How to Make Emoticons

By Ethan Pendleton

One of the problems with communicating via the Internet is that you don't get the nonverbal cues that help you know what someone really means. Emoticons were developed to help get that nuance across. Emoticons are symbols consisting of keyboard characters that look like something else and are used to enhance conversation over the Internet. For example, take the old-fashioned smiley face: =). When you include one after a joke, you can be more confident your reader knows you are kidding.

Step 1

Review the other emoticons out there to get an idea of what other people have created. First, you don't want to repeat what others have done, but you also want to innovate a little bit. Lots of people have used =( as a sad face. If your emoticon has a frown, you could try something new and use a capital C instead: =C

Step 2

Think about the different objects each keyboard character can represent. An equal symbol (=) can look like eyes or the shaft of an arrow or any number of things. You don't have to stick to using faces in emoticons. The only limit is your imagination. Here, for example, is a carrot, complete with leaves: }}}=c==>

Step 3

Think practically about your emoticons. While ASCII art uses keyboard characters to make shaded, detailed photographs, emoticons are generally restricted to one line. They must also look like the intended object. If no one can tell what the emoticon is supposed to be, your intended meaning will be lost. Send your ideas to friends and see what they think.

Step 4

Emphasize on a single feature for emphasis with your emoticons. What is the most important characteristic about the subject of your emoticon, and how can you represent it with a keyboard character? For example, if you want to make an emoticon of your Uncle Frank and he has a cleft in his chin, using the number 3 will get that across. (And it might make people chuckle, too.)

Step 5

Review how your new emoticons are working. Try them out on Internet message boards so you can tell if strangers understand the meaning you want to convey. Adjust them until you have unique emoticons that reflect your personality while giving other netizens a new way to express themselves.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be as creative as possible.