+------------------------------+
  | Behind the ASCII Colouration |
  +------------------------------+

After the creation of the latest design of this website, in which I decided to discard all images in favour of pure text and ASCII art, I told Avallach that I want to colourise the Phoenix. While the design of this website as well as of gothicarchive.org and phoenixthegame.com was developed by me on my own, there are a few technical things that I couldn't manage to do myself. The colouration of the ASCII art is one of them, and I thought that the solution is interesting enough to tell you about.

The Phoenix ASCII I had generated with some tool. In opposition to the Archive and Nyx logo etc. I couldn't see me doing that by hand. Anyway: The uncolourised version was looking like this:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
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I'll just quote the important parts of our conversation. No need to retell what you can read first hand (or first fingertips in that case). I was just finishing the design (I'll write another article at some point on how I developed it and the general principles of our webdesign), showing it to Avallach and asking if he would be able to help me with the colouration.

[23.09.] Flosha: What do you say now?
I want to add colour to the Phoenix. It's just quite hard to do.
[23.09.] Avallach: O wow, I really like it. I really like the ASCII art design of the main page. I can help colouring.

... he said. And went straight to work. Two days later:

[25.09.] Avallach: This is harder than I thought. I have an idea how to achieve it, but it will take me a bit more time.
I will need to separate the ASCII art into multiple layers, each for one colour in the palette. So there will be 4-16 <pre> elements overlayed on top of each other with CSS.
[26.09. 00:37] Avallach: It's really hard.
This is a prototype with 6 layers, colours are not set yet. But I see that shape somehow got corrupted.
[26.09. 00:50] Avallach: I fixed the shape, but contrast and colours still require some work. / Still 6 layers. Gray + 5 colours. / Do you think this is enough colours or should there be more, like 16?
[26.09. 12:29] Avallach: I'm doing already like the 4th prototype... this time trying to limit colour to areas with some minimum saturation and brightness on the input image:
[26.09. 12:35] Avallach: Current idea: Pick the optimal colours only for these sections of the image, and leave the rest in greyscale:
[26.09. 13:54] Avallach: I need gimp to calculate optimal colours. / But it is already on the same grid. / 98x95 / As the ASCII will be. / So that the calculations for each character are exact. This is around 10 colours and IMO looks close enough.
[26.09. 14:02] Avallach: All the brightness and sharpness will be handled by the ASCII art generator. This is just a template how to separate colours into layers. All the brightness information from here will be ignored.
[26.09. 15:07] Avallach: This is the result of the separation:
Avallach: Now I will prepare the ASCII-art [again, via the online generator I (Flosha) used] from each of these colour layers. / I think only this screenshot really explains how it works, right?

Upon my request, Avallach has written a little documentation, that really shows the complicated process he came up with just to fullfill my wish to colourise the Phoenix:

+-----------------------------+

# How PhoenixTales colours ASCII arts

Just like with making a mod for the zEngine, it's a tedious and manual process involving multiple tools. Could be made way easier if we were ok with cheating and making a bitmap picture where characters are represented as pixels. But no, we want a real old-school ascii art that is both retro and lightweight.

We used a third party tool that can convert a grayscale image into ascii art. It does not matter which tool it is, the approach works with any.

We came up with this exact procedure when preparing a coloured ascii art of the Phoenix in the "Stalker" variant. We tried out a few different approaches, and the below sequence of steps gave the best results.

## Step 1 - prepare colour mask

  1. 1. Duplicate the input image into new layer "1"
  2. 2. Create new layer "2" filled with 50% saturated red (HSV)
  3. 3. Put "1" above "2" and set colour mixing mode to HSV saturation
  4. 4. Merge layers "1" and "2" into "2"
  5. 5. Desaturate and invert layer "2"
  6. 6. Duplicate the input image into new layer "3"
  7. 7. Desaturate layer "3"
  8. 8. Increase contrast of layer "3" to maximum and set brightness to the point when parts too dark to be coloured are all black
  9. 9. Put layer "3" above layer "2" and set colour mixing mode to "Darken only"
  10. 8. Increase contrast of layer "2" to maximum and set brightness to the point when only parts with visible colour are white
  11. 9. Merge layers "3" and "2" into "2"
  12. 10. Scale layer "2" to the size of target ASCII art in characters (e.g. 98px x 95px for Phoenix mascot) (proportions will appear stretched horizontally, because each character in rendered ascii art is naturally taller than wide)
  13. 11. Replace white with transparency
  14. 12. The layer "2" is now our "colour mask" that we will use in the next step

## Step 2 - prepare colour map

  1. 1. Slightly increase saturation of input image to compensate for coming partial colour loss
  2. 2. Scale input image to the size of target ASCII art in characters
  3. 3. Put "colour mask" prepared in step 1 above input image and merge it into it
  4. 4. Make sure that there is only one layer left in the image and no transparency
  5. 5. Change image mode to indexed, around 10 colours, with Floyd-Steinberg dithering
  6. 6. Replace black with transparency
  7. 7. The colour map is ready - we will use it for distributing available colours between "ascii pixels" (it will only affect hue/saturation, not brightness as expressed by choice of different ascii characters)

## Step 3 - separate layers on input image

  1. 1. Put colour map prepared in step 2 on top of input image
  2. 2. Use tool "select by colour" (`shift-o`) all the time, with 0% tolerance setting and no antialiasing
  3. 3. Scale colour map to image size, with no interpolation (it will look "pixelated")
  4. 4. Select black colour on colour map and remove it
  5. 5. Select any colour on colour map, delete that selection on colour map, then cut that selection from input image and paste it as new layer
  6. 6. Repeat step 5 until colour map is completely empty
  7. 7. Save each layer created in repeats of step 5 as separate file
  8. 8. Generate separate ascii art from each of these files, using a 3rd party tool of your choice
  9. 9. Generate last ASCII art from parts of input image that were not covered by colour map

## Step 4 - assemble with CSS

  1. 1. Display each ASCII art in separate divs
  2. 2. Position the divs absolutely on the same position, so that they perfectly overlap
  3. 3. Pick different colour for each ASCII art, except of the last one, which contains "grayscale" part
  4. 4. Carefully tweak the colours in CSS so that overall the art has the best reassemblance to the input image

- Avallach

+-----------------------------+

Here our final colourised Phoenix:

And for your imagination: These are all the signs of the 12 layers if we do not let them overlap and do not put them in a pre tag:

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Other than that, Avallach has written the colourised ASCII in a .svg, in order to prevent having all that code on our page(s). But if you want to see how the final 12 layers look like, just rightclick and take a look at the sourcecode of this page. :) - flosha, 2021-10-01

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