How to Make an Emoji from a Photo (iOS 17)

What to Know

  • You can customize an emoji by turning a photo into a sticker in iOS 17.
  • Just long press on a photo, tap Add Sticker, then choose your effect.
  • Third-party apps like Top Sticker can also help you create your own emojis.

Have you wondered how to make your own emoji images? Apple lets users create Memojis, and as of iOS 17, it now lets you make emojis from pictures! Below, we lay out how convert an image to an emoji and how to make your own emoji using a third-party app.

Related: How to Create a Memoji on iPhone & iPad

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How to Make an Emoji from a Photo

If you're like us, the appeal of an emoji picture is strong! After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. With iOS 17, available as a public beta since July and expeted to be officially released in September, you can create a custom emoji from one of your photos. This is the easiest way to make a personalized emoji and you'll be able to access it in your new Stickers drawer in your Messages app and elsewhere. Here's how to do it:

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  1. Open the photo you want to convert into a personalized emoji.

    customize emoji
  2. Long press on the subject until a menu appears on top.

    make emoji from photo
  3. Tap Add Sticker.

    make emoji from photo
  4. Tap Add Effect.

    convert image to emoji
  5. From here, you can choose what kind of sticker you want, e.g. Comic, Puffy, or Shiny.

    how to make emoji from a photo
  6. If you want your Live Photo sticker to move, tap Original and make sure Live is toggled on.

    personalized emoji
  7. Tap Done.

    emoji picture

And there you have it! If you haven't updated to iOS 17 or want the option to be more precise in cropping the image you're using for your emoji, keep reading to learn how to use a third-party app to create a custom emoji.

Apps to Make Your Own Emoji

There are several apps on the App Store that help you make a personal emoji. You can pick the one that will give you the type of emoji you want. For this project, we used the app called Top Stickers because it offers the photo-based emojis we wanted.

Other popular apps to make your own emoji are Bitmoji and Moji Maker. Bitmoji allows you to make an emoji likeness of yourself or someone else in a cartoon style. You can use a selfie or Bitmoji’s design elements to create your own character. Moji Maker allows you to get a result that is much closer to Apple’s native emojis for your personal emoji. You can customize and animate nearly any emoji you can imagine with this app. 

How to Make Emoji Pictures

It may seem like a lot of steps to achieve the perfect custom emoji, but stick with us—it will be worth it! We'll demonstrate the steps in the Top Stickers app, but the steps will be similar in almost any app you choose. Be sure to also check out our article to get the scoop on all the new emojis that dropped in 2022. And, to learn more about fun ways to jazz up your texts in the Messages app, sign up for our Tip of the Day newsletter.

  1. Open the App Store.

    app store for custom emoji
  2. Search for Top Stickers (the name may appear slightly different in the App Store listing).
  3. Tap Get.
  4. Once the app is downloaded, tap Open.

    top stickers to make emoji pictures
  5. If prompted, tap Allow Access to All Photos and move on to Step 10.
  6. If you do not receive a prompt, tap Enable Library Access.

    enable access to create photo emoji
  7. Tap Photos.

    tap photos for emoji images
  8. Tap All Photos.

    tap all photos to make emoji
  9. Return to the Top Stickers app.

    open custom emoji app
  10. Tap Create.

    tap get for custom emoji maker
  11. Choose the picture you want to turn into an emoji picture.

    chose picture to make your own emoji
  12. Tap Magic Wand to select the object in the image you want to turn into an emoji. (If there is a clear subject in your photo like our example, the magic wand will automatically select it.)

    magic want to edit emoji images
  13. If you need to edit the borders and background of your selection, use the Eraser Tool.

    eraser tool to edit custom emoji
  14. Tap Done when you are satisfied with your selection.

    eraser tool to edit custom emoji
  15. Use pinch or reverse-pinch motions with your fingers to increase or decrease the image size.

    size emoji images
  16. Utilize any of the other tools to edit your image. (Some tools require in-app purchases).
  17. Adjust the crop of your emoji picture so that it's cropped more closely to the image, then tap Done.

    crop photo emoji
  18. Select an existing pack to put your sticker in or tap Create a New Pack.

    select pack and and save emoji pictures
  19. If you created a new pack, give your pack a name. Packs are automatically private and available only on your iPhone. To allow anyone to find and use your new emoji, change the status to public.

    name pack of custom emoji or make photo emoji public
  20. Tap Save.

    save emoji image
  21. You may now need to sit through a few ads.
  22. Tap Send Stickers.

    tap send stickers to make an emoji of yourself
  23. Tap Send to iMessage. This makes your stickers available in the Messages app.

    tap send to imessage to use photo emoji
  24. Close Top Stickers, open the Messages app, and select the conversation in which you want to send the sticker.

    open messages app to send personal emoji
  25. Swipe left or right through the apps at the bottom of your screen to find the Top Stickers icon.

    scroll through apps to find my emoji pics
  26. Select Top Stickers.

    top stickers to send custom emoji
  27. Select the sticker you want to send.

    select custom emoji
  28. Tap Send.

    send personal emoji


  • What is the sticker feature on iOS 17? The sticker feature is new to iOS 17 and lets you make a sticker out of a photo to send in Messages and other places.
  • Where can I find my stickers in iOS 17? In your Messages app, tap the Plus icon to the left of your text field and tap Stickers.
  • Can I make a custom emoji for free? Yes! With iOS 17, you can make custom emojis for free, and many apps also offer this feature for free.
  • Why isn't my Live Sticker working? You might need to tap Add Effect and under Original make sure Live is toggled on in the top left corner.
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Author Details

Emma Chase's picture

Author Details

Emma Chase

Emma Chase is a freelance writer for iPhone Life. She has her Bachelors degree in Communication from the University of Northern Iowa. Emma has worked in many sectors in her professional career, including the higher education, finance, and nonprofit. Emma lives in small-town Iowa with her husband and two children. When she’s not geeking out over the newest Apple product or wrangling her kids, Emma enjoys a good book, crocheting, and trying new foods.