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    ,-,-,-.       .
    `,| | |   ,-. | , . ,-. ,-.    . . ,-. . . ,-.    ,-. . , , ,-.
      | ; | . ,-| |<  | | | | |    | | | | | | |      | | |/|/  | |
      '   `-' `-^ ' ` ' ' ' `-|    `-| `-' `-^ '      `-' ' '   ' '
                             ,|     /|
                             `'    `-'
               ,.   .---.  ,--. ,-_/ ,-_/        ,.       .
              / |   \___  | `-' '  | '  |       / |   ,-. |-
             /~~|-.     \ |   . .^ | .^ |      /~~|-. |   |
           ,'   `-' `---' `--'  `--' `--'    ,'   `-' '   `'
            A short tutorial on making and posting ASCII Art
                      By Martin Atkins (March 1999)

This document was based on 'Make a Start in ASCII Art' by Daniel Au

Stop before asking for an ascii picture of a whatever, or ascii for a logo... wouldn't it be more fun to make your own? Perhaps you could create a beautiful piece of ASCII Artwork and share it with us all at alt.ascii-art! If you would like to learn how to make ascii art, this tutorial should help you get started.

Quick Start


You don't need a special program to make ASCII Art, you can make it in any text editor, or another program that allows you to type characters from the keyboard.

You should, however, make sure that it is producing plain text (no colours, bold etc) and is set to a monospaced font. A monospaced (or fixed width) font is one where all of the characters are the same width.

In a monospaced font, these two lines will be the same length:

MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM|
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII|

If they aren't, then you aren't using a monospaced font. Experiment with available fonts until you find one that makes those two lines match up.

Making a picture


The best way to pick up ascii art is to try it. Find a nice text editor (most computers will have one, look for Notepad, Edit, Nisus, Ed...) and load it up.

Just fiddle around a little to get a feel of what shapes each character makes, and then try to put them together to make a shape:

                   o
                  -|-    ASCII Art Stickman!
                  / \

Try making this stickman do things, like...

    o/               o
   '|   Waving...   -|-  o   or Kicking a ball!
   / \               |'.

Now look around where you are now... can you see anything interesting to make an ascii art of? Computers make very good 'first pictures', because they are mostly rectangular and so easy to shape. Have a go at showing your computer in ASCII Art. Try not to produce *exactly* what you see, but enough detail that the eye assumes the extra detail. This takes some practice, but once you've mastered it you can make almost anything!

How about a person? This is a good thing to do next. The best place to start is not a specific person, but a generic one ... that way you can concentrate on forming a person-shape without worrying about the exact details of a person and possibly offending them!

I've gone for a cartoony sort of person, since less details are needed to produce it. Let's start with the head...

                     /"""""\
                    | (o|o) |
                    |   _\  |
                    | '---' |
                     \_____/          mga
                       | |

See how you see a human face, but know that it's very unlikely you will ever meet anyone who looks like this? This is what I mean by not producing exactly what something looks like.

Let's continue the picture...

                     /"""""\
                    | (o|o) |
                    |   _\  |
                    | '---' |
                     \_____/
                    ___| |___
                   /   '-'   \
                  |  .     .  |
                  |  |     |  |
                  |  |     |  |
                   \_|_____|_/
                   /_|     |_\
                    |  .-.  |
                    |  | |  |
                    '._| |_.'
                    /__| |__\    mga

Since it is a cartoon, I didn't worry too much about the proportions. If this was a serious picture, the legs would be far too short for the rest if the body, but you get the general idea.

Diagonal Lines

Notice on the bottom of the trousers I have used the full stop and apostrophe characters to produce I greater diagonal line than the slash offers. This is the basis for producing lines in ascii art. This one takes some time to master, but here are some lines to show you how to construct a few 'odd' angles...


    |   |   /      ,'      ,-'     _,-'
    |  .'  /     ,'     ,-'    _,-'
    |  |  /    ,'    ,-'   _,-'          __..--""
    | .' /   ,'   ,-'  _,-'      __..--""
    | | /  ,'  ,-'  ,-'  __..--"" _______________

Adding more detail


We can make our picture more interesting by adding some extra details. Just add anything that makes the picture look more like what it's meant to be, or looks cool. I'll just make a minor adjustment...

                     /"""""\
                    | (o|o) |
                    |   _\  |
                    | '---' |
                     \_____/
                    ___| |___
                   /   '-'   \
                  |  .     .  |   What young person would be seen
                  |  |Robik|  |   without his expensive brand-name
                  |  | './ |  |   sweatshirt?
                   \_|_____|_/
                   /_|     |_\
                    |  .-.  |
                    |  | |  |
                    '._| |_.'
                    /__| |__\     mga

Background detail


At the moment, our person is standing in a blank void. Why don't we add some interesting backdrop to the picture? Since my picture is of a young man, where better to stand him than in front of a shop in town?

-----------------------------------.---------.----------
      .----------.                 | .-----. ||"""""""""
  .-------.  .------ /"""""\       | |     | ||
  |FOREMEN|  |..-.-.| (o|o) |     _| |     | ||
  |WANTED |  |_.=-.-|   _\  |    / | |     | ||
  '-------'  '----- | '---' |   |""| |     | ||
.------.    .-----.  \_____/    |  | '-.   | ||
|.----.|    |ASCII  ___| |___   |""|   |   | ||_________
||Sulk||    |MONTH /   '-'   \  |  | .-'   | |__________
||Kit ||    ||""| |  .     .  | |""| |     | |__|___|___
_________________ |  |Robik|  | |__| |     | ||___|___|_
================= |  | './ |  | ===| |mga  | |__|___|___
                   \_|_____|_/     | '-----' ||___|___|_
__________________ /_|     |_\ ____|_________|__|___|___
    /               |  .-.  |
                    |  | |  |           /
             /      '._| |_.'                   /
   /                /__| |__\
________________________________________________________
___/_________/________/________/_______/_______/______/_
___|_________|________|________|_______|_______|______|_

And here we have what is a pretty good ascii are picture! With more tweaking it can be made even better.

Finishing it off


You may have noticed that in the example pictures above there are three letters floating about apparently for no reason... 'mga'. When you make ascii art, should put your name or initials somewhere on it to identify it as yours. My initials are mga, which is where the mga comes from! Try to find a place where the initials don't spoil the picture, like on a wall, or a screen...

Going public... releasing your picture to alt.ascii-art!


Once you are happy with your picture, and have added your initials, you can post it to alt.ascii-art. Paste it into your newsreader's message composition window. Check that it is plain text (no colours or styles) and in a monospaced font before posting. You might want to mention that this is your first pic when you post it.

Check back to alt.ascii-art a few days later, and you may find that some people have responded to your picture. They may have written a 'Cool pic!' type message, in which case you did it right! Do some more! The other possibility is that someone is offering a suggestion for improvement. This will come in one of two forms:

Diddling

     'Diddling' is when someone takes your picture, and changes it a little. You shouldn't take offense at this (unless your pic has been made offensive of course), just take heed to the suggestions and bear them in mind for your future pictures.

Textual Suggestion

      Someone may make a suggestion like 'try to smooth out the corners with a full stop', or 'try using a | instead of a : for vertical lines'. These are just friendly suggestions, which you may choose to bear in mind when you create future pictures.

Whether everyone loves your pic, or they offer suggestions, you should still continue to produce more pics. Remember practice makes, if not perfect, at least pretty good!

Learning from others


The best way to learn is by example. Take a look at the ascii art in alt.ascii-art. Note how different artists have used certain characters to produce different shapes. You can try some of the techniques used by other artists, and will probably develop your own 'style' of ascii art. You can see differences between how each artists create ascii art, some are subtle while others are blatently obvious. Just practice and you'll get there!

In conclusion


Anyone can create ASCII Art with a little perseverance. If you find yourself bitten by the ASCII Art bug, please post your pictures to alt.ascii-art - we'd love to see them!