shpaint: For the Toulouse-Lautrec of the terminal

Part of the fun in spending two and a half years sifting through random text-based software has been the occasional joy in finding something amazingly cool. On occasion I’ve stumbled over stuff I didn’t even think was possible, and yet there it is, in plain view.


That’s Martin Bruchanov’s shpaint, which is a simple, mouse-driven ANSI art editor for terminal emulators. You can probably figure out how to use shpaint just by looking at that screenshot; click on a foreground color, a background color and a glyph, and click away until your artwork is complete.

It’s all the more impressive when you realize it’s written in bash. And to really blow your mind, Martin points out that it’s done in only 180 lines of bash.😯

If I have 180 lines to work with, I’m lucky if I get “Hello, world” to appear on the screen.:\

shpaint isn’t perfect, but that doesn’t detract from its coolness. For one thing, it doesn’t work in a virtual console; I tried to fire up gpm and draw my rendition of the Mona Lisa (imagine a stick figure in garish colors), but apparently shpaint doesn’t work that way.

shpaint also can’t really do more than plot a glyph at a time. No line functions or paint-fill buckets. You have to do this old-school, like we used to do things back in the 80s.

Martin admits that occasionally something goes haywire between shpaint, bash and the terminal emulator, and clicking a cell will cause weird and random painting effects. That happened to me once or twice, but the fix is easy — just exit shpaint with CTRL+C, which saves your file automatically, then restart it and all is well.

shpaint sends your rendition of Whistler’s Mother to a flat file that will spill out the same image just with the cat command, meaning you can probably work this into other, more advanced editors to handle more intricate touchup. Don’t feel guilty doing that; our artist at work regularly sketches with a pencil, then scans her work into a computer and does everything else in Photoshop.

In fact, I’m no Picasso, but I daresay there are probably some parts of text-based artistry that would be well-served by relying on shpaint as an option to aewan, cavewall or duhdraw, even if it’s just for the speed of plotting points with the mouse, as opposed to cursor controls.

shpaint wins points from me just for being amazing and cool, but also for doing its job cleanly, obviously and without unnecessary bloat. I know this technically falls down on some of the points I like to see in text-based programs, but I think it deserves a star anyway:⭐ Give it a try.😉

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