How to Send an iMessage With Effects

Change the iPhone text bubble and add full-screen effects

Sending screen and bubble effects using the Messages app for iOS and iPadOS gives you even more ways to express yourself when chatting with friends. You can use iMessage effects to emphasize a point, express a mood, celebrate, and create unique effects just for fun.

To make full use of iMessage effects, however, you'll need to check some settings. Here's what to switch on and how to use effects in Messages.

Instructions in this article apply to iOS devices running iOS 10 and later. You can only send message effects between iOS and iPadOS devices.

How to Adjust iOS Settings for Message Effects

A couple of items in your Settings app will affect how message effects appear and play. Here's where to find and configure those settings to ensure you can use the effects feature with no problems.

  1. Open the Settings app.

  2. Select Accessibility.

  3. Tap Motion under the Vision heading.

  4. The two relevant settings are Reduce Motion and Auto-Play Message Effects.

Full-screen effects may not work if Reduce Motion is Off, so tap the toggle to On (green).

The Auto-Play Message Effects setting is optional. Turn it on to play effects as soon as you open a message containing one. If you switch it off, you'll have to tap a command before the effect will activate.

As of iOS 10.1, effects can play even if Reduce Motion is on.

The Motion and Autoplay Message Effects settings on an iPhone

How to Send an iMessage with Effects

With your settings sorted out, you can now send and receive message effects. Here's how to access them.

You can apply bubble or screen effects to text (including emojis) and images.

  1. Open the Messages app.

  2. Tap an existing conversation or the New Message button.

  3. Type the message you want to add an effect to.

  4. Tap and hold the Send button next to the text field.

  5. The Send with effect window will open. By default, you'll see the Bubble options, which apply different animations to the message itself.

  6. Select an option to see a preview of the effect. The choices are:

    • Slam: The text bubble will "slam" down onto the window from above, shaking the other messages.
    • Loud: The message will come up off of the screen and shake, implying shouting.
    • Gentle: The text of the message will start small, as if whispered, and then increase to normal size.
    • Invisible Ink: Messages will hide your message under a layer of distortion until the recipient swipes to reveal it.

    The Invisible Ink effect also works when you receive messages in macOS Sierra and later.

    Bubble effects in Messages for iOS
  7. To access screen effects, which occupy the whole display, tap the Screen tap at the top.

  8. Swipe left to access different options. Your choices are:

    • Echo: A swarm of copies of your message appears on the screen.
    • Spotlight: The display goes dark other than a single pool of light that highlights your message.
    • Balloons: Multicolored balloons appear behind the conversation.
    • Confetti: Colored scraps of paper shower down from the top of the screen.
    • Love: A large heart shape inflates out of your text and floats away.
    • Lasers: The screen goes dark except for colored lasers that sweep from the bottom to the top of the display and back down.
    • Fireworks: A pyrotechnic display appears behind your message.
    • Shooting Star: A single point of light arcs over the text.
    • Celebration: Golden sparks shower down from the upper-right corner of the screen.
  9. Tap the Send button to transmit your message with the effect.

Tap the X button to cancel the effect.

Choosing screen effects on an iPhone

How to View Effects in Messages

After you send or receive a message with an effect attached, you can replay the animation later. To do so, tap the link below the message that says, "Replay [name of effect]." You can play an effect as many times as you want.

The Invisible Ink effect resets shortly after you or the recipient reveals the message.

The Replay Effect button in Messages

Automatic Screen Effects in Messages

Some screen effects play automatically if you send certain messages. You don't have to take the extra steps to activate them. Here are some of the keywords you can type and the effect they'll create. The trigger phrases also work in other languages, so experiment to see what kinds of results you get.

As of iOS 13.4, only the Lasers effect shortcut is still active.

  • Congratulations!: Confetti
  • Happy birthday!: Balloon
  • Happy Chinese New Year!: Celebration
  • Happy New Year!: Fireworks
  • Pew pew: Lasers