Block ASCII Art Tips & Tricks

   Width Restrictions & Challenges, Cutting Down on It.   Back to ASCII Art Academy.

This guide was written by Carsten Cumbrowski aka Roy/SAC in August 2009

Table of Contents

  1. Spell out In Plain Text once More What the Logo Says in ASCII
  2. Regarding the Width of an ASCII
  3. The 79 Characters Max-Width Challenge
  4. If you have to Cut Down on the Width of an ASCII
  5. General Tips
  6. Turning Disaster into a Virtue

1. Spell out In Plain Text once More What the Logo Says in ASCII

It does not matter, if you create ASCII logos for an NFO-file that is good readable like most of mine or if you create abstract or grafitty-style like logos that people cannot even make heads or tail out, even if they know what the logos is supposed to say. It is important that the logo looks cool at what that means is a matter of personal preference. But, the logo on top of a release NFO-file also serves practical purposes, which we should at least acknowledge and never completely disregard.

It is always good to add the name or title what the ASCII is supposed to mean below the logo in plain text.

It helps people to identify quickly the name of your group, even if they are not used to looking and decipher ASCII art text logos at all. Never make the mistake and assume that everybody else can read what it says, just because you are able to read it yourself. Your insider knowledge and experience though frequent exposure to this kind of art makes things appear easy to you, where "normal" people would probably fail doing it.

Nowadays you should also consider search engines like Google who pick this stuff up.If the NFO does not include your group name a couple times in plain readable text (without L33T spelling shit), your legacy will become hard to find in search engines.  

2. Regarding the Width of an ASCII

Yeah, in DOS you have the line length limit of 80 characters, 79 actually, because if you have anything at the 80s character, DOS is automatically adding a line break already. But that is old school and past. I had no problem to look at your ASCII with notepad. Even with a screen resolution of 1024x768 would the logo fit the screen.There is no limitation of 80 characters.

Below is a screenshot of an ASCII by Guth, loaded in Windows Notepad with using font "Terminal" for the display.

Guth contacted me, asking for help to reduce the width of this logo to be "old school conform". I responded to him why he should want to do that.

Most people will probably look at the ASCII this way, which matters the most. Why care about old-school and the past, if you are not a child of that era.You can pay tribute to it and show respect, but you do not have to live by rules that were created because of the limitations of hard and software.Even SAC members didn't care about it anymore.

See the image below. The ASCII that is at least as wide as the ASCII above.You see what I mean?

You have the freedom, so use it! :)  

3. The 79 Characters Max-Width Challenge

The examples that I used above for ASCII art that exceeds the DOS Limitation of 79 Characters in Width, were not created by me, but those are good examples actually and nothing bad.I am making use of my privilege of using my own artwork for the bad examples or errors that can be made and which I did myself as well do of course. I am not ashamed of any of those. What is there to be ashamed of, if it is something that helped you to improve on yourself. I will also show solutions that I found for myself to remedy the effects caused by the imposed limitations of ASCII and ANSI text art.

Working with only 79 characters, if you have a long word, is a bitch. You are very very limited with what you can do, to get at least the letters on the screen somehow, not to mention to maybe make it readable as well..

Before you know it, it will look ugly and overly crowded or compressed, like squeezed like a flounder fish. One possible work around that is the use of the abbreviation/initials or call signs of the name or title instead and only spell everything out in full, using either plain text or a very simple and basic block-ASCII font (almost like "ARIAL NARROW" type).

If the abbreviation is very short (like 2 characters only) and/or has shitty letters to work with, you will get another problem.The problem that the logo looks too empty. This is particularly true for logos in light font on a dark background. You might get away with it with a black font on white background, but not the other way around.

Stretching the letters out often results in bad results also and if the logo was overstretched, which is actually the case hehe. In those cases you have pretty much one option left and that is adding crap or if you are able to do so, a picture or an object of something else.. Skull or anything else you can think of and that fits the general theme and fills the screen.around the logos made of 2-3 letters to give it the extra weight that you need.

You don't always know that any of the things that I mentioned will happen to become a problem, when you start with a logo, unless you designed it already entirely in your head. That's not what I did. I always started with something and made things up along the way, causing the final result to have little resemblance with what I started with.  

4. If you have to Cut Down on the Width of an ASCII

I had to cut the width of a logo more than once. In such instances I removed from each letter of the logo the same number of columns that I felt comfortable with to be able to keep the proportions okay to acceptable.

It can perfectly be that the logo is still too wide after I removed the amount of columns from each character where I knew what to do to fix what is left of them and still have a logo.I have no photographic memory so while I knew what to do with each character after one,two or three columns were cut out, I had no clear idea how the entire logo will look like until I was done with all characters/letters.

The good thing is that often ideas were being sparked during the "Cut Down" process. I Always deleted complete columns (or rows) with a single key stroke in TheDraw..

This creates unusual looking gaps or strange effects at the border of the characters Opportunities to create a zone where characters overlap much more or are being smashed together.

At one point the height (rows) need to be adjusted as well. I used virtually the same approach there as I did for reducing the width.. Some of my more interesting designs are a result of cutting a logo down in size and then getting a cool idea how to connect the letters in a new way

I only reduced the width of a logo further when I made the planned adjustments and got something back that looks like a logo again. If you cut it down to the required width and without knowing how to fix the damage that cased caused by your radical down cutting, then it is like throwing it against a wall, causing it to beak into too many pieces, that make the repair more like the completion of a jigsaw puzzle, without knowing what the final result has to look like. You would be better off, starting something new from scratch than wasting your time on solving this puzzle.  

5. General Tips

Well, that's plenty of tips and suggestions to work with and to continue with doing ASCII's.

Tracer/ACiD put it nicely once, when he said, that a good piece of ANSI artist is made of 60+% experience and know-how and 40% or less of artistic skills. In other words, it more likely that a not very talented artist with lots of experience will produce a better result than a highly gifted artist with no experiences in creating ANSI/ASCII text art at all.

This already includes my final advice, if you want to improve on your ASCII/ANSI art skills: draw, draw and draw. ... and after that, do it again and again.  

6. Turning Disaster into a Virtue

If you cannot have it your way, play and win the game with your strategies, adopt to the strategies of your opponent and beat him at his own game.Winning the game is all that matters, the how is only secondary.

Example of "squeezing" .An unexperienced eye might say that there does not seem to be anything wrong with the logo, but it is a good example of the usually unwanted effects that squeezing has, the deterioration of original styles to mere rudiments of themselves. In the blue boxes are snippets from other ASCII's of mine where you can see the original "full size" style to be able to compare it to the "squished" one.

I perfected the art of ASCII style squishing on purpose over the years to be able to fit long words into one line of 79 characters in width.


Examples of "Overstretching" on purpose.

If you realize that you have to squeeze the letters too much, just to get that last letter of the word/name fit within the 79 characters width boundary, things start getting to look ugly. If you cannot avoid the squeezing, make this problem to a virtue and emphasize the squeezing by "over stretching" the logo.


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