Emoji Skin Color

A pale skinned, dancer with black hair and a red dress

Skin color is not something you traditionally associate with typography, yet in Unicode, there are control characters for skin color. More precisely, the modifiers (1F3FB to 1F3FF) change the skin colour of the previous character. With no modifier, the emoji should display the people with a Lego yellow skin. Now many emoji character support the variant selector control characters, which means that for many characters we now have 7 variants: a text variant, a neutral (yellow) emoji, and then five skin coloured variants. The text and emoji variant are not very consistent, the runner changes direction, and the dancer changes gender – interestingly, a new version of Unicode will allow the specification of gender in emoji.

The table below shows the different variants for some characters, in some cases the skin selection works, in some others it does not, you can change the skin color of the princess but not of the Japanese ogre. The DOS era smiley face has no race. All these features kind of work on OS X, but there are some quirks, the Fitzpatrick seem to implicitly trigger the emoji variant, even when they cannot apply – and as long as there is no line break between the character and the skin selector…

Text Emoji Type 1-2 Type 3 Type 4 Type 5 Type 6
💃︎ 💃️ 💃🏻 💃🏼 💃🏽 💃🏾 💃🏿
🏃︎ 🏃️ 🏃🏻 🏃🏼 🏃🏽 🏃🏾 🏃🏿
👸︎ 👸️ 👸🏻 👸🏼 👸🏽 👸🏾 👸🏿
👹︎ 👹️ 👹🏻 👹🏼 👹🏽 👹🏾 👹🏿
☺︎ ☺️ ☺🏻 ☺🏼 ☺🏽 ☺🏾 ☺🏿

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