I’ve been drawing Twitch emotes for a couple of years now and I had the chance to create over 250 emotes for amazing streamers. When I first started, there was barely any information on how to create those personalized emoticons. I had a hard time gathering what I needed to know to create the right graphics. It’s mostly with trial and error that I figured out my preferred way of creating emotes for streamers. Here is a creation guide to help you out getting started with drawing emotes.
BUT FIRST, WHAT ARE EMOTES AND WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?
Emote is a word used by Twitch to designate the personalized emoticons streamers use in their live stream chat. They help portray expression and feelings when there are no words suitable for it. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Emotes are also a good way to showcase a community to new viewers.
They are accessible to all subscribers of the streamer and they can be used in all chat the subscribed viewer is taking part in. With that in mind, good emotes could attract viewers to subscribe to a channel if they really like the emotes.
There are a lot of artists that create emotes and multiple styles and price ranges are available. There are anime, cartoons, animals, texts, some are more realistic than others, etc. You just have to find what you are more comfortable creating.
They are a big part of the stream aesthetic and the streamer’s community so that is one of the reasons why they are so important. They are the identity of the streamer and his community and it’s our job to make it the best possible.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE STARTING
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to creating emotes. For example, since their size is very small, you won’t see as many details and if it stayed bigger. Details, in that type of creation, are not recommended because they will make the emote too busy and might negatively impact the readability of the emote in chat. You have to find a way to portray what the streamer wants with the few details as possible but still create as much impact as possible.
Another thing to keep in mind is the different display preferences a viewer can use. If a viewer uses light mode vs dark mode, it affects the visibility of some emotes. Black emotes and white emotes are usually more difficult to create because we have to consider the two colours display. A dark lining can help a very light design and a white outline helps a very dark design.
The most important thing is to put what the streamer wants first. The streamer knows what his/her/their community wants and needs and it’s up to us to bring his/her/their ideas to life.
Before even starting sketching something, it is very important to communicate with your client to figure out what the need is. First of all, is it something you can do? If not, be honest and they will appreciate it and both parties won’t waste time. Talk about the streamer’s vision, why he/she/they are getting that emote. Make them explain the “inside joke” that gave the idea. It will help you visualize an emote for them. Therefore, help you create something suitable in the first few tries. Gather references because they are also very helpful in the process.
It’s in that step that you first put an idea on paper. You go back and forth communicating on what needs to be there, the expression and the pose. The sketch needs to be loosely done so you don’t spend a lot of time and create a final piece and end up not being what the streamer wants. Work intelligently, start with a loose sketch. It’s also important to explain to the streamer when showing them, that it’s just a first draft to figure out the ideas. A couple of them might think it’s the final version.
3- LINE WORK
When the sketch is approved, you can start the linework. Lines can be as thick or thin as you wish (depending on your style). They have to be crisp and beautiful, they are the frame of your design. Some artists keep it black, some colour it but that decision is usually made in the colour stage. and forth communicating on what needs to be there, the expression and the pose. The sketch needs to be loosely done so you don’t spend a lot of time and create a final piece and end up not being what the streamer wants. Work intelligently, start with a loose sketch. It’s also important to explain to the streamer when showing them, that it’s just a first draft to figure out the ideas. A couple of them might think it’s the final version.
As previously discussed with the initial idea, you should have a small palette of colours for the emote. Start with the base colours. Depending on your preferred style, you add shadows and highlights to bring the emote to life. Too many details are not necessary for that step either. The readability must always be on your mind when creating the emote.
Test your emotes in a visualization tool. Some of these tools are available online and they help you see the emote as if they were in a chat. You can see if it reads well in different chats (dark or light), if you can understand what it portrays, if the colours are too dark or bright, etc. I usually make a couple of examples and compare them to select the best one.
6- FINAL APPROVAL AND RESIZING
When the final emote is approved by the streamer, you can resize the emote in the three sizes needed on Twitch for the upload. They will need a 112x112px, 56x56px and 28x28px. Twitch now offers a tool that resizes the emotes for them, but I still think it’s professional to send them the three sizes in case something happens.
With all of these steps, it’s important to communicate with your client and show the progress so you can adjust throughout the creation. How many revisions and the terms of services must be decided by you since many artists have different ways of working. The most important thing is to always respect yourself in the process and it’s your right to refuse to create something you don’t feel comfortable with.
TIPS & TRICKS
These tips and tricks are opinions of my own. Some ways I prefer using. Not everyone works the same but these might help you out starting while you figure out your preferred way of working.
- Start on a small canvas. Since they end up really small, you don’t need a 6000×6000 canvas, unless the streamer paid for commercial use fees where they need bigger files. You’ll save time and effort, especially in the linework.
- Don’t put too many details on anything. I know it’s difficult but putting too many details won’t make a great emote.
- Vibrant colours! Find a balanced palette that appears well on light and dark and make the emote pop.
- Show the client every step of the creation. Make them approve what you are doing so you don’t have to work twice, three times on the emote. Also, make sure that they know that if they approve one step, you don’t go back after. For example, they approve the sketch, the next thing they can have revisions on is the colours. If they want to change the sketch/line work, you have to charge them a part of a new emote. Your work is worth something.
- Don’t be scared to recommend and guide the streamer on what would look good or not. With time, you will have a good idea of what works and doesn’t work. Recommend ideas, if they chose you as an artist, they will trust your judgment.
- Keep your style. As I said, there are many different styles and you’ll find your own. If people want to completely change your way of drawing, you can refuse. Show them your portfolio and keep your track. You will be known for your aesthetic. I’m also not saying to refuse everything! Just be logical in what you create and what you want to present as your work.
Emotes are amazing and super fun to create. I always loved bringing people’s ideas and visions to life. Having a happy client proudly use his emotes in the chat is so rewarding.
There are many artists out there that draw emotes but there are also so many streamers (and growing). There is a place for everyone on the internet. The key in all of this is to find what makes you different and most important, HAVE FUN!
Let me know, what types of emotes you prefer in the comments below.