Experimenting with Ascii Photos

2019-03-20 (Last edited 2019-03-25)
artsoftware olinsolopapap-israscii-photos

For my first art project as part of my Pennies and Personal Art Projects ISR, I’ve decided to work with ascii images made with my Panasonic KX-P1124 dot-matrix printer. On Tuesday I brought in some pieces I made and pinned them up in the Library to share with Robert.

This past week I finished making an image-to-ascii converter (source available on GitHub) to generate images, calibrated for the printer’s built-in monospace Courier font. Overall, the output is pretty low-contrast, but these photos don’t really do them justice. The viewing experience changes very dramatically when close-up vs farther away.

I’ll have a more thorough write-up along soon™, but I wanted to get these photos out there now!

The view from a little further away, in the Olin Library.
A large printout of my Aquaponic Asteroid image. Each column of paper took about 10 minutes to print.
Clockwise from top-left: Observatories on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, my father on the beach, a friend, my sister.

Next steps

After sharing this with Robert, we discussed a variety of paths forward, regarding techniques and potential work.

Potential Subjects

  • continue with portraits, playing on different levels of antiquity
    • use real frames for portraits
  • further referencing antiquity
  • explore scale more
    • how small can you go while still remaining recognizable?
    • how large of a piece is feasible?
  • using subject material that further relates to dot-matrix printers and their usage
    • the asteroid photo brought to mind the Apollo era for both Robert and Jeff
  • use the continual fading of the cartridge in a piece
  • explore basic gradients and shapes
  • use abstract source material
  • copper etchings
  • fossils, footprints w/ smooth gradients
  • use the form of the pages more
    • center vertically and horizontally
    • include titles, artist statements, etc. on the pages
  • use the form of the pages less: remove the guide strips, hide in frames


  • read up on and try some other methods of ascii image generation
  • print red, green, and blue channels separately
  • try dithering
  • try different inks, with multiple colors
    • start with thinner inks, maybe alcohol-based like sharpie
    • make sure I have a solvent for them to clean the print head
    • look for other people who have done this
  • try different papers and mediums
    • look for materials that would increase contrast, change brightness
  • add some active cooling to the print head to increase speed