Using tools like Image to Text converters is against the ethics of any serious text artist, but they became pretty popular (and also more sophisticated) after ANSI and ASCII art almost faded away into the darkness of forgotten history.
This popularity today is also the reason, why I mention them here, because regardless if I like it or not, they have their place in ANSI and ASCII art history. Even though the converter tools became more sophisticated and can produce good to excellent results today, is their use among serious text artists against the ethics and rules as it was during the prime of computer text art.
Because of its popularity I decided to add the tools that I am reviewing here also to my ASCII Art Academy, where you can learn how to create real ASCII and ANSI art and also more about the history and origin of this unique niche form of computer art.
You can use the converters for fun and the sake of it, but never try to sell off any piece of text art as your own creation, if you used a converter even for only some parts of your image, or state where you used a converter and how you improved on the results or altered them. It will diminish the respect that you will get from fellow artists, but it is honest and honesty is still of high value. The piece of art created this way, is may be able to stand on its own merits, but if this is will be the case is hard to tell before seeing the actual results.
I used for testing this passport photograph of mine. I always used the same image, regardless if I uploaded it, linked to it or used it with the desktop tool.
I never tweaked the image before I used it with the tools. I only used the options that were provided by the tools themselves to improve the results.
Lets start with the Online Tools.
Click on the images for a full size version of each screen shot. The small images are not meant to show you everything in detail already, which would be hard, even with 110% vision hehe.
Photo2Text.com ASCII to TEXT Converter
Here are screen shots of the tool and the three steps it takes to convert your image to ASCII art.
This converter delivers great results out of the box. The only bummer is that you cannot specify a URL for the image to convert. You have to upload it as a file.
The results with the default options is already perfect, but in some cases does it make sense to tweak the results, which you can do in real time on the results page.
I talked about it already a while ago at my personal blog.
You have a slider to adjust the “brightness” and also a drop down box that lets you select different sets of ASCII characters that will be used for the ASCII. One of the sets even includes the emulated block ASCII (high ASCII) characters of MS DOS (I love that one hehe)
To the left, picture in 7 bit ASCII (normal text characters). To the right, picture in Block ASCII. I adjusted the “brightness” a little bit to make it a bit lighter.
ASCII.MasterVB.NET Text to ASCII Converter Tool
As you can see in the screen shot, this tool is actually two tools in one. To the left is the form of the Image to Text converter and to the right is a Text to ASCII converter. I will say to the latter a little bit more further down below.
The MasterVB tool only allows the specification of the URL to an Image on the Internet. It does not offer an upload option to let users upload an image from their local hard disk.
I always used the setting 1 for “Quality” (best). I don’t know why I should choose anything else.
I selected as Size: 5 . The size only affects the used font size and not the ASCII width (number of characters per line in the text result). I selected “Show in HTML”.
The image to the left shows the result for “In Color OFF” and the image to the right with the “In Color Option” enabled which is SLOW, so be patient.
The ASCII or ANSI is always large in size. You can only reduce its actual size (characters per line), if you reduce the image size yourself and put the smaller image up on the Internet in order to be able to use this tool with that image.
It returns good results, but then it is also easier to do so, if you do not have to deal with the problem of limited numbers of characters per line and rows you can work with. It serves its purpose and who cares nowadays, if the ANSI or ASCII is more than 80 Characters per line in width. Nobody uses MS DOS anymore anyway, right?!
The tool also has a neat Text to ASCII converter, which seems to be based on FIGlet.
Over 60 different ASCII art fonts are available. Also a preview of the font sets to make it easier to find out which font you like the best, without trying each and every one of them first. Most fonts are almost the same and I didn’t find really cool ones.
Another ASCII font generator can be found at Network-Science.de/ASCII.
It does not provide the code, it’s meant to copy and paste for email signatures for example. That’s also the reason why the tool offers options like “alignment” and width in characters. It also has the option to “squeeze” the letters (by selecting “yes” for “Stretch”, an obvious error) and to invert the text to be mirrored (if you think that is cool, or if you want to combine it with the none-mirrored version of the test.
GlassGiant.com/ASCII Image to Text Converter Tool
This tool provides almost no options for tweaking, except for the wight and font size. Nice is the fact that you have the choice between uploading an image from your local hard drive or providing an URL to the image on the Internet. The results are decent and usable for an out of the box/take it or leave it kind of tool.
The Homepage of the tool provides links to additional examples, which I did not include in my screen shot. My screen shot only shows the selection form of the conversion tool itself. To the right is the result of the conversion of my passport photograph.
Now lets look at some tools for the Windows Desktop.
The MagicSoft Image to ANSI/ASCII converter
Download link to MagicSoft Img2ASCII-ANSI
The interface is straight forward. You have the option to convert an image to either ANSI, Gray-scale or plain text (ASCII).
The first slider lets you specify how much percent of the pixels of the images will be converted. This setting has direct impact on the width and height of the results.
If you have an image that is 200×200 pixels and you say to render 100%, the ANSI or ASCII will be 200 characters wide and tall. You probably want to reduce that or change the font size, which is another option via a slider.
You can specify the background color and text to use.
I really wouldn’t recommended to specify the Text to use, because it really uses this phrase again and again and the shading is only done by adjusting the color of the letters. If you want to do something with just words, check out the tool Textorizer, which will return much better results. So leave it empty and have the tool randomize the used characters.
A message pops up, if you select ASCII output stating that it is still in an early beta state. After looking at the conversion results, I tend to agree. It returned the poorest results of all tools that I tested. It’s strength really lies in the conversion to ANSI, where it produces quite decent results.
Here are some examples.
ASCII Generator .NET (ASCGen dotNet) for Windows
Download link to ASCII Generator dotNet V0.96
This is a collaborative open source project. You can visit the projects web site at SourceForge.net, where you can also download the latest version of the tool and the source code of it as well.
Just by looking at the interface you know that you are dealing with something much more sophisticated than any of the other tools that I reviewed above.
This tool is really the Ferrari of Image to Text converters! You have so many options to play with (in real-time, seeing the results immediately) and the results are simply phenomenal.
You can shrink and enlarge the results at will, flip or rotate, adjust brightness and contrast, the character set used for the ASCII, the font and more and more and more.
The program also supports batch processing, if you have a large number of photos or images to convert to ASCII or ANSI.
It’s a free tool, only available for Windows PC, but source code can be downloaded from their Sourceforge.net project page as well, if you like to work on a conversion for Linux or Macintosh.
A web based version of the tool would be cool tool. Anybody up to the challenge?
I created a short video that shows the feature of the ASCGen dotNet tool. And before I get tons of emails asking what the music in the background is, it’s Chris Huelsbeck’s “Sade” from the Commodore 64. You can download this song and others from the good old C64, converted to MP3 format, at this shared folder at Mediafire.com.
I hope that you find this review helpful. Have fun with converting your photographs and images to Text, or better ASCII or ANSI art hehe. Again, if you want to create serious ASCII/ANSI text art, check out my ASCII Art Academy page and subsequent pages. For the right tools to create hand-made text art check out my downloads page, where you find a bunch of tools for MS DOS, Windows or even Linux free for download.
If you need some inspiration and want to see some great hand-made, oldskool and new ANSI and ASCII art created by myself and also dozens of other artists, check out my gallery pages.
Carsten aka Roy/SAC