How to Convert Any Image to ASCII Art in the Linux Terminal

ASCII art is the oldest form of image representation online and existed long before the invention of the internet. It offers an easy, low-bandwidth way of rendering a graphical representation using characters, and is an art form in its own right.

It’s simple to convert an image into ASCII in your Linux terminal. Here’s how to get started.

What Is ASCII Art, and Why Would You Want to Make It?

ASCII art is the most recent iteration of an art form that goes all the way back to before the medieval period. Simply put, it’s a way of using letters, numbers, and other written characters in place of the pixels which make up the images you usually see on a screen.

It works because different characters have different ratios of light to dark space, and you can use them to create a moderately detailed monochrome image that suggests a shape.

The earliest examples were created by hand, and later by typewriter, teletype, and line printer. With the advent of computers, ASCII art, which uses characters from ASCII standard form, was used instead of digitized images due to the limitations of machines during that era. In the early days of the internet, ASCII art solved the problems with image transfer over low-bandwidth internet.

With today’s computers possessing a mind-blowing amount of power and resources, you might think that ASCII art would be thrown onto the trash heap of history along with so many AOL disks, but you’d be wrong.

ASCII art is alive and well-used by denizens of the warez scene, people seeking an alternative artistic outlet, individuals with low bandwidth, and those who are either suffering a surplus of nostalgia for the good old Amiga days or who just like generating and viewing images made out of letters.

Install ascii-image-converter to Convert Images to ASCII Art

ascii-image-converter is a command-line utility that does exactly what it says on the tin. It accepts an image file as an argument and outputs the ASCII art conversion to your terminal. You can either copy and paste the text to another app, or pipe it into a file.

The utility supports the most commonly used image formats including JPEG/JPG, PNG, BMP, WEBP, TIFF/TIF, and GIF.

To install ascii-image-converter on Debian or Ubuntu, add the ascii-image-converter repository to your sources.list:

echo 'deb [trusted=yes] https:

Update your system’s repository list using:

sudo apt update

Then install ascii-image-converter by entering:

sudo apt install ascii-image-converter

For Arch Linux users, ascii-image-converter is available in the Arch User Repository.

You can also install ascii-image-converter via snap:

sudo snap install ascii-image-converter

…although you should be aware that the app will not have access to hidden or normal files outside the home directory. So make sure that your images are in an accessible location if you’ve installed the snap package.

Use ascii-image-converter to Create Awesome ASCII Images!

Using ascii-image-converter is super simple, and requires only the name of the image file. Running:

ascii-image-converter ship.jpg

…on a sample file named “ship.jpg”, will transform:


While our resulting ASCII image looks great, you can get finer detail by reducing the size of your terminal font.

Your ASCII art doesn’t need to be monochrome, either. If you add the –color or -C flag, ascii-image-converter will output your ASCII image in the approximate colors of the original.

ascii-image-converter ship.jpg --color

This will only work if your terminal supports 24-bit or 8-bit colors.

ascii-image-converter can use Braille characters instead of ASCII with the -b switch, and when combined with color, produces some superbly artistic results.

ascii-image-converter ship.jpg -bC

When you’re happy with the ASCII or Braille art you’ve produced, you can pipe it to a file:

ascii-image-converter ship.jpg -bC | tee cool-ascii-ship.txt

…and view it in the terminal at your leisure with:

cat cool-ascii-ship.txt

Create Your Own Images to Convert to ASCII Art

While it’s certainly fun to transform stock images in your terminal, it’s infinitely more satisfying if you work on original images that you create yourself.

If you feel like you don’t have any innate artistic talent, it’s never too late to learn, and there are plenty of courses available to help you!

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