Today in this era of digital art where images are represented widely in either raster or vector format, ANSI or ASCII art is something that we do not see much. I had seen text characters being used in text messages, email & chatroom/BB signatures and those notorious .nfo files but had never given it a thought that it was some kind of art. Just as I started to explore about it, I found a cool world of image representation that was so much popular a couple of decades ago. Character art is a form of art where the characters of a character set are used repeatedly to form an image. It is some what like each character represents a pixel of image.
It is said that early Egyptians used characters to represent images which may qualify as character art. Then during the era of typewriters, there were pictures typed on paper with text characters. This required great patience, planning and of course some artistic skills. In the early days of computers, there were no image formats. Moreover the monitors could display only a predefined set of characters. There was no way of displaying an image on a computer screen. This was when character art stepped into computers. A set of characters from ANSI or ASCII characters were aligned in rows and columns to draw images.
Both ANSI and ASCII art may seem to be the same, but they have their own differences.
ASCII art uses 95 printable characters of the 128characters of the ASCII character set. Any text editor can be used to create an ASCII art. The font used for this kind of art should be of fixed width for correct representation.
ANSI on the other hand uses 256 characters of the extended ASCII character set which includes block characters, suitable to draw images. Another differentiating factor is that ANSI art allows use of 16 foreground and 8 background colors with a 4-bit palette. But unlike ASCII art, ANSI art requires either DOS environment or a software capable of displaying ANSI art in its true color representation.
ANSI/ASCII art is not only restricted for static images, animation is also done. Infact in 1980’s, games were also designed with ANSI art.
Here are a few character art softwares that I played around:
It is a basic ANSI editor allowing to work either in 4-bit or 24-bit color mode. The canvas is 80 columns wide, the function keys are mapped to block characters(can also be mapped to other predefined characters as well) and one draws by pressing the keys. This medium may seem evasive as you need a lot of patience and some practice to get something really presentable butonce you get hold of the character mapping, one can go on creating some great stuff.
This software took me by surprise. It is an ASCII art editor(a java application) flaunting features of a bitmap editor. It provides tools like freehand drawing, rectangle, ellipse, bezier curves,eraser, brush, clone tool and also a fill tool capable of filling with pattern & gradients. This is not only what it can do. It has a fractal tool to draw Mandelbrot set, a 3D rendering tool where you can create your own 3D objects, a function plotter and all this with characters.
This is a simple image to ASCII converter which produces some good results.
There are a lot more software and online applications that are capable of creating ASCII art, you just need to google for them.
I’m not good at this but here are a few of my experiments.
A flower vase in TundraDraw
My Moto with TundraDraw.
Rock in Figlet editor.
A House (ASCII art(txt file) with Jave)
An Image converted to ASCII (text file with Tim)[set font size to 2-3 with courier font in notepad]
You can look at following locations for more of ASCII and ANSI art.