Many computer users, especially members of major social networks, such as Facebook or Social, are familiar with “pictures” made of multiple letters, digits, and other text characters.

Such pictures can be found on some websites, blogs, and personal webpages. Most often, those are simple patterns, postcards, congratulations, or simplified representations of various things. Surprisingly, making pictures out of text characters is not just an amusement but an art.

Long before the text characters that we commonly use in writing have appeared, people in various parts of the world were creating pictures out of multiple symbols.

For example, the ancient Syrians used everyday images as single characters; by combining such small images, Syrian artists made color and black-and-white pictures, each of them telling some story.

Today’s followers of so-called ascii art create pictures using various text characters.

By the mid-20th century, this artistic movement had already become a unique branch of art; since then, it has been evolving, later on driven by the terrific progress of the information technology.

It should be noted that the making of the very first text-based pictures didn’t involve computers at all, which just were not available — the artists used typewriters instead.

So, strictly speaking, that was typewriter art, not computer art. Naturally, even a single error could ruin a whole work, which might have taken many hours to make.

In 1948, Modern Mechanix magazine published an article that clearly demonstrates that text-based pictures were considered as a form of art at that time.

For example, it says that many people were keen on creating such pieces of art, from rough depictions of animals to very sophisticated still lives.

The greatest masters of ASCII art could even create an illusion of 3-D space using text characters only.

Paul Smith was among the first ones who made very realistic text-based pictures.

His artworks, created using a typewriter and then painted in color, were so awesome that even on a closer look, a layman wouldn’t see that those were not usual pictures.

Ascii Art

Ascii Art

More recently, ASCII artists have learned the advantages of using computer programs for creating such pictures. Besides, today’s software makes it possible to produce animated ASCII images.

The very first programs that allowed the user to create pictures out of letters, digits, and other characters appeared at the dawn of the computer technology.

As the early computers were not advanced enough to display or transmit full-fledged graphic images, many computer experts who were developing software tools and the first computer games resorted to using text-based pictures; later, they designed special programs for creating images out of text characters.

The introduction of the more advanced ANSI code page, which also allowed for using colored text, started the next phase in the evolution of the text-based computer art — the new technology made it so much easier to create very realistic ASCII pictures.

Alas, the very use of the computer has somehow debased ascii art, as now nearly anybody can make such pictures by using some off-the-shelf application.

Nowadays, you can find many picture – to – ascii – art converters that let you easily generate text-based pictures, which can be used, for example, on your Facebook personal page or in email messages.

Such converters are mostly used to make simple images, such as hearts, flowers, Christmas trees, cartoon characters, and so on, which are fit for congratulatory messages.


More sophisticated computer-generated ASCII images are less common.

An urban legend says that cyberspace artists — better known as hackers — can hide snippets of malicious program code (scripts) in ASCII pictures. Maybe that’s why some people are just scared of such artworks.