Lose the Cartoon Yellow People Emoji! How to Access Diverse Emoji Icons in iOS

Apr 11, 2015 - 30 Comments

Access the Diverse Emoji in iOS Keyboard

Apple has changed the Emoji characters in iOS and OS X to include many new diverse emoji variations. In the process of diversifying our Emoji keyboards, Apple also turned most of the default people emoji icons into curious looking yellow characters, which look a bit like LEGO characters meet The Simpsons. But once you understand how to access the diverse Emoji skin tone variations, you can change the yellow people emoji to default to your choice of the diverse emoji variations.

Obviously you’re going to need the Emoji keyboard enabled in iOS to have access to these new color shades of emoji characters. If you don’t have the Emoji keyboard on your iPhone or iPad, yet, it’s easy to turn on and pretty fun to have around.

Access the Diverse Emoji Colors on iPhone & iPad Keyboard

  1. From anywhere you can input text in iOS, tap on the Emoji keyboard icon to switch to the emoji characters
  2. From the “People” section of the Emoji keyboard, tap and hold on a yellow person to access the multiple diverse skin tone variations of that Emoji person icon
  3. Accessing the diverse Emoji skin tone variations on iPhone

  4. Select the shade or color variation of the Emoji person to use, this will insert that character into the keyboard but also make that variation the new default for that particular Emoji character
  5. Repeat as desired with other Emoji characters

Typing the new Emoji skin tone variations

Remember, selecting a new skin tone variation Emoji will set that color as the new default for that Emoji character icon.

The diverse Emoji variations are a welcome change for many iPhone and iPad users, though the ultra yellow default choice can look somewhat strange, and has led to some frustration from others who weren’t expecting an iOS update to change the color of their Emojis. It has also spawned plenty of jokes about the yellow shading, with users reporting that the yellow emoji look like anything from LEGO characters, to jaundice sufferers, to someone who applied a bit too much bronzer, to something from The Simpsons cartoon show.

The tap-and-hold functionality will be similar to anyone who has typed the degrees symbol or accessed special characters from the iOS virtual keyboard, it works the exact same here with many of the Emoji icons now.

The first time you access the keyboard in iOS post updating you should see a little message explaining this, but many users seemed to have either skipped it, ignored it, or perhaps never saw it.

The Emoji skin tone variation explainer for iOS

Keep in mind that if you’re sending one of the new Emoji icons or Emoji color variations to someone who does not yet have the most recent version of iOS or OS X, they will end up with a strange looking alien icon instead. Speaking of aliens, there’s a fun little Emoji easter egg in OS X and iOS that allows you to type the famous Spock “Live Long and Prosper” Vulcan salute.

For now, you’ll need to copy and paste Vulcan Salute Emoji, but once you use it a few times it will be naturally added to your “Recent Emoji” list, or you can set up a keyboard typing shortcut in iOS to type it out automatically with some shorthand.

If for some reason you don’t see these, or they aren’t loading for you, it’s likely due to the version of software you’re running. For iPhone and iPad, these new emoji were added in iOS 8.3, and for Mac they were added in OS X 10.10.3. Thus, updating to the most recent version of system software available should allow you to see and type the new Emoji icons.

And for Mac users, accessing the new skin tone varieties of Emoji icons is similar in OS X as well.


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Terry Tuthill says:

    Why can’t you change colour on the handshake 🀝 emoji

  2. :-) owen says:

    If all of you guys don’t like apple emojis why don’t you just download the app called Bitmoji where you design yourself, so you can texte you’re friends and send whatever…I have it and it’s amazing I barely use my regular emojies when I text my friends!!! :-) Have a nice dayπŸ˜πŸ˜‹

    One more thing…I hate the fact that you can’t customize the colour of you’re cartoon instead of having it yellow all the time that’s just boring c’mon Apple peopleπŸ™„πŸ˜’

  3. Amy Perna says:

    I really dislike the people emojis on iPhone. Whoever uses them?? They are a total waste of space. Please just get rid of them. Plus there is every flag in the world how about adding some more useful and everyday items? Thanks.

  4. Assclown says:

    It’s a cartoon. Get over yourself. You’re still going to use it daily. I would put an umpa-lumpa emoji if I could. Doesn’t mean I prefer orange colored people.

  5. Cherrie says:

    Can we have an emoji with an Afro please?

  6. Amelia says:

    Is there a reason that I dont have some of the emojis that my friends have (with older phones) My 6s isn’t even a week old and i have half the ones they all do and whenever they send ones I dont have I can’t view them at all they just turn to boxes. Its frustrating.

  7. Chelsea says:

    I changed one of the emoji a different color and now I don’t know how to get it back. it automatically puts the color I selected.

  8. Candace says:

    I appreciate the diversity of the individuals but all the couples are blonde it is not possible to change them. I’m offended!

  9. Aj says:

    My fav emoji(πŸ’ƒπŸ½) got changed to a white blond chick on my mac —-& i NEED to chang it!!!! Can I reset them all back?!?! Help😱

  10. Candy says:

    Don’t like the changes AT ALL!!! Want my old emojis back!

  11. Cheryl parrish says:

    After I have changed an emoji to a skin color, making it the default, how do I change to a new default?

  12. Kingsford says:

    While I could care less about the skin color of the emoji I send to people… I absolutely HATE HATE HATE the new layout for the emoji keyboard!!!! It sucks! I dont understand the need for changing it.

    • deon says:

      I didn’t notice Emoji keyboard layout changed, what is the difference?

      • Kingsford says:

        How can you not notice it? It looks completely different. The buttons are different and the crammed a bunch more emoji on one page and if you swipe to fast you over shoot the one you are looking for. It doesn’t have separate pages any more its all one huge keyboard to scroll through.

  13. DanDan says:

    I seriously thought they “somehow” detected that I was asian…..so I thought it was an assumed racial preference thing…which would surprise me and quite clever hahahahha oppps. Thought Apple was being a bit racist hahahahha

  14. Pilgrim says:

    It looks to me like the generic wristwatch emoji turned into an apple watch emoji. What a coincidence!

  15. RobertX says:

    Nothing wrong with what they were. It’s not like I have ever heard anyone EVER say “Hey, I wish this emoji person was black.”

  16. Steve says:

    Why no Caucasian with brown hair emoji??

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. And it’s unfair that they think Asians have pale skin. They should let us change skin and hair color.

  17. Icebox says:

    There is no way to edit or delete frequently used emoji’s list if you accidentally pick the wrong ones. It’ll stay there until you choose a bunch of other ones.

    • Imogeen says:

      They Frequently Used Emoji list changes as you use Emoji, so if you use other Emoji more frequently, it will change to those icons. Think of it like a Recent Items list, it’s not set, it changes depending on which emoji you use.

  18. Jeffrey Knudsen says:

    Maybe I’m just lucky but I can’t relate to these complaints about things crashing and whatever horribleness is happening because none of that has ever happened to me. My little 13 inch MacBook Pro and my iPhone 5 seem to work just fine.

  19. Robert D. says:

    Apple really has nothing better to work on? Give me a break, how about fixing the bugs in Yosemite and iOS 8? Or how about fixing iOS Safari so it doesn’t keep crashing? I am about ready to dump my iPhone and go Android.

    • Kevin says:

      Apple don’t create emoji’s, that’s done by the unicode community. Give us a break and just go to android, whinger. Then you’ll know what real problems are.

  20. Joe says:

    Yellow emoji’s are just fine and look better too.

    • Joaqin says:

      I think the choice of yellow is weird for the emoji icons. They look like LEGOS or The Simpsons cartoon characters, which I guess cartoon is good for Emoji, they’re kind of cartoony anyway? The ones that really creep me out are the yellow with the black beady eyes, like little creepers you’d see in a horror movie, not friendly looking Emoji!

    • PoorIrish says:

      Changing from the Yellow People color to a real skin color is weird and kind of awkward, there should be a setting to change all Emojis to what color you want them to be. And let people change the hair color of emoji separately too, and change eye color of each emoji too.

      Where are the red head Emoji? No Irish lads at Apple, I guess, just their tax haven.

  21. Prince says:

    I want to set the entire iPhone Emoji keyboard to a skin tone variation, rather than doing it individually. Should be a universal Emoji setting, right?

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