How to start drawing ANSI art?

This article is supposed to be updated with new information for those who want to start with draiwng ANSI. Feel free to reply with any useful information you’d think is worthwhile to add.

First of all, there are no clear boundaries on what is ASCII or ANSI art. Depending on the implementation the specifications might be different. Most art you’d find on this forum and website originated from a scene that started in the early nineties on MS-DOS based on the ANSI.SYS driver. In this driver the limitations are typically

  • characterset based on IBM PC codepages, most used codepage being codepage 437
  • 16 colors (8 for background, 16 for foreground)
  • dimensions:
    • width: 80 columns (640 or 720 pixels wide)
    • height: 25 lines was the height of one screen, making it longer would turn an image into a ‘scroller’

The limitations are often wat makes it interesting to create art, but the above limitations are only the original limitations on MS-DOS. There are ways to get around them to get for example more background colors, custom palette, different especially larger dimensions and (custom) fonts.

To start off you’ll need an editor, you may find a more complete list of editors in another article but the 2 most common one are Moebius and Pablodraw:

There are other feature rich editors out there such as REXPaint but they often don’t guide you within limitations and will lead to a custom output format. However don’t let that keep you if you think that is your thing.

A collection of tutorials has been tagged as tutorial on, it’s 20 years worth of ANSI drawing tutorials, browsing through them may give you more insight on how ANSI art was and is created.

If you need help, you can ask on this forum in the Help section or look for a chat room where other artists hang out.

It takes a while to get used to the medium and you may find yourself trying lots of things and starting over many times, we wish you good luck and persistence! :slight_smile: