Chibimojis: A dad and his daughter walk into the App Store

We made adorable manga faces you can add to iPhone messages!

They're iMessage "stickers," a fairly obscure feature of Apple's texting system that, it turns out, are pretty easy to make – and make public.

If you want to add them to your phone, find the iMessage stickers here ...

... and search for "Chibimojis" (they're free!)

The faces were drawn by my 14-year-old daughter, who wanted to learn how to use Affinity Designer. I've found that a great way to learn something is to make something, and my colleague Eva Scazzero had shared this video about how to make iMessage stickers.

What a perfect project!

Making Faces

My daughter started drawing a dozen faces, inspired by the "chibi" style of manga characters and guided by some great instructional videos. She learned about making vectors, gradients, curves ... and lots of other skills.

When she was done, it was my turn to learn – about how to get those images into the App Store. I use Apple's tools in my job at Quartz, but I've never started a project from scratch.

Turning the images into a sticker pack was a breeze using Xcode, Apple's software development kit, and the video Eva suggested.

Grumpy Face Emoji

But then I got quite lost trying to get our creation into the App Store, and my path to a smiling face meandered a lot. But I learned a lot.

First off, there are three separate environments involved:

  • The Apple Developer Portal: a website where you establish your relationship with Apple.
  • Xcode: the software you download and use to build an app (or sticker pack) and upload it to the Apple system.
  • iTunes Connect: a website where you manage the app, invite people to test it, construct an App Store page, and actually submit the thing for Apple's approval.

It's not always obvious how these environments are connected, which definitely could be clearer (at least for me). In case you'd like to give it a whirl, here are some of the things I learned along the way:

  • Before building, I should have established my relationship with Apple through the Apple Development Portal first. That I hadn't tripped me up later.
  • I signed up using my little company, instead of registering as just me. That required getting a D-U-N-S number, chatting with someone at Apple to confirm my legal authority, and paying $99. All of that went really smoothly, though it took a few days.
  • Once established I rebuilt our sticker project in Xcode, making sure my company was the selected account under "Preferences."
  • There's a whole thing about signing certificates, which I let Xcode just handle. One catch: My iPhone had to be connected to my computer for this work.
  • I couldn't figure out how to get the finished sticker pack out of Xcode and over to Apple. The answer is that you "archive" it in Xcode and follow the steps from there. (To me, "archive" means store it away in the basement in case you need it again.)
  • To get the archive to appear on the iTunes Connect website, I went there, picked "My Apps," and clicked the "+" sign to add an app. The next step required my app's "bundle ID," which I couldn't seem to get right. Eventually it worked using reallygoodsmarts.Chibimojis.
  • The App Store submission required both iPhone and iPad Pro screenshots of our stickers. I don't have an iPad Pro, but I could use the device simulator in Xcode, which has a screenshot option.

Once we got all the boxes filled out and the screenshots ready, we submitted the stickers to the App Store. They were approved in just two days!

And now we are ...