How to add icons (Emoticons) to your Messages

[Updated January 2015]

Here’s a tip I learned from my daughter.  She showed me how she was able to insert cute little icons – often referred to as “emoticons” – into the text messages she sent in iMessage.  These instructions work for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.  The screenshots here show how things look using iOS 8, but the basic steps should still work for earlier versions of  iOS.

What is iMessage?

iMessage is a text-messaging application on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad first introduced with iOS (Apple’s mobile operating system) version 5.  Using iMessage, you can send text messages over WiFi to other iOS users.  This means that your son or daughter armed with an iPod touch can text friends who also have an iPod touch.   (Yes, you can restrict iMessage if desired!)

Cute little iPhoneSo, my daughter will send me messages with more than just the cute smiley :-) .  She sends sad smileys, pictures of food, thumbs up, music notes, animal faces, you name it. They even have an iPhone – wow, Apple has just thought of everything!

Here’s how to make these little icons available.  It’s done using what’s called the “Emoji Keyboard”.

(What’s Emoji? Good question! Here’s the answer)


How to Add the Emoji Keyboard

1. Go to Settings > General.  Scroll down and select Keyboard.

Keyboard option in Settings in iOS


2. Select Keyboards.  Then select “Add New Keyboard…

Select keyboard in iOS 8 to add a new keyboard  Select Add New Keyboard

4. You’ll see a list of available keyboards.  If you don’t see “Emoji” near the top, scroll down to find and select it.   (While you’re here, you can see what other international keyboards are available).

Select Emoji keyboard from list of keyboards


Emoji has been added to your keyboards.  You can close out of Settings.

How to add emoticons using the Emoji Keyboard

Now that you’ve added the Emoji keyboard, how do you use it? On the keyboard, you can switch between your standard keys and the Emoji keyboard to use the icons.  Just click the “smiley face” icon (or globe icon as shown here, if you have several keyboards) in the lower left of the keyboard to switch to Emoji. (Press and hold the globe key to switch between keyboards if needed.)

Select the globe or smiley face to switch between keyboards Press and hold the globe icon to switch between multiple keyboards


Add your icons, and click the globe (or smiley) to switch back to the regular keyboard.  You can do this any time you are typing – Messages, E-mail, and other apps where you can enter text.  Just keep in mind that non-iDevice recipients may not see the icons.

Look at all the cute icons you can use in your messages!

That’s it!

A few notes:

  • With the release of iOS8, you can also purchase keyboards from the app store.  When you do, you would add them using the same steps as used here to add the Emoji keyboard or international keyboards.
  • You might notice in the screenshots here, in my iMessage I have the option to add a Subject line to my message. You can add this from Settings > Messages > Show Subject Field.

That’s it! Try it out and have some fun with your messages. :-)


About Jean

Hi! I'm a webmaster, technology educator and creator of Be Web Smart. I hope you found this article useful. If you are new here, you might like to sign up for e-mail updates, view Links and Resources on similar topics, and subscribe to the RSS feed.