How To: Trigger iMessage Effects with Just a Keyword

Trigger iMessage Effects with Just a Keyword

One of the coolest aesthetic features of iMessage is its animated message effects. If you're like many users, you might even have discovered them by accident; wishing your friend a "Happy Birthday!" or congratulating them on a promotion suddenly floods your screen with balloons or confetti.

iMessage effects first appeared in iOS 10, and while Apple has only formally mentioned a few of the words and phrases that trigger these effects automatically, we've compiled a list of all those we can find.

Triggering iMessage Effects

To use these iMessage effects, you'll need to create a message with another iPhone user — effects will still show animations on your end while texting your green-bubbled Android friends, but they won't be able to see it for themselves. If you don't have a friend with an iPhone to test this out on, you can even try it by messaging yourself.

In a few cases, a simple trigger word or phrase will apply the screen effect automatically. While Apple hasn't included all of these in their official list, some Googling and trial and error confirms four of these, each with some variations.

Even better, these trigger words work in multiple languages. We've included a few variations — "Happy birthday" in Spanish (¡Feliz cumpleaños!), "Congratulations" in French (Félicitations!), "Happy New Year" in German (Frohes neues Jahr), and "Happy Spring Festival" in Mandarin — but experiment with your language of choice to find alternatives.


The Balloons effect can be prompted by wishing someone a happy birthday.

Happy birthday!
¡Feliz cumpleaños!


The Confetti effect appears when you congratulate someone.

(1) Balloons, (2) Confetti


The Fireworks effect can be triggered by wishing someone a happy new year.

Happy New Year!
Frohes Neues Jahr!


Similarly, the Celebration effect appears when you wish someone a happy Chinese New Year.

Happy Chinese New Year!
Happy Lunar New Year!
(1) Fireworks, (2) Celebration

Manually Sending iMessage Effects

No term to prompt the effect you're looking for? That's okay — it's easy enough to manually use bubble or full-screen effects. When manually triggering the effect, your recipient will even be able to replay the effect, an option that isn't available when a keyword is used.

What's the difference between bubble effects and screen effects? Bubble effects affect the individual text bubble for that message. Screen effects, as the name suggests, affects the full screen when used. Note that unlike bubble effects, screen effects have additional sounds and haptic responses. It's a great touch, but one you want to be aware of if texting in a quiet room.

Additionally, while at least some of the screen effects can be triggered with a keyword, bubble effects need to be sent manually.

For both bubble and screen effects, you can manually launch them by long-pressing the send button (upward arrow). At the top of the "Send with effect" screen, you can toggle between bubble and screen. Here, you can send your message with the bubble effects (as of iOS 13: slam, loud, gentle, and invisible ink) or screen effects (the four above as well as echo, spotlight, love, lasers, and shooting star).

iMessage effects are a great way to add a little fun to your message and trigger words make it super easy to use some of the most popular animations. Perhaps there will be more of these trigger words in a future iOS update, but for now, we'll be sending all of our iPhone-having friends a festive effect whenever there's something to celebrate.

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Cover image and GIFs by Juliette Sebock/Gadget Hacks

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