Postmodern Sysadmin

A blog about servers and junk

A Comparison of Image to ASCII Conversion Tools

Inspired by ponysay, I think wicked ascii/ansi artwork on the terminal is great.

I decided to survey all the tools I could find that aid in this conversion to see if there were any dramatic differences in results.


For these tests I used an image with a 160px width, twice that of a standard terminal. Then I cat‘d the image in plain xterm and took a screenshot of the results.

The original has been scaled up (6X) to be the same relative size as the resulting screenshots.

My entire methodology is on github if you wish to see exactly how I made these images. In theory it is 100% reproducible from make. (assuming on a linux desktop)

Tools Compared



bender.png converted using original bender.png converted using img2xterm bender.png converted using util-say bender.png converted using catimg bender.png converted using catimg-bash bender.png converted using img-cat bender.png converted using img2txt bender.png converted using jp2a


lenna.png converted using original lenna.png converted using img2xterm lenna.png converted using util-say lenna.png converted using catimg lenna.png converted using catimg-bash lenna.png converted using img-cat lenna.png converted using img2txt lenna.png converted using jp2a


nyan.png converted using original nyan.png converted using img2xterm nyan.png converted using util-say nyan.png converted using catimg nyan.png converted using catimg-bash nyan.png converted using img-cat nyan.png converted using img2txt nyan.png converted using jp2a


img2xterm stands out to me as the most accurate and true to the original, with util-say as a close second. Both of these tools understand “half-block” characters with two colors, effectively doubling the horizontal resolution of the resulting characters. (two colors per “pixel”)

catimg and img-cat both have good color representation, but lack the additional resolution compared to the other tools, giving it a more “pixelated” look.

img2txt and jp2a are “true ascii” tools, they are really not in the same league as the others. I included them here for completeness.