I was recently looking at the Watchdogs 2 pictures (Specifically The center of the one below). I was under the impression that it was just fancy text art, but that turned out to be false. I was wondering, How can I take a black and white image in Photoshop, and create a similar, "Filter", for lack of a better term?

Reference image (Look in the center)


  • To achieve this you can use one of the services found under the google search results for "image to ascii" or you can draw your image using ascii characters.
    – Webster
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 0:07
  • I have tried a couple different sites, and I just cant seem to find the quality that Im looking for
    – Name Last
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 0:09
  • This isn't really ASCII art is it? Maybe the title should be changed. Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 17:57

4 Answers 4


That is not ascii art. It is called a pattern-dithered bitmap (halftone). I did a quick image search a found the source for your cropped art that has more pixel detail (see below).

I made a very quick example using a crop from a screen capture of art that is in a similar style to the portion of your image.

I changed the image mode to "greyscale" and then changed it to "bitmap" (in Photoshop, you cannot convert RGB or indexed mode to bitmap); in the bitmap settings, I picked a low PPI (maybe 30), and chose "pattern dither."

The low PPI makes the pattern larger in proportion to the image dimensions, but it also results in a smaller image as measured by pixel dimension.

Because I reduced the PPI, I then stretched the image back to the original size.

enter image description here

enter image description here

  • And note: you can use your own patterns for the bitmap pattern (such as what @namelast illustrates.
    – Yorik
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 17:37
  • Second note: there are a number of ways to achieve this, but "pattern dither halftone" is a pretty good way to find too much information.
    – Yorik
    Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 17:40

I sort of feel old now! But back in the days, there was a popular software called TheDraw that ANSI/ASCII artists used to create artwork. It's not a filter per se, but it will definitely make things easier should you want to go the way of creating your own! (if it still runs on modern computers that is...)


To get the wanted result, you must start from an image that has strong lines and uniformly colored areas between them. A cartoon is good term for this.

Then use an image to ascii translator (website or program). You get an intermediate result like this:

enter image description here

As you see, the toning in your photo isn't actually done by scattering ascii characters, but other bitmap patterns instead. That can be simulated by taking the intermediate result to Photoshop or GIMP. If the result from the translator is a GIF, convert it at first to normal RGB or 8 bit grayscale image.

Then goto Filter > Pixelate > Mosaic, select a fine only few pixel mosaic. Finally take the curves tool and adjust the contrast.

In the following screenshot the contrast is just adjusted. The mosaic size is 3 pixels. The image from the translator is about 900 pix wide.

enter image description here

The translator program used here is ASCII Generator v2. It allows one to select the font and which characters are used for generating the halftone ramp. The following example uses no recognizable characters, but a few maybe better patterns for this purpose. The font = Lucida Console. No mosaic filtering is used:

enter image description here

ADDENDUM: Other answers suggest straight away to discard ascii translators and to use some pattern halftone dithering method. (Ascii translator actually is a special case of it). Here's one simple method with the simplest possible pattern:

At first adjust your image to have high contrast. Then add a layer that has a black-white pattern. Here is 5x5 pixel black and white square fill just under painting with the pattern stamp:

enter image description here

Blur the pattern and adjust with the curves tool it's tone range to cover nearly black to nearly white:

enter image description here

Give to the blurred pattern layer blending mode = Hard light:

enter image description here

Merge the pattern and image layers. Increase it's contrast to create the wanted effect. If needed, the contrast can be stretched to extreme by applying Image > Adjustments > Treshold. See the result

enter image description here:

Somehow smoother appearance is possible by using the curves tool instead of Treshold:

enter image description here


I found out how to do this using a pattern in Photoshop.

  1. Create a new file that is 9 × 9 px

  2. Create this shape using the Pencil Tool

    enter image description here

  3. Press "Edit → Define Pattern → OK"

  4. Open image to put over

  5. Right click on the layer with the image and press "Blending Options"

  6. Click "Pattern Overlay"

  7. Select the pattern you just made

  8. Change the blend mode to "Darken"

  9. Profit

    enter image description here


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.