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Create digital art using the ASCII Art technique

Create digital art using the ASCII Art technique - Peter Bargh shows us how a load of 0s and 1s can make a creative digital photo effect.

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Adobe Photoshop

photoshop technique - ascii art originalAs a kid I can clearly remember a day when I stumbled upon a creative idea using a typewriter. It was to type in a series of characters and when you'd finished it displayed a picture – in my project – the type created a greyscale portrait of the Queen. This artistic treatment became known as ASCII Art. When I did it on the typewriter I had to take great care and it took all day to build and I ended up with sore fingers from punching the vintage Remington key pads. With digital imaging we can do a similar piece of art but it's a far easier process...and once complete can be saved and tweaked later. Here's how:

1 Choose a photo that's not to complex with fairly large areas of contrast. This portrait of model Nichole should work well. Open up the image in a program that has layers. I'm using Photoshop.

2 Create a new layer Layer>New>Layer (Shift+Ctr+N)

3 Fill the layer with black Edit>Fill (Shift+F5) In the dialogue box that appears select Black from the drop down under Contents, Use: section.

Photoshop technique ascii art layers4 Now in the layers palette (Show using F7 key) you will have the background (image layer) and the new black layer will be named as Layer 1. Double click on the background layer icon and name it “Image” . This makes the background layer active and turns its title from italic to plain text.

5 Drag the image Layer to the top. Do this by clicking on it and holding down on the mouse as you drag upwards. The order will switch.

6 Select the type tool (T on the tool palette) and select a plain font such as Courier and a suitable size for the type. My image is about 2600 pixels high so I chose 10pt. Set the text to white colour.

7 Open the Character palette (Window>Character) and set the line spacing to one or two pt sizes larger than the type and set the distance from each letter to -10. This sets each line space and character tightly so the text will fill the picture without too much space.

8 Position the type tool cursor to the top left of the image and type 1s and 0s randomly across the image until you reach the end. When you get to the end of the image do a line break and type another row. Repeat this for about four or five lines.
photoshop technique - ascii art - type on a layer
Then to speed things up copy chunks and paste new lines until the photo is totally covered. Make sure there are no repetitive areas so it doesn't look like a repeat pattern. If there are repeat areas add new character in between to change the pattern. It needs to be random.
photoshop technique - ascii art - type on a layer copy

9 You will notice that a Type layer is on now included in the layers palette and is above the other two layers. Click on the layer icon and move it between the Image Layer and the black layer. The type will disappear from the displayed photo.

10 In the layers palette select the Image Layer and change its blend mode to Color Dodge. This will colour the type below so it takes on the tones of the photo and you'll see the effect starting to take shape.

Photoshop technique ascii art colour with gradient map11 Now to make it more graphical. With the Image Layer still active go to Image>Adjustments>Gradient Map and choose a colour gradient. I picked the blue to yellow to blue map. This colours the image highlights bright yellow and the shadow areas deep blue. It also now affects the type colour and the image is now working.

12 Make tweaks to the image layer colour using Hue/Saturation Image>Adjustments>Hue/saturation (Ctrl+U) and save the image.

Sometimes you have to squint to get the best effect. It will look good printed out and viewed from a distance.
photoshop technique - ascii art - type on a layer copy

Hop you enjoyed the technique. Please give it a try and upload your best in the ePHOTOzine gallery. If you have any questions or views fire away in the comments box below.

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davidburleson Plus
11 3.0k 3 United Kingdom
15 Jul 2009 5:27PM
Nice technique. Learned a few new things as well.

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there is a free plugin for photoshop to create real ascii-art. en.photoshopfilter.ascii-art.at

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