Skip to main content

How to make your own emoji

In a world where we’re increasingly communicating via text, the humble emoji — the little cartoonish pictograms we use to adorn text messages, emails, and online chats — has never been more important. Emoji can even make us seem more friendly to others. Originating in Japan in the late ’90s, emoji are now everywhere — a universal language that crosses devices, operating systems, and international borders. It doesn’t matter what country you are from or language you speak, we can all recognize the happiness in the “Blushing Smiling Face” emoji, or know that the person sending you an eggplant emoji clearly has a hankering for some eggplant parmesan.

Difficulty

Moderate

Duration

30 minutes

What You Need

  • A messaging service that allows for custom emoji

  • Image-editing software of your choice

Emoji can be used to convey a wide range of sentiments, but what to do if you want to say something specific with an emoji, and can’t quite find the right one for the task? You could always make your own emoji, although there are some restrictions. Here’s how to get started. Also, make sure to check out our guide on making your own emoji within Android.

How to create a custom emoji for a messaging service

If you use a messaging app like Discord or Slack — the former is popular with people playing multiplayer video games, while the latter is used by a lot of businesses for internal communications — then you may be happy to learn that adding your own emoji is a simple process.

To add an emoji, you first need to actually create one. Messaging services will typically have restrictions — on Slack, which we’ll be using to demonstrate, emoji can be no larger than 64KB, and neither the height nor width can exceed 128 pixels.

Step 1: Open your preferred image-editing software, such as the free, web-based Pixlr.

Step 2: Begin designing your emoji, starting with the initial shape.

If you’re confident in your artistic skills, you could make an emoji using the tools provided in the program. For a traditional emoji look, start with a yellow circle using a shape tool. Note: Use a transparent background, so the emoji will show up seamlessly against any background.

how to make emoji create 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: Add features like a mouth and eyes using tools like the pencil or shape tool.

how to make emoji an step 3
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to make an emoji using an existing image

If you’re looking to make an emoji out of a currently existing image, the process is simple.

Step 1: Find a picture you want to make into an emoji, such as a picture of Nicolas Cage in the movie Con Air.

how to make emoji nic cage con air
Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Step 2: Open the image in your photo-editing software. Using the lasso tool, trace along the edge of the future emoji.

how to make emoji an nic cage step 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: Once you’ve made a complete circuit, cut the selection (CTRL + X).

Step 4: Create a new image (and preferably make the background transparent, so the emoji will look good against any chat background).

Step 5: Paste the image into this new window.

Step 6: Make any remaining edits you might want, then save the image as a PNG (so as to preserve the transparent background).

how to make emoji add slack 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

How to add your custom emoji to Slack

However you end up creating your emoji, once you’ve saved it, open up your messaging app (in this case Slack).

Step 1: Click the emoji button, then scroll down until you see the link labeled add custom emoji here.

how to make emoji add slack 2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 2: Click it, then upload your image file and give the emoji a name.

How to add your custom emoji to Discord

Step 1: On Discord, find the server you want to add an emoji to.

Step 2: Open the drop-down menu in the upper left.

how to make emoji add discord 1
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 3: Select Server Settings.

how to make emoji add 2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 4: Click Emoji, then click the Upload Emoji button.

Note: You’ll need permission within the server to upload emoji. If it’s a server you created, you’ll automatically have that, but if the server’s creator has placed restrictions on who can upload, you’ll have to talk to them.

how to make emoji add discord 3
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The next level: Make a pitch to the Unicode Consortium

It only takes a tiny bit of effort to add your unique emoji designs to apps like Slack or Discord, but if your goal is getting your emoji on the iOS and Android keyboards, it will take a lot more work. The emoji icons that you see on your own smartphone keyboard, like the classic “smiling face with sunglasses” or “zipper-mouth face,” are actually run by a third-party group. Unicode Consortium regulates universal emojis. Unicode is a widely accepted standard for encoding text on electronic devices, ensuring that texts sent from a machine will show up properly on the receiving end, no matter the make or model.

The consortium carefully monitors and maintains its small group of approved emoji. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can submit your emoji design ideas via a proposal to the group. The consortium would then carefully evaluate your emoji on the following criteria: How frequently would people use the proposed emoji, how distinct the image looks, and whether it fills a niche that other emoji currently aren’t providing. Before sending in your proposal, remember that an emoji can’t model a real person or brand due to copyright infringement.

Review the full requirements for making a proposal directly on Unicode Consortium’s website.

Editors' Recommendations

Will Nicol
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Nicol is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends. He covers a variety of subjects, particularly emerging technologies, movies…
What is NFC? How it works and what you can do with it
NFC settings on an Android phone.

Near field communication (herein referred to as NFC) is a smartphone and wearable technology that lives in the shadows. Silently operating around the clock, NFC is relied upon for several device functions, with wireless transaction systems like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay being one of the biggest. But this cool tech can do far more than let you pay for a Twix with your iPhone. 

Here’s everything you need to know about NFC technology, and the many ways you can use the wireless protocol today.
What is NFC, and how does it work?
NFC, which is short for near-field communication, is a technology that allows devices like phones and smartwatches to exchange small bits of data with other devices and read NFC-equipped cards over relatively short distances. The technology behind NFC is very similar to radio-frequency identification (RFID) commonly used in the security cards and keychain fobs that you likely already use to get into your office or gym. In fact, NFC is an evolution of RFID that offers more advanced features and better security, but the two technologies still share a lot of things in common.

Read more
How to change your Gmail password
pilot testing drivers licenses internet rolls two us states password

Changing your Gmail password is incredibly important for your online security. If you're anything like the average user, your Gmail account is linked to dozens of other organizations and programs – and if your account gets hacked, there's no telling what sort of damage can be done.

Because of this, it's crucial to change your Gmail password at regular intervals. Google makes this a rather painless process, and it should take no more than a few seconds from start to finish.

Read more
How to change your Zoom background on Mac and Windows
A man working from home.

Not everyone builds their home office around video calls. And if your home office also doubles as your bedroom, kitchen, or is tucked away in a cluttered corner of your basement, you'll be glad to know that Zoom lets you hide your surroundings from your co-workers. One way the software does this is by letting you change your Zoom background, allowing others in the chat to see you while swapping out your environment for something more professional.

Want to make use of the cool feature? In this guide, we'll go over how to change your Zoom background using both built-in images and custom images uploaded by the user. We also cover how to blur your Zoom background, in case you want something a bit more low-key, along with how to add filters for something more fun.
Step 1: Access your Zoom settings

Read more