Definition of ASCII Art

ASCII art is a creative form of visual expression that uses characters from the ASCII character set to create images or designs. It involves arranging these characters in a grid-like pattern to represent recognizable shapes or objects in a text-based medium, such as emails or online forums. Developed in the 1960s, ASCII art gained popularity before the era of graphical user interfaces and continues to be appreciated for its retro and nostalgic appeal.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “ASCII Art” is /ˈæski ɑrt/.

Key Takeaways

  1. ASCII Art is a graphic design technique that uses only the characters available in the ASCII character set to create images and designs.
  2. It originated in the early days of computing and was widely used in computer communications, bulletin board systems, and text-based games due to its minimal storage requirements and low bandwidth usage.
  3. ASCII Art has experienced a resurgence in recent years due to its nostalgic appeal, appearing in various forms such as comment art, emoticons and creative signatures in digital communications and social media platforms.

Importance of ASCII Art

ASCII art is important because it represents a unique and creative form of visual communication that uses only text characters to create images or designs.

Emerging from the limitations of early computer systems and electronic communication platforms, ASCII art enabled the expression of complex ideas, emotions, and stories, while simultaneously fostering a sense of community by allowing users to share their creations freely.

The technique has not only left an indelible mark on digital history, but also paved the way for emoticons and emojis that we use today to enhance our online conversations.

Furthermore, ASCII art has been adopted in various fields, such as designing visually appealing email signatures or creating an artistic flair in coding projects, thus showcasing the innovative ways in which technology and creativity can intersect.


ASCII art is a visual artform that utilizes a unique approach to create illustrations, designs, and messages by employing characters from the ASCII character set. The purpose of ASCII art is to evoke images and visual patterns with a minimalistic approach, often operating within the limitations of early computer systems and text-based communication platforms.

This form of creative expression enables artists to construct detailed scenes, characters, or typographical elements by arranging ASCII characters into a grid, visually representing images in a way that can be universally understood, independent of proprietary image formats or software requirements. In its heyday, ASCII art was frequently used for various purposes, including adding an artistic touch to email signatures or forum posts, designing elaborate text-based computer games, and even creating simple animations.

Its broad appeal lay in the compatibility of ASCII characters across different hardware and software platforms, enabling the artwork to be easily displayed and shared in the digital realm. With the evolution of technology, ASCII art has transitioned into a niche aesthetic embraced by hackers and nostalgic computer enthusiasts.

The practice, however, continues to thrive in many online communities, where users create and share thoughtfully designed ASCII artwork as a nod towards the captivatingly simple visual language of a bygone era.

Examples of ASCII Art

ASCII Art has been used in various ways since its inception. Here are three real-world examples of how this technology has been applied:

Retro computer games: In the early days of computer games, graphical capabilities were limited, and ASCII Art was employed to create visual effects and characters on screen. An example of this is the 1980s game “Rogue,” which used ASCII characters to represent the game’s world, including the player, monsters, and various other elements.

Telnet servers and BBS: In the era of dial-up internet and Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), ASCII Art was used to create welcome screens, designed to showcase the skills of the system’s operator and recognize the creative aspects of text-based evironments. It also served as a model for early forms of digital communication. For instance, BBS servers would use ASCII Art to communicate the terms and conditions of their service to new users.

E-mail signatures and online communication: ASCII Art has been widely used to create unique and creative e-mail signatures, which are lines of text added at the bottom of an e-mail message. Additionally, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have seen users create ASCII Art-based posts to generate visual appeal and share a unique form of digital creativity.


What is ASCII Art?

ASCII Art is a form of visual art that uses text characters to create images or designs, typically utilizing the 128 characters from the ASCII character set. Artists use various characters and spacing to create intricate patterns or recognizable pictures.

How can I create ASCII Art?

ASCII Art can be created using a simple text editor like Notepad or through specialized software or online tools. To create your own, choose a design, map it out, and use different characters to represent different shades. Experiment with varying amounts of spacing and characters to achieve the desired effect.

Where can I find ASCII Art examples and inspiration?

There are numerous websites, forums, and social media groups dedicated to sharing ASCII Art examples and providing inspiration. Some popular sites include ASCII Art Studio, ASCIIWorld, and Chrysanthemum Road. Simply search for “ASCII Art” online to discover a wealth of resources.

What are some popular ASCII Art applications?

ASCII Art has a variety of applications, such as creating designs for website banners, email signatures, message board avatars, or adding a creative touch to code and documentation. It has also been used in advertising, digital art installations, and computer game interfaces.

Are there any limitations to ASCII Art?

ASCII Art does come with some limitations, primarily due to the use of fixed-width characters. This can make designs appear stretched or distorted when viewed using a different font or in a different program. Additionally, since it relies on a limited set of characters, complex images might be difficult to recreate accurately, and it might not be suitable for all types of art or designs.

Related Technology Terms

  • Character Encoding
  • Monospaced Typeface
  • Text-based Imagery
  • ASCII Characters
  • Typewriter Art

Sources for More Information


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