How to Create Art Typing Designs

By Amanda Tromley
Practice drawing simple images in ASCII before moving on to more challenging subjects.

In the days before HTML email, creative minds used the 95 printable ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) characters on the keyboard to design graphics for any number of purposes--email, chat rooms, IMs or just to print and hang on the refrigerator. Though graphics software and presentation on the web has advanced dramatically in recent years, the text-based art form known as ASCII art still thrives online. The artist creates areas of varying values using rows and columns of type in different densities.

Choose a subject for your typing design. If you have limited experience with ASCII art, you might want to depict something simple for your first few designs.

Consider the rendering style you want to emulate. Line art consists of dashes, underscores and hyphens that create the outline of your design. Practiced ASCII artists might create “solid art” which uses many more characters to create the illusion of depth, light and dark.

Draw your image on a sheet of plastic and tape over your computer monitor.

Open your text editor and type a row of spaces as long as your image. Copy and paste that row as many times as it takes to reach the height of your picture.

Turn on the overstrike by pressing the OVR button on your keyboard. You won’t need to use the space bar, Backspace, Delete or Enter keys; if you need to correct a character, simply position your cursor in front of it and type over it.

Use the image on the plastic sheet as a guide to draw the image in the text editor. Play with different symbols and characters to achieve different line weights or areas of shading. Take frequent breaks and look at the screen from across the room to check your progress.


ASCII art generators exist that will create an ASCII image out of a gif or jpg image. The converters’ output is generally far less than perfect but can serve as a good starting point for practice.

The 95 printable characters on a keyboard are: abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ 0123456789 < > [ ] { } ( ) ~ ! @ # $ % ^ & * _ + | - = ; : \" ' ` ? \ / . , (space)


Use a fixed-width font, such as Courier, to keep your designs portable. If you use a proportional font like Arial or Times, your designs could look distorted or even unrecognizable on another system or in another program.

About the Author

Educated at the Elkhart Area Career Center in Indiana, Amanda Tromley has worked as an illustrator and graphic designer for more than 10 years. Additionally, she writes and designs a blog that provides tips, tutorials, and tools for professional and amateur artists. Tromley began writing professionally in 2007 with articles on a variety of topics appearing in print newsletters and popular websites, including eHow.