Last week, my wife and I released Hovmojis into the world. It was my first time releasing anything on the App Store, and it was a process that was both simpler than I expected, and harder than it should’ve been. There are a handful of helpful guides out there already (Dami Lee’s guide for The Verge made me believe Hovmojis were even possible for a novice like myself, and Tony Dahbura’s thorough, two-part guide brought Hovmojis past the snags and snafus into existence), but I’m adding my own experiences for any other pet owners out there who want to transform their cute little nuisance into a sticker pack.
Without further ado, I present 10 easy steps to turn photos of your pet into a sticker pack for iOS 10 in under 48 hours, complete with 10 photos of my pet cat Hova, from our sticker pack for iOS 10. I do recommend taking these steps in order to move through the process while taking advantage of built-in delays, like account approvals and massive download times.
1. Sign up for an Apple Developer Account
An Apple Developer account costs $99 per year, and takes about two weekdays to process. You won’t be able to access iTunesConnect without it, which will slow you down when you actually have all the pieces and part you need to submit your sticker to the App Store. Do this first.
2. Take photos of your pet
I’m lucky that my wife is a fanatic about taking photos of our cat sleeping/stalking/snoozing/dreaming/hiding/burrowing/nesting. If you are a cat lad or lady already, or whatever the dog/guinea pig/lizard equivalent is, you likely have many photos to choose from. If not, I recommend getting 10-20 photos of different “poses”, facial “expressions”, and “attitudes” to make your sticker pack shine.
3. Download Xcode 8
Xcode 8 is ~4 gigs. Make sure you have room for it, and make sure you have the patience for the program to download.
4. Make the stickers in Photoshop
Import all the files into Photoshop. To remove the photos from their background (unless you took all your posed photos on a green screen), use the magnetic lasso to get as close as possible to your pet, then an eraser at minimal hardness to clean up the edges. Like any move in Photoshop, there are often a thousand ways to achieve the same goal. Lassos and erasers work for me!
I enjoy batch work, so I’d go through and free my pet from their photos, then worry about resizing and exporting. With an eye to the iMessage App guidelines, begin resizing. The stickers app supports three sizes (300px x 300px, 408px x 408px, 618px x 618px), and each individual sticker must be less than 500kb. Because our cat is not a monster, I went with the middle size. Save them as PNG files with transparent backgrounds, and you’re good to go.
5. Create App Icon and Screenshots
We created our app icon in a rather laborious way: Glory illustrated Hov’s face on paper with ink, then I scanned it and re-illustrated it in Photoshop to create that happy cat you see at the top of this post (cat in real life is rarely this happy). You can also just use a PNG photo. For this, though, there shouldn’t be any transparencies, so save it on a white background, merge layers, and export away.
For our screenshots, I typed up sample conversations in the Simulator you can run on Xcode. There are many ways to approach both app icons and screenshots, but the biggest hassle for them both is all the necessary sizes you’ll need for the app store.
Never fear! I found two (free!) services that’ll save you many headaches. Make App Icon requires a single image at 1536 x 1536px, and it does the rest of the work for you. The result is a download link to an archive with icons for iOS, iMessenger, and Android.
Likewise, App Store Optimization saved me from a mental breakdown at midnight. Our screenshots are below.
6. Write out app info
Clear Bridge Mobile put together a nice list of what app information you need to assemble before submitting, including description, keywords, support URL, categories, and rating. Their guide is also very thorough for any snags you hit with the next step.
7. Make your stickers in Xcode
In theory, this step should be simple. Tutorials abound. There exists a template for sticker apps. But – be careful! If you’re completely new to app development, this isn’t the step to get creative. Follow the guides. Click around at your own risk. Ultimately, complications with this step (specifically, certificate signing issues) were my biggest hurdle.
This is also the place where you can simulate your app, and take screen grabs of the simulation, if that’s the route you want to go for screenshots.
8. Upload to iTunes Connect
You’re in the home stretch. Your screenshots are made, your app icon is sized and resized, your words are written, your sticker pack is archived. Go through the few pages of creating a new app in iTunesConnect… and press Submit.
From submission to approval, my sticker pack took about 6 hours. Others report the process taking up to 5 days.
10. Share with the other cat ladies in your life
Congratulations! You can now stick your furry friend onto every iMessage conversation you have (though you may need to help people in your life figure out just how to use stickers so they can return the favor).
That’s really it. Let me know if you have any questions. My Google history is filled with the minutiae (embedded binary is not signed with the same certificate at the parent app!? The &*$* does that mean!?), and I’m happy to share any of it that’ll help you create. Also – thank you kindly to the brave men and women who went before me and paved my path to sticker pack success. You all did a cat-tacular job.
Also published on Medium.