Part 2: Creating a Hand-lettered Sticker Pack for iMessage


Disclaimer: Since I am not an iOS developer, I have partnered with a friend (who we'll call JP) who handled the technical details of the sticker submission to the App Store. For more information on the technical requirements in submitting the sticker pack to the App Store, please refer to this page:

To see the rest of the stickers in the pack, and to support our work, you can download Nasty Christmas from the App Store.

We are now in Part 2 of this series:

Part 2: Sketching and Refining

Design Considerations

Designing for a specific use means that there is a need to consider some constraints.


For iMessage stickers, the following sizes are available:

  • Small: 300px by 300px
  • Medium: 408px by 408px
  • Large: 618px by 618px

During the initial sketching, the exact dimensions are not necessary. However, it is good to note that the design should fit a square or a rectangle.

Essence and Appeal:

The stickers should be easy to understand and convey the message to the recipients. They should also appeal to a broad audience.

Initial Sketching

Since I already know that I wanted the stickers to look a bit rough and hand-drawn to maintain its character, I did not need to experiment much with different styles anymore. Using a pencil, I began doodling for each of the chosen phrases, making sure that they fit squarely. I did rough thumbnails of the possible layouts until I was satisfied with how things were placed, then added some accents and illustrations to accompany the lettering. Here is a sample concept sketch.


If you are not sure what look you are going for, experiment with different styles and layouts first until you find something that suits the end goal. If you are having difficulty deciding which style, you can consider adding some constraints to the designs.

Refining the Sketch

After doing some initial drawings, I identified the elements that I want to keep. In the "Dear Santa" piece, I wanted to retain the paper and the pencil, so I made mental notes while I was drawing. To help you during the refining process, you can highlight the portions and the elements that need to be improved or that you need to keep using a different colored pen. You can also scan and print another copy before you make annotations if you want things to be neat.

After the initial sketches, these are how some of them looked like:


I still used an old piece of paper, since this will not be the final piece that I will scan. However, I am quite happy with how some of them turned out at this point and decided to ink them.


For some, it was necessary to separate out the different elements so I could reuse them. A good example would be the poop. That is why for the "I hope you like this" sticker, I made sure to draw the parts separately (the words, the poop, and the box). Since I was going for a rough look, I did not need to refine any further. I decided to add the other elements and tweak the size, angle, and spacing during the digitizing phase.


In Closing

The sketching and refining phase can take as long as you want it to be. If the final piece requires detailed line work or precise angles, the time and effort will be doubled or tripled. For this set of stickers, it took me about a week (working on this during the evenings after work and on weekends) to create concept sketches and to refine them.

Next week, I will be sharing more of the digitizing process. See you :)