\ z ||||
\ c ||||
|Here is an outline for you to follow...
the five levels of politeness
1.) ULTRA POLITE:...
[ Krogg- March'99 ]
you make your own ascii and use it.
2.) VERY POLITE:...
You contact the author and ask if you
can use it...
You use it but, you keep the Credits in
there like they should be.
4.) RUDE:...You use it and strip
5.) VERY RUDE:...
You use it and claim that it Is
_Your_ very own creation...
We on alt.ascii-art would like it if everyone could be on levels
1-3, but there isn't
really a lot we can do. Please, if you want
to use other people's
ASCII Art, stick to levels 2 and 3 above!
should I know about signature files?
A signature file (or `sig' for short) is a
small, personalized text file which an e-mail or news program adds to the
end of every message a person sends -- the equivalent of a letterhead for
dead-tree (paper) mail. Usually it contains little more than the person's
name, organization, and e-mail address, and an inspirational quote of some
sort; but some people like to incorporate ASCII art into their signature
files as well.
The biggest problem that this causes is
the number of lines that the signature file takes up. This is a topic which,
despite its lack of importance in relation to global warming, violence
in society, and so on, can be the subject of heated arguments. To summarize,
(almost) no-one will complain if your signature file is four lines long
or fewer -- and it is quite possible to draw good ASCII pictures which
are that small. Some examples are at:
Some e-mail programs don't allow you to have
a signature file which is longer than four lines, while others just complain.
Five or six lines is
usually acceptable, but any longer, and you're
starting to take the risk that your signature will be longer than some
of your e-mail messages; this wouldn't really make sense on paper, so it
isn't really acceptable in cyberspace either. The exception is in messages
posted to alt.ascii-art itself -- we're used to seeing long sigs, so we
But no matter what the length of
your signature, make sure it's fewer than 72 characters wide, otherwise
it may end up a horrible mess --
see Question 6.
can I find more ASCII art?
Lots of ASCII artists put up libraries
of their own and others' ASCII art on their Web sites, as well as tutorials
on how to draw ASCII art.
Allen Mullen has links to many of these
Yahoo also has a page dedicated to ASCII
art, at http://www.yahoo.com/Arts/Visual_Arts/Computer_Generated/ASCII_Art/
And try Joan Stark's Web site: http://webspace.webring.com/people/cu/um_3734/.
Open Directory Project-- ASCII Art:
To find out how to animate ASCII art using
This document may be freely copied as long as Matthew Thomas is identified as the original author.