How to add a custom iMessage avatar in iOS 13

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Memoji are awesome. Here's how to make your own.
Now you can use Memoji in iMessage profiles.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

You know how you can add an avatar to pretty much any social app ever, and all your friends, family, contacts, etc., will see it? Well, in iOS 13 you can finally do the same for iMessages.

No longer will you have to hope that your contacts use a nice photo of you, or worry that your boss is using a picture of a cute pig or pussycat to represent you in the group chat. Now you can add and share your own avatar, or even a Memoji. Let’s see how.

Set up your new profile inside the Messages app.
Set up your new profile inside the Messages app.
Photo: Cult of Mac

There are two ways to get started adding an avatar to your iMessage account in iOS 13. One is in the Messages app itself, and the other is in the Settings app, under Settings > Messages.

To get started, open up the Messages app and tap the ellipsis icon (…) at the top of the sidebar. Then tap Edit Name and Photo and follow along with the walk-through.

To add a custom photo to iMessages, first choose the image and add your name.
Choose your name and photo.
Photo: Cult of Mac

First, you’ll be prompted to pick a photo. One option is just your initials, in a circle. But you also will see your current address-book avatar, taken from your contacts card, plus several other options. Underneath the photo picker is a section to add your name. It, too, will be prefilled with your own name.

Confirm your choices to add a photo to your iMessages.
Confirm.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Tap Continue and you’ll be asked if you want to use the new photo everywhere. Your contacts card also will be updated with this new picture.

Next is a panel asking who you want to share this info with. The choices are Contacts Only and Always Ask. Pick the one you want.

Edit your Messages profile in Settings

The Settings app shows more options in one go.
The Settings app shows more options in one go.
Photo: Cult of Mac

You can edit your name and picture anytime you like from inside the Messages app. Alternatively, you can make the same changes in the Settings app, where you will benefit from a more practical interface for making the tweaks. For instance, here’s the photo suggestions page, complete with custom Memoji and photos of you grabbed from the People album in the Photos app.

All your custom Memoji are available as stickers.
All your custom Memoji are available as stickers.
Photo: Cult of Mac

If you select a Memoji or Animoji (including a cute pig, if you like), you will see another page where you can pick a pose. This is the same as the Memoji sticker maker. After that, you can crop the photo inside a circle before saving it so it will work perfectly with iMessages.

Finally! iMessage avatars

Smile!
Smile!
Photo: Cult of Mac

Letting us change our iMessage avatars is a neat catchup feature from Apple. You’ve been able to pick your own image since forever in pretty much all other messaging apps. But of course, Apple’s way is nicer, because it incorporates your contacts card, your photos and your Memoji. I also like that you can easily choose only to share it with your contacts.

One thing I don’t like is that you can’t override another person’s image in your own Messages app. You can switch off all photos or show all photos. But there’s no option to force the Messages app to use a picture from your own contacts list. That means that if your teenage nephew chooses some gross picture for his iMessage ID, you’ll be forced to see it.