42 Astoundingly Useful Scripts and Automations for the Macintosh

A thousand points of color: give your photos a pointillist turn

I had far too much fun with that kleenex mask in the book. Here’s a more serious look at creating pointellated images using the asciiArt script in 42 Astounding Scripts.

Jerry Stratton, October 16, 2019

I wrote in Astounding Scripts about using option-8 as the sole palette when creating ASCII images in color. It creates an interesting pointillist effect.

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  • asciiArt "Yellow Rose.jpg"  --colors --width 150 --palette "•"

Use the flower photo at Yellow Rose of Los Angeles (JPEG Image, 249.0 KB). You’ll probably also want to change the width to match your Terminal window (or change your Terminal window’s width to match 150 characters), but it should come out looking like this:

You may also want to play around with different background colors. I tried white and black, but surprisingly the effect is more pronounced with the default green background.

It can create an interesting effect to save it as a PNG file as well. The PNG version has more colors, because PNG allows more colors than the Terminal does. With only eight colors, the Terminal version is starker. The PNG version is both more colorful and more faded.

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  • asciiArt "Yellow Rose.jpg"  --colors --width 150 --palette "•" --save yellow.png --quiet

You can, of course, adjust the density of the image by adjusting the width from 150 characters across to more or less.

Unlike most ASCII art, which prefers simple images, this technique can work with any image. It even worked on the photo of me wearing a Mr. Incredible mask, which I used as the example in the book.

It’s not quite pointillism. That requires the points to be close enough together to merge with each other. There is enough space between the option-8 bullet to keep the points separate when viewed closely or at a large size, and to strongly fade the image when viewed from a distance or at a small size. This is more like the accidental child of Seurat and ASCII. In Seurat’s images, the image is brought out through closely-drawn dots. With this technique, the image is veiled by well-separated dots.

I could not find any larger dots than option-8; there are some dot-like characters, but they’re only slightly larger and they’re a different width than the rest of the font, which makes them less useful for ASCII art.

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