How to ASCII


In order to do ASCII art, you need a program that allows you to make text in Arial size 10. This, obviously, includes Notepad, Wordpad, Microsoft Word, and even programs like MS Paint. However, depending on the program you use, it may be more difficult to cut down on the character amount, apply good character spacing, or make it reflect exactly as it would be seen on the web.

Personally, I use Microsoft Word for my ASCII. When MS Word is set for Web Layout View, it reflects exactly how it would come out on message boards (as long as the font and text size are the same) and so you spend much less time correcting errors. It also allows you to paste pictures and overlap the text for tracing (Format>Picture>Layout>Behind Text for those who don’t know how to set it for overlap), and has some useful AutoFormat functions.

All of my ASCII is done through Patamon style, named after the GFAQs user who created it. This is a style where lines and slopes are done through a series of characters, like so:

_„„-~”¯„„-~””,-~”,~”,-“,/ / | \ \,”-,”~,”~-,””~-„„¯””~-„„_

You use different characters that “float” at different heights on the same line to create this effect. Here’s a reference for the differences in height:


The ¯ is done through ALT+0175

The „ is done through ALT+0132

These slopes are connected on each line to create the appearance of a longer line:


Spacing is accomplished by using different strings of periods or ellipses. Ellipsis can be accomplished by doing 3 periods with AutoFormat on MS Word, or through ALT+0133. Different sets of these two characters create slightly different spacing:

…….| 2 ellipsis, 1 period
…....| 1 ellipsis, 4 periods
.......| 7 periods
……| 2 ellipsis
…...| 1 ellipsis, 3 periods
......| 6 periods

As you can see, the | is in a slightly different position on each line based on the different sets of ellipses and periods. You should note that an ellipsis is slightly longer than a set of just 3 periods.

Now, it should be noted that some places where you may want to post your ASCII have character limits. At GameFAQs, the character limit is 4096, and at Luelinks it’s 10240. If it ends up getting past the character limit, you will have to make it multi-post (remember to remove your sig if you do that). If you want it to be a single post you can try several things, which I will list later. The best way to avoid this is to keep your ASCII small and use ellipsis as much as possible.

These are all the basics, so now all you do is apply what you just read to connect the lines together through freehand or by tracing (freehand is making an ASCII without tracing) with spacing and slopes to create an ASCII:

…….....|……….…| A circle

From here on out things get a bit more complicated, as I’ll start covering shading, line thickness/priority, adding details, and more.


Shading is the coloring of your ASCII, and depending on how it is done it can improve or weaken the overall look. It is optional to do, but it can make your ASCII more impressive looking. It should be noted that shading will greatly increase the character amount, so if an ASCII with shading is quite large you may have to make it multiple post or get rid of the shading completely. Shading is done usually by using the smallest width characters, and using them to accomplish the spacing within an ASCII. These are the characters I use, in order from lightest shade to darkest:

. . . . . . .
: : : : : : :
; ; ; ; ; ; ;

I’ll use the circle from before as an example:

………../ . . . . . . \
…….....| . . . . . . .| LIGHTEST
………..\ . . . . . . /

…….....|……….…| BASE COLOR


………../ : : : : : : \
…….....| : : : : : : :|
………..\ : : : : : : /
………../ ; ; ; ; ; ; \
…….....| ; ; ; ; ; ; ;|
………..\ ; ; ; ; ; ; /

…….....|::::::::::::::| DARKER SHADES

…….....|;;;;;;;;;;;;;;| BLACK

If you haven’t noticed, using strings of ;;;;;;;;;; can be somewhat distracting in the ASCII, so I try to not to use them when I don’t really have to. This is because the semi-colon uses a comma, which disrupts the attention to lines and details that also use commas. It also can create large shading contrasts in areas where you can’t shade because of the amount of detail. This is why I only like to use the semi-colon on ASCII that have large areas of smooth dark areas with little detail. I also don’t like to use the lesser darker shades very often either, as the characters used with spacing look slightly distracting to me. Therefore, there are pretty much 4 main shades that I use:

BASE: The main color for reference to your shading, usually of a lighter shade. These colors include yellow, white, orange, light brown, and lighter shades of green, blue, or red. If you have two colors of a lighter shade, choose the darker of the two (or the one most prevalent in the picture) for your base color, and the lighter of the two gets the LIGHTEST shade.

DARKER SHADES: Colors that are darker than the base color. If you follow my methods of doing ASCII, you will be using this shade quite a bit. It usually covers colors like green, red, blue, purple, gray, and brown, as well as the darker shades of the colors just mentioned. If black is the only darker shade in the entire ASCII (which is pretty rare) you can use this shade for it.

BLACK: That’s just it: Black. You probably won’t be using this shade for any other color; maybe a very dark gray but that would be it.

LIGHTEST: A shade that is sometimes used if there are two colors that could be a base color of different shades or colors. This usually occurs with colors like yellow, white, and very light shades of every other color.

LESSER DARKER SHADES: This is shading I very rarely use, as I don’t like the look the spaces create with the two different characters used. This is, of course, only my opinion, so if you don’t have a problem with it and like variety with your shading then by all means go ahead and use this shading as much as you want. It will only come up if you have a variety of darker colors in the same pic.

I should also note that is you have two colors that are very similar but are only just slightly different in shade, they can be lumped together in a single shade type. An example of this would be doing an ASCII of an anime girl with light skin and light blond hair, where they are only slightly different shades of light brown. Another thing, is that the background behind your ASCII can also be shaded, but that increases your character amount and gives you less control over spacing.

That’s pretty much all there is to my method of shading.

Advanced Lines

You already know how to make lines from reading the basics, but there’s a bit more to it if you want to make the lines reflect what’s seen in the pic. Lines have certain priorities to them, concerning how well they should stand out. It’s a little similar to the methods of shading I covered earlier, but not quite the same. It mostly has to do with how you use your apostrophes, commas, and quotation marks in your slopes: 

Apostrophes/commas only:

Creates a light-looking solid line. This is often used on things like hair, very narrow items like staffs at an angle, or other places where the slopes need to be a certain thickness so as not to detract from the look of the ASCII.

Examples: ,-‘ ,-~’ ,~’

Alternating sets of commas and quotation marks:

Your basic slope to use, sort of like the base color for shading. You will use this for the majority of your lines and slopes.

Examples: ,-“ ,-~” ,~”

Only quotation marks:

The thickest type of slope/line you can do, which is also rarely used. If you need something to really stand out, you use this type of slope. It often doesn’t make the lines very smooth though, so long strings of this are not really recommended. This is also sometimes used in single places to lessen the harshness of a change in slope in the middle of a line.

Examples: „-“ „-~” „~”

Any of the above slopes/lines with spacing/shading between each character:

A type of line/slope that actually is not solid. It is only used for adding details within an ASCII, like creases in clothing, certain details on faces, or when putting details on energy-type things like fire. The same rules apply for using these different slopes; the less attention you want to draw to the details, the lighter the characters you use. You wouldn’t use the “Only quotation marks” line when adding details to the face of a pretty girl, but you might want to if you were doing an old man’s face. Also, the more spacing you use, the lighter this slope will look and the less attention it will receive. You can also create an interesting affect by gradually increasing the amount of spacing between each character, as the line gets lighter. Just make sure that you don’t create too much spacing between the characters, or the optical illusion of a line will become broken and the characters will look out of place. Having too many of this type of line in a single area will also ruin the visual flow of the line(s), as it starts to become difficult to tell which characters belong to which lines.

Examples:  _….„„….-~….””….¯ ,…-…~…” „.-.”.

Now, in the event that you have a sharp corner that cuts into the middle of a slope, you can do several things. If the corner is to the left or right, you can try using either the < or > characters, or use an alteration of the slopes: -,”  -“„ and -;”. The latter is usually a better choice. If the corner is on the top or bottom this is a lot easier. Just try different slopes next to one another: /\ ,-“-, /”\ ,-“\ /”-, and so forth. If you come across a curve, you will have to very gradually change the angle of the line, which is fairly basic, but you may have to use the ( or ) characters at the end of the curve to avoid making it look box-like. More often than not, some changes of curves involve a line that starts in the middle of an existing line. This is where you may have to use something along the lines of /,. /-, or „”, 

When making a long line, it is important that you flow from one slope into another, and don’t constantly change the slope in the middle of a line (unless the ASCII is meant to look that way). I have often had this problem when making ASCII of long legs. It doesn’t look good when you keep changing back and forth between / and ,-“ in the middle of a long line. If you can correct it while you go that’s good, but I usually wait on correcting this particular problem when the ASCII is finished. 

In some places, usually the eyes, you may not be able to reflect the ASCII accurately (or at least in a visually appealing way) using solid slopes. This is where you use ,’ ,” or „’ instead of solid slopes to make the ASCII more visually appealing. If an area of lines looks a bit harsh and/or stands out too much to your liking then you might want to play around with these “broken” slopes to draw less attention to it. Note that ,’ is close to the equivalent of / but draws less attention.Sometimes, you will run across areas where you may not be able to use all the characters you need (this happens quite often with faces or other places with massive amounts of detail and/or line changes). You will have to use your own judgment on what the most important details are, and fill those in as much as possible. This is where trial and error comes in, and is best to try and accomplish on large areas when you have finished the rest of (or a good portion of) your ASCII. However, you should really try to correct problems with slopes while you go, as they are easy to miss on a finished ASCII. Remember to correct any spacing due to any changes made. The end product will probably not reflect exactly what the picture looked like, but it’s better than having an ASCII with details out of place.

This pretty much concludes my method for doing ASCII. If something wasn’t answered here, be sure to check the FAQ page. If the answer you’re seeking wasn’t on the the FAQ page, don’t hesitate to email the question to me; I’ll add it to the FAQ page.

Next, I’ll explain some alternate methods to shading and line making that I have seen other ASCII artists use.

Alternate Methods

Here I will explain some alternate methods of doing Patamon-style ASCII that I myself do not usually do (or do at all). I’ll also explain the reasoning behind why I don’t use these methods as well.


There are several other characters that can be used on a slope that I did not list. Popular ones at the moment consist of ^ * ` ¸ (alt+0184) and ƒ (alt+0132). You can also use characters like • (alt+0149) · (alt+0183) 1 or i. Using these characters increases the flexibility of your slope, like so:


You can probably notice that these additional characters, while increasing the variety of heights at your disposal, change the overall look of the slope. The characters ¸ * and ^ are slightly more complex looking than the characters I mainly use. Because the characters are slightly more complex, they gather more attention to them and sometimes clash with the other, simpler characters that are used in the slope. Also, because of the size of some of the characters (most notably ^ and •) they can create varying degrees of visual thickness in a line that you may not want. This is not much of a problem at all in a simple ASCII or a very large one (It actually creates an interesting effect if used well), but when you have a smaller ASCII or one that has a lot of detail these characters can completely ruin the look of an ASCII. The attention starts to go to individual characters or areas instead of the overall picture. This is mainly the reason why I don’t like to use those characters.


The only thing to cover in this section is gradual shading instead of one-color. This is actually something I use from time to time, but not very often at all. It’s basically using the same characters always used for shading, but gradually changing them as the line goes on instead of using a one-character pattern.

. . . . . . . ……:.:.:.:.:.::::;:;:;:;:;:;:;;;;;;;
. . . . . . . ……:.:.:.:.:.::::;:;:;:;:;:;:;;;;;;;
. . . . . . . ……:.:.:.:.:.::::;:;:;:;:;:;:;;;;;;;

This can create a nice effect on large or simple ASCII, but can become a mess on smaller ASCII or heavily detailed ones, as there is simply not enough space to correctly show the gradual change in shade. This is also difficult to use on a picture that is comprised of a great variety of colors or one that contains a large contrast of colors. It seems to work well on pictures that are comprised mainly of different shades of one color. If I do use gradual shading, it is often in conjunction with doing it the normal way; I’ll use gradual shading in small areas, but not on the entire ASCII.

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