In iOS 13, Apple introduced Memoji stickers—cartoonish avatars you can customize to your liking with different, predetermined expressions. You could stick with the animal (or Animoji) defaults, but it’s much more fun to make a Memoji that looks like you, not some generic doodle.
You can also use Memojis outside of the iOS environment and in other apps like Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. This means you can spread the love to all your friends in a very personal, accurate way.
To make a Memoji, open iMessage, tap on the Memoji Stickers icon (it’s the little monkey), and then the plus icon. This will open the creator, and you’ll find you have quite a number of options to customize your avatar:
- Skin. For choosing skin tone and other details such as freckles, beauty spots, and how blush-y the cheeks will be.
- Hairstyle. Here you’ll find options for haircut and color. They’re predetermined and there’s not much you can do to customize them, but there are a lot.
- Brows. For selecting the style and color of your eyebrows. You can also add eyebrow piercings or include a Hindu bindi, if you wear one.
- Eyes. This will let you control the shape and color of your eyes, as well as the length of your eyelashes. You can also experiment with adding eye liner and eye shadow in different colors.
- Head. For determining the shape of your head and general age.
- Nose. There’s not much variety when it comes to choosing a nose—you’ve got only three options—but you can add a nose piercing.
- Mouth. Here you can pick the shape of your mouth, the color of your lips, and how your teeth look. Plus, you can add any lip or tongue piercings.
- Ears. For whether you have lobed or lobeless ears. As you could have imagined, you can also add ear piercings and even AirPods (yes, really).
- Facial hair. For adding and coloring beards, sideburns, and mustaches.
- Eyewear. To add glasses, monocles, or eyepatches.
- Headwear. Here you can add hats or religious head garb.
Across all the options, there is a huge amount you can control. If you want to make a green-skinned alien covered in piercings, you can. On the other hand, if you want to make a cartoon-y, but realistic, avatar of you or your friend, you can, too.
Give birth to your Memoji child
To me, the real fun of a Memoji is being able to use my (gorgeous) face as an emoji reaction in my chats—why go with a boring yellow circle-creature when I can use me? The tricky part is that this only works if the Memoji is accurate. If people look at it and go, “It looks kind of like you, but skinnier,” it loses its effect. So let’s look at how to make a good, accurate, entertaining Memoji.
First, start by having a good look at the person you’re Memoji-fying. If it’s you, take a selfie or have a mirror handy during the whole process of designing your avatar. This will help you get a more accurate depiction of what you look like, instead of what you think you look like.
While there are lots of options, you really only control a few facial features when you make a Memoji, so you’ll want to get them right. Here’s a photo of the person I’m using: me.
Next, open iMessage and start creating a Memoji. First, you’ll have to select a skin color. Pick one that’s closest to your real skin tone, but don’t stop there. As will become a theme, the key to making a good Memoji isn’t choosing the right shade among the 17 default options, but using the slider to tweak whatever you picked and make it super accurate. For this step, I actually held my iPhone up to my arm to match my choice with my actual skin tone as much as I could.
Also, make sure you scroll down and don’t miss out on all the options available in the Skin tab. If you have freckles, beauty spots or your cheeks are particularly pink, this is where you can add those details. It’ll really make a difference.
Next up is hairstyle and color. Picking a hairstyle is relatively simple: scroll through all the available alternatives and go with the one that’s closest to yours. You might not get something perfect, but there’s not much leeway here, so it’ll have to do.
Hair color, however, is one of the features you can really play around with and get right. As you did when choosing your skin tone, select the hair color that’s closest to yours from the available options and use the slider to tweak it. Then, scroll down and dive into the new Highlights option. This is where you’ll be able to take a somewhat accurate hair color and make it exactly like yours by adding effects like sun-bleached hair or fading dyes. I recommend you play around with the highlight color and the blending mode (Modern, Classic, and Gradient), which will give your Memoji’s hair either a more natural or a dip-dye look.
For brows, your options are pretty limited. Pick the style that best matches you and tweak the color relative to your hair—consider that your eyebrows tend to be a few shades darker than your hair. If you have a brow piercing or wear a bindi, you can add those here, too, and choose from a wide variety of colors and styles.
Eyes are the windows to your soul—and also super important if you want your Memoji to look good. Go back to that mirror or photo and properly look at the color of your eyes. Try to nail down tones and undertones (grey, blue-grey, and green-grey are different), and dial it in.
In the Memoji world, eye shape will always be cartoonish and exaggerated, so unless you have a distinctive eye shape, I’d suggest sticking with the default. Also, don’t forget about the makeup options. If you always wear eyeliner or eyeshadow, you can add it here. Getting small details like the right eyeshadow shade spot-on really sells the effect.
For the head, there isn’t much you can do other than shape. Choose the one that matches you best—it all comes down to how strong the jawline is and how long the head is. Here you can also play around with how old you look, which is almost more important than your actual face shape. The default Memojis look young and childish, and that’s fine if you’re in your teens, or even 20s or 30s. But if you’re a bit older, you might be able to make your Memoji more accurate by using the older age option. It adds a bit of realism by adding laughter lines to your eyes and a few other bits of texture to the otherwise creepily smooth skin.
Nose, mouth, and ears are all fairly limited. Go through these options and choose the most accurate. It’s better to err toward caricature than away—since Memojis are cartoons, it’ll at least look funny. Make sure to get the lip color and any jewelry right, too.
If you have a beard or mustache, facial hair is the most important tab—where you dial in your most distinctive (and epic) facial feature. Like with the hair, you’ll also get a highlights option here, so make sure you use it to get the color right.
The last two tabs, eyewear and headwear, are where you either add the finishing touches to your accurate Memoji—or have a little fun. I look stellar in a cowboy hat.
And with that, you’re close to finished. Go back through and tweak any final options. Otherwise, tap Done to save your Memoji. If you want to make any edits, you can always go back to the Memoji creator later, slide to your avatar, and tap Edit—I’m still thinking about that stetson.
Using Memoji stickers
Until iOS 13, Memoji were confined to iMessage—but with Memoji stickers, they’re now available system-wide. If the stickers themselves aren’t supported, they can be inserted into your messaging app as images.
To use them, tap the Emoji (or World) icon in the bottom left of the default keyboard and scroll to the left. Your Recently Used Memoji will show here—to see them all, tap the three little dots. Select the one you want to use—and start adding real personality to your messages.