(Credit: Lance Whitney)

You're searching for the right emoji to express not just how you feel but how you look. One limitation with most emoji is that they seem too generic. Even with all the variations for skin color, gender, hair, and facial appearance, they may not truly express who you are. Now, Google has cooked up a way to make the emoji you use look and feel more personal.

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New to the latest version of Google's Gboard keyboard is a feature called Emoji Minis. Using these new and innovative stickers, you can fashion an emoji that takes on your own appearance and facial features. The stickers work their magic by analyzing a selfie that you snap and then suggesting the right skin, facial hair, and other physical attributes. You then work with Google's ideas to create your own personal emoji.

Emoji may seem frivolous. But they do offer us a way to express our feelings, thoughts, and attitudes visually when a word or phrase just won't cut it. The tech industry has tried to expand the range of emoji by offering those with a variety of skin colors, nationalities, and genders. But an emoji that looks like you can be a more intimate and private way of expressing yourself.

The new emoji in Gboard are concocted using both machine learning and artistry, Google said in a blog post. Google's own machine learning algorithms, or neural networks, look at your selfie to suggest a matching skin tone and other features that you can tweak. Rather serve up just one emoji that looks like you, Google offers a variety - one that's smiling, one that's crying, one that's angry, and even one that looks like a zombie.

"When we started designing Minis in 2016, we knew we had a responsibility to create a space for a range of race, age, and gender expression," Jennifer Daniel, creative director on the Expressions team at Google said. "This new sticker collection is able to take emoji and do much more with them than what's possible with a font. Humans are complex; we aren't always soft or bold, so it was important to us that we had another sticker style that filled in the gaps. Styling this new collection to resemble emoji, something we're all accustomed to, offered an opportunity to explore not just what emoji are now, but what emoji could be."

To create an emoji that looks like you, make sure Gboard is set up and is the active keyboard for your iOS or Android device. Open your messaging app. Tap the Gboard or globe icon and then tap the icon for Stickers. At the right of the Stickers toolbar, tap the plus sign. At the top of the Stickers screen should be a section that says Your minis. Tap the Create button. Allow Gboard to take pictures and record video. Fit your face in the screen and snap the camera icon to take a selfie. Gboard kicks off with a few suggested faces. Pick the one you want to use.

(Credit: Lance Whitney)

Go through each screen to change or select your hair style, hair color, face color, facial hair, facial marks, glasses, headwear, shirt color, and earrings. Tap Save when you're finished and then tap Done.

(Credit: Lance Whitney)

Return to your text message. On the Sticker gallery should be the emoji you created. Tap its icon to view your emoji with different expressions. Tap the emoji you want to use to add it to your text. You can always return and reuse your emoji via the Stickers gallery.

(Credit: Lance Whitney)

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  1. Gboard now offers you a way to create emoji that look like you.
  2. Based on your selfie, the new emoji mini stickers let you tweak the skin color, hair style, and other features.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."