How to Draw Using Keyboard Letters

Written by amanda tromley
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How to Draw Using Keyboard Letters
Each letter on a keyboard can be used to create shading values. (keyboard image by Fyerne from

In the early days of personal computers, before the powerful graphics programs available today, artists used the 95 printable American Standard Code for Information Interchange, or ASCII, characters on a keyboard to draw graphics ranging from the simple to the complex. Artists created the illusion of depth by typing rows and columns of characters in various density–and they displayed their work in chat rooms, e-mails, IMs and website pages. Although HTML and other programming languages have made the Internet a multimedia platform, ASCII artists still create and display their text-based designs online.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Acetate
  • Marker
  • Tape
  • Text editor

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  1. 1

    Decide on a subject for your drawing. For your first few attempts, you may want to try something simple.

  2. 2

    Choose how you want to render your design. Two types of ASCII art exist: line art and “solid” art. Line art consists of hyphens, underscores and dashes situated so as to draw the outline of a subject. Solid art uses many different characters to draw a subject with the illusion of shadows and highlights.

  3. 3

    Draw your subject with a marker on a sheet of clear acetate, and tape it on your monitor.

  4. 4

    Open a text-editing program, such as Notepad. Do not use a word processing program. Position the text editor window under your drawing.

  5. 5

    Type a row of spaces as wide as your drawing. Copy that row and paste it until you reach the height of your image.

  6. 6

    Press the “OVR” button on your keyboard to turn on the overstrike. Overstrike allows you to type over existing characters without the need to use the “Backspace” or “Delete” keys. Furthermore, since you filled your file with spaces, you won’t need to use the spacebar or the “Enter” key. If you need to change a character, position your cursor in front of it and type over it.

  7. 7

    Begin typing out your design using the drawing on the acetate as a guide. For line art, use dashes, hyphens and underscores to trace the outline of your image. For solid art, experiment with various character and symbols to create areas of light and dark. Remember that certain characters create denser areas than others. For example, an area filled with capital S’s will appear darker than an area filled with capital O’s.

Tips and warnings

  • Walk across the room periodically, and look at your design from a distance to check your work.

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