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So, You Want To Make Text Art? (part 1)

by Jonathon R. Oglesbee (jro)

full text:                 
...That's NO problem, believe me. If you can't paint like Remington, Picasso, or Chester Scott, or sketch a square circle with a pencil, or even smear "wash me" on a dirty windshield with your finger, then text art is for you! Truth is, just about anybody can make a text picutre; so don't say that you CAN'T. You can. It's easy! It really is. It doesn't take a lot of practice, and it doesn't take a lot of "artistic ability". I can have you making your own, unique text-art, in no time at all.

Hi, I'm Jonathon R. Oglesbee, and I'll show you some of the simple "mysteries" of text-art. Just don't call me an "artist". I'm not. At best, I have been a hack cartoonist in the past... among other things. I make cartoons in ascii (pronounced ask-ee... or better yet ass-key) for fun. I started doing it as a lark, but so many people took an interest, that the response I recieved left me speechless. I've stuck with it, in present-day computer form, for a few long, lineal, loafing, lolly-gagging years - (words with an "L", this time), and derived many hours of entertainment from cartooning gags, using nothing but text-art. I'm not an are-teest. But maybe you WILL be. So, if you are still interested, read on.
     ____________________________________________________
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    | __     __   ____   ___ ||  ____    ____     _  __  |
    ||  |__ |--|_| || |_|   |||_|**|*|__|+|+||___| ||  | |
    ||==|^^||--| |=||=| |=*=||| |~~|~|  |=|=|| | |~||==| |
    ||  |##||  | | || | |JRO|||-|  | |==|+|+||-|-|~||__| |
    ||__|__||__|_|_||_|_|___|||_|__|_|__|_|_||_|_|_||__|_|
    ||_______________________||__________________________|
    | _____________________  ||      __   __  _  __    _ |
    ||=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=|=| __..\/ |  |_|  ||#||==|  / /|
    || | | | | | | | | | | |/\ \  \\|++|=|  || ||==| / / |
    ||_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_|_/_/\_.___\__|_|__||_||__|/_/__|
    |____________________ /\~()/()~//\ __________________|
    | __   __    _  _     \_  (_ .  _/ _      _     _____|
    ||~~|_|..|__| || |_ _   \ //\\ /  |=|_  /) |___| | | |
    ||--|+|^^|==|1||2| | |__/\ __ /\__| |(\/((\ +|+|=|=|=|
    ||__|_|__|__|_||_|_| /  \ \  / /  \_|_\___/|_|_|_|_|_|
    |_________________ _/    \/\/\/    \_ /   /__________|
    | _____   _   __  |/      \../      \/   /   __   ___|
    ||_____|_| |_|##|_||   |   \/ __\       /=|_|++|_|-|||
    ||______||=|#|--| |\   \   o     \_____/  |~|  | | |||
    ||______||_|_|__|_|_\   \  o     | |_|_|__|_|__|_|_|||
    |_________ __________\___\_______|____________ ______|
    |__    _  /    ________     ______           /| _ _ _|
    |\ \  |=|/   //    /| //   /  /  / |        / ||%|%|%|
    | \/\ |*/   //____// //   /__/__/ (_)      /  ||=|=|=|
  __|  \/\|/   /(____|/ //                    /  /||~|~|~|__
    |___\_/   /________//   ________         /  / ||_|_|_|
    |___ /   (|________/   |\_______\       /  /| |______|
        /                  \|________)     /  / | | 


First, you need to get ready. For that, you are going to need very little. Since you're probably reading this on-line, we will assume that you have a computer, with a keyboard at your disposal, and so wecan dispense with the typewriter lesson (re- member typewriters?).Besides a keyboard, you will also need a monitor, and a simpletext-editing program or word-processor. The simpler, the better. Igenerally use Windows Notepad, myself. If you are using somethingelse, then I'd best mention a word or two about fonts.

"Fonts" are your character, or letter sets. You will need to"select" a font that will work well to make your text pictures with. Amono-spaced font is really the only thing to use. Fixedsys, CourierNew, Topaz New, Lucinda Console - these are all mono-spacedfonts. That means that each character takes up the same amount of space. A font such as Garamond, Arial, or just plain Courier doesn't. If you make a picture using that kind of font, then it will appear skewed on any system that isn't displaying the same font you used to make the picture. If you use a mono-spaced font, you won't have these kinds of problems. So, if you are going to use a text-editor that allows you to pick your font, pick one that will work! If you're using something like Windows Notepad, it likely already uses a mono-spaced font, and you won't have to worry about this.

That's the main thing you need to know about fonts, but I better mention one other tip you'll need to know. That's about which letters and numbers are the good ones to use, for making ascii text-art. It's best to just stick to those characters you probably see, right there on the keys of your keyboard. There are some other interesting characters, often called "alt" or "extended" characters, which are usually made by holding down the "alt" key and typing in a number. There are some really neat ones, but it's best if you steer away from those things.

Now we'll begin, with a simple, step-by-step tutorial of how to make a castle. Maybe you have seen some neat text pictures of castles or buildings, and been impressed by them. Well, let's just see about that...


| and _ <---- those are two useless-looking characters on your keyboard, aren't they?


Here's a thing or two you can do with them. Let's make some of those bottom-line things, three spaces apart...


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ <---- they just don't look like much, do they?


Well, let's make some |'s, with _'s between every other one...


|_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| <----- looks kind of like... nothing, huh?


Now, let's put the two separate lines together, like this....


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | <--- it looks a little like a parapet.


Next, let's continue with the |'s and _'s, on the third line, but let's add an extra _ between our |'s. One | and then two _'s, over and over...


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| <--- it IS starting to look like something... just a little bit.


Continue this, but offset the |'s on at least every other line, so all your "blocks" aren't lined up the same. I'm certain you can see how I do this...


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| <---- keep going... |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__||

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| <---- and keep going... |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|| |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| <---- And now look! |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|| |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| ||__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__||


You could easily keep going, until you created the Great Wall of China. If I were you, though, I'd stop before I made 4,000 miles of this. Why not just settle for a simple castle wall?

Of course, you don't have to make your blocks just like I did mine. You could make them longer, shorter, twice as big, or even completely different, by doing some things like this:
                                                  ________
 _________     ___________________               [__]__]__]
|____|____|   |    |    |    |    |      _____   _________  
  _____       |____|____|____|____|     |_|_|_| {_}_}_}_}_}
 /_\_/_\ 


... That's all up to you. I'm sure you've got blocks all figured out by now, anyway. Make your own, using whatever dimensions you like. Or use the same ones I have; I won't mind.

Using nothing more than the two characters we started with, you should have no trouble making a basic castle wall, like this one:


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| ||__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |__|__|__|__|__|| ||__|__|__|__|__| |_|__|__|__|__||| ||_|__|__|__|__|| |__|__|__|__|__|| ||__|__|__|__|__|


...As you can see, that entire castle is constucted using nothing more than the "_" and "|" characters. Soon, you'll be making much better ones than this, but I'm going to use it for demonstration purposes,okay?

Can you see how I have made the door? It was really no trick. If you're supple- minded, you could just count over to where you want your doorway, and remember not to brick it in. If you're lazy, like me, you could just put your cursor about where you want the right edge of your door to be, and backspace to where you want the left edge of your door, and then start making it. Easy.

That door looks a little plain, though. Still using only the same two characters, we'll just spruce it up a little:


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| ||__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |__|__|__|__|__||_ | _||__|__|__|__|__| |_|__|__|__|__|||_ ||| _||_|__|__|__|__|| |__|__|__|__|__||____|____||__|__|__|__|__|


...There you go. You have now mastered the art of mediveal construction, using text from your keyboard.

Next, let's see about making a little fancier castle, and put it into a complete picture....

Well, here is another castle that I started for a cartoon I never finished. It's very similar to the one above, and since it's not doing anything else, I'll just use it here. Take a look:


| | /^\ /^^^\ /^^^^^\ /_______\ | ___ | | | | | | |___| | | | _ _ _ _ | _ _ | _ _ _ _ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |_|__|__|__|__|__|...|_|__|__|__|__|__| |__|__|__|__|__|." ".|_|__|__|__|__|| |_|__|__|__|__||| ||__|__|__|__|__| ||__|__|__|__|_|| ||_|__|__|__|__|| |__|__|__|__|__||_____||__|__|__|__|__|


...I never really finished this picture, as you can see. We'll take care of that, but first, I want you to notice that the additional characters I have used in this castle:


/ \ ^ . "


Find them on your keyboard, and get ready to use 'em.

Now, you might think that curve above the door is simple. It is. It's made on two lines, like this:


line 1 ... three periods

line 2 ." ". a period and a quotation mark, followed by three spaces, and then a quotation mark and another period.

Together, lines 1+2 look like this: ... ." ". ... a simple arch.


Let's finish this picture, now...


|>>>> | / \ / \ / \ /_______\ |__|_|__| |_| |_| |_|___|_| |__|__|_| _ _ _ _ |_|__|__| _ _ _ _ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |_|__|__|__|__|__|...|_|__|__|__|__|__| |__|__|__|__|__|." | ".|_|__|__|__|__|| |_|__|__|__|__||| | ||__|__|__|__|__| ||__|__|__|__|_|| | ||_|__|__|__|__|| |__|__|__|__|__||__|__||__|__|__|__|__|


All I have done here, is brick in the tower, add a midline to the door, and add a little flag at the top. I didn't really care for the "shingles" I had on the roof, so I deleted them. If you liked them, you can keep them in, of course.

That "flag" looks cute, but it is really nothing except the < character... Oh my, my; I mean the > character, entered a few times, until it looks like a flag.

Next, let's add a line to give it a little dimension, just like with a drawn picture on a sketchpad. We won't really need anything except the "_" character again....


|>>>> | / \ / \ / \ /_______\ |__|_|__| |_| |_| |_|___|_| |__|__|_| _ _ _ _ |_|__|__| _ _ _ _ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| _________ |_|__|__|__|__|__|...|_|__|__|__|__|__| _____________ |__|__|__|__|__|." | ".|_|__|__|__|__|| |_|__|__|__|__||| | ||__|__|__|__|__| |__|__|__|__|__|| | ||_|__|__|__|__|| |_|__|__|__|__|||__|__||__|__|__|__|__|


That's much better, isn't it? But this picture still lacks an element or two... I think what this picture really needs, is a tree or two. Trees are really simple to make. We will look at two easy ones, made with the characters:


/ | \ @

And here they are:

@@@@@@ /\ @@@@@@@@@ //\\ @@@@@@@@@@ ///\\\ @@@@@@@@@ ////\\\\ @@@@@@ /////\\\\\ | | || | |


Pretty simple to make an evergreen and a deciduous tree, isn't it? I could have made some fancier ones, but I will leave that for your imagination to come up with. Anyway, let's add these to the picture....


|>>>> | / \ / \ / \ /_______\ |__|_|__| |_| |_| |_|___|_| |__|__|_| /\ _ _ _ _ |_|__|__| _ _ _ _ //\\ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | @@@@@@ ///\\\ |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ////\\\\ |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| @@@@@@@@@@ /////\\\\\|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ___||___ |_|__|__|__|__|__|...|_|__|__|__|__|__| _ @@@@@@ ____ |__|__|__|__|__|." | ".|_|__|__|__|__|| | | |_|__|__|__|__||| | ||__|__|__|__|__| | | |__|__|__|__|__|| | ||_|__|__|__|__|| |_|__|__|__|__|||__|__||__|__|__|__|__|


That still doesn't look like quite enough foliage to me, so let's look at some ways to make some flowers and things...


@ \|/ <------ nothing new here, is there?

% \|/ <------ I didn't do anything here, except subtitute a percent character.


Now, let's add 'em in quantity....


|>>>> | / \ / \ / \ /_______\ |__|_|__| |_| |_| |_|___|_| |__|__|_| /\ _ _ _ _ |_|__|__| _ _ _ _ //\\ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | @@@@@@ ///\\\ |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ////\\\\ |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| @@@@@@@@@@ /////\\\\\|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ___||___ |_|__|__|__|__|__|...|_|__|__|__|__|__| _ @@@@@@ ____ |__|__|__|__|__|." | ".||__|__|__|__|_| | | @ @ @ |_|__|__|__|__||| | ||_|__|__|__|__|| % | %| % \|/\|/\|/|_@|__@__|_@|__|| | |||__|_%_|_%_|_%| \|/ \|/\|/ @ @ @ |\|/_\|/_|\|/__||__|__||__|_\|/_\|/|\|/ % % % \|/ \|/\|/


Notice that I put some of the flowers directly "in front" of our castle. I knew where I wanted them to go, placed the cursor there, backspaced, and entered the new character I wanted to use - simple. If it had looked misplaced, well... that's a lot easier to fix, than going back and erasing a "real" line on a piece of paper, or finding some way to incorporate a mistake into an actual painting. About the only "trick" you see me doing in this picture, is with the background. I have intentionally left out a space between the background line, and the castle and tree element. This preserves the perspective of the text picture, by keeping the background line from running into the foreground elements, which may confuse the eye into thinking they are all connected. With a text picture, this can often be a problem. Some text artists don't do this, because they may have other ways of keeping the perspective constant. Then again, some just forget, but don't tell them I said so.

This picture looks almost done, but I think it needs a road up to the front door...


|>>>> | / \ / \ / \ /_______\ |__|_|__| |_| |_| |_|___|_| |__|__|_| /\ _ _ _ _ |_|__|__| _ _ _ _ //\\ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | @@@@@@ ///\\\ |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ////\\\\ |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| @@@@@@@@@@ /////\\\\\|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ___||___ |_|__|__|__|__|__|...|_|__|__|__|__|__| _ @@@@@@ ____ |__|__|__|__|__|." | ".||__|__|__|__|_| | | @ @ @ |_|__|__|__|__||| | ||_|__|__|__|__|| % | %| % \|/\|/\|/|_@|__@__|_@|__|| | |||__|_%_|_%_|_%| \|/ \|/\|/ @ @ @ |\|/_\|/_|\|/__||__|__||__|_\|/_\|/|\|/ % % % \|/\|/\|/ .' '. \|/ \|/\|/ .' '. .' '. .' '.


...Nothing more than periods and appostrophes were used to make that road, by using an ever-widening space between them on the following lines. Hey, how about a cloud or two?...


________ _( ( __ )_ __( __ ) __) (____ ( _) (_____)


Parenthesis and the bottom-line character make good, easy clouds. Let's put some in the picture...


________ __ _( ( __ )_ _(( )_ __( __ ) __) __( ) ) (____ ( _) (_ ( _ __ )_ (_____) _( __ __) (__(_ ( _) |>>>> (___) | / \ / \ / \ /_______\ |__|_|__| |_| |_| |_|___|_| |__|__|_| /\ _ _ _ _ |_|__|__| _ _ _ _ //\\ | |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| |_| | @@@@@@ ///\\\ |__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ////\\\\ |_|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__| @@@@@@@@@@ /////\\\\\|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|__|_| @@@@@@@@@ ___||___ |_|__|__|__|__|__|...|_|__|__|__|__|__| _ @@@@@@ ____ |__|__|__|__|__|." | ".||__|__|__|__|_| | | JRO @ @ @ |_|__|__|__|__||| | ||_|__|__|__|__|| % | %| % \|/\|/\|/|_@|__@__|_@|__|| | |||__|_%_|_%_|_%| \|/ \|/\|/ @ @ @ |\|/_\|/_|\|/__||__|__||__|_\|/_\|/|\|/ % % % \|/\|/\|/ .' '. \|/ \|/\|/ .' '. .' '. .' '.


There you go. One completed picture of a castle, that looks like it's doing something besides hanging there on an empty page. Be sure and sign your picture, so folks will know who made it!

By now, I am sure you have dozens of ideas for improving that picture, and for making better ones of your own. Try them all! There is really no mystery to making good text-art. Play around with it, in your spare time. You'll most likely impress yourself with the results. Drop me a line, if you come up with any that you'd like to show me, or need some help:


oglesbee@ mail.fullnet.net


We'll be continuing this series of tutorials, later. I'll try to cover other topics, from people to perspective. Watch for more, later.

 
-- Jonathon R. Oglesbee
                          !!!!!
                         ( o o )
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