Geoff Ruddock

Scraping PNG icons for emoji with Python


I put together an emoji search Alfred workflow which uses alfy to filter this JSON file of emoji.

There are plenty of existing emoji Alfred workflows around, but I wanted one that allowed me to edit the aliases for individual emoji.

The one missing piece was to have the workflow display the emoji itself as the icon for each result. The Alfred Script Filter JSON Format includes an icon field, but it expects the path to an actual icon file on disk.

This simply will not do!

This simply will not do!

Read list of emoji

First, let’s read in the emoji.json file mentioned above.

import json

with open('emoji.json', 'r') as f:
    emoji_json = json.loads(
print(f'Number of emoji: {len(emoji_json)}')
Number of emoji: 1812

Here are the first 100 emoji contained inside.

for e in emoji_json[0:100]:
    print(e['emoji'], end=' ')
๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜ƒ ๐Ÿ˜„ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜† ๐Ÿ˜… ๐Ÿคฃ ๐Ÿ˜‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™ƒ ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜Š ๐Ÿ˜‡ ๐Ÿฅฐ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿคฉ ๐Ÿ˜˜ ๐Ÿ˜— โ˜บ๏ธ ๐Ÿ˜š ๐Ÿ˜™ ๐Ÿฅฒ ๐Ÿ˜‹ ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜œ ๐Ÿคช ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿค‘ ๐Ÿค— ๐Ÿคญ ๐Ÿคซ ๐Ÿค” ๐Ÿค ๐Ÿคจ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜‘ ๐Ÿ˜ถ ๐Ÿ˜ถโ€๐ŸŒซ๏ธ ๐Ÿ˜ ๐Ÿ˜’ ๐Ÿ™„ ๐Ÿ˜ฌ ๐Ÿ˜ฎโ€๐Ÿ’จ ๐Ÿคฅ ๐Ÿ˜Œ ๐Ÿ˜” ๐Ÿ˜ช ๐Ÿคค ๐Ÿ˜ด ๐Ÿ˜ท ๐Ÿค’ ๐Ÿค• ๐Ÿคข ๐Ÿคฎ ๐Ÿคง ๐Ÿฅต ๐Ÿฅถ ๐Ÿฅด ๐Ÿ˜ต ๐Ÿ˜ตโ€๐Ÿ’ซ ๐Ÿคฏ ๐Ÿค  ๐Ÿฅณ ๐Ÿฅธ ๐Ÿ˜Ž ๐Ÿค“ ๐Ÿง ๐Ÿ˜• ๐Ÿ˜Ÿ ๐Ÿ™ โ˜น๏ธ ๐Ÿ˜ฎ ๐Ÿ˜ฏ ๐Ÿ˜ฒ ๐Ÿ˜ณ ๐Ÿฅบ ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ๐Ÿ˜ง ๐Ÿ˜จ ๐Ÿ˜ฐ ๐Ÿ˜ฅ ๐Ÿ˜ข ๐Ÿ˜ญ ๐Ÿ˜ฑ ๐Ÿ˜– ๐Ÿ˜ฃ ๐Ÿ˜ž ๐Ÿ˜“ ๐Ÿ˜ฉ ๐Ÿ˜ซ ๐Ÿฅฑ ๐Ÿ˜ค ๐Ÿ˜ก ๐Ÿ˜  ๐Ÿคฌ ๐Ÿ˜ˆ ๐Ÿ‘ฟ ๐Ÿ’€ โ˜ ๏ธ ๐Ÿ’ฉ 

Easy mode: Twitter emoji

I found the emojificate library, which makes straightforward use of the Twemoji CDN to fetch various sizes of Twitter-style emoji.

from IPython.display import Image

def get_png_url(char: str) -> str:
    """ Pulled from:"""

    cdn_fmt = "{codepoint}.png"

    def codepoint(codes):
        # See
        if "200d" not in codes:
            return "-".join([c for c in codes if c != "fe0f"])
        return "-".join(codes)

    return cdn_fmt.format(codepoint=codepoint(["{cp:x}".format(cp=ord(c)) for c in char]))

url = get_png_url('๐Ÿฟ๏ธ')


import requests
from tqdm.notebook import tqdm
from IPython.display import clear_output

def download_png(url: str, name: str) -> None:
    """Download a specific png file to disk."""
    with open(f'twitter-icons/{name}.png', 'wb') as f:
        img_data = requests.get(url).content
for e in tqdm(emoji_json, total=len(emoji_json)):
    fp = e['description'].replace(' ', '-')
    url = get_png_url(e['emoji'])
    download_png(url, fp)

That was easy!

That was easy!

Hard mode: scraping from

The above works perfectly for twitter emoji, but what if we want the apple emoji?

Inspired by this StackOverflow questionโ€”Programmatically get a PNG for a unicode emojiโ€”we could also scrape icons from this page:

Fetch HTML

emoji_page_html = requests.get('').text

Strip variation selectors

One small gotcha hereโ€”which will otherwise mess with our regex matchesโ€”is that some emoji are optionally followed by an invisible variation selector character. This is meant to specify that the character should be rendered as emoji rather than as icons, but this seems to be appended to many emoji which don’t have obvious icon representations, such as the chipmunk ๐Ÿฟ๏ธ.

We’ll strip these (trailing) characters from our emoji.json inputs, and write our regex to optionally match them, if present in the unicode table.

import re
import pandas as pd

def strip_variation_electors(emoji: str) -> str:
    return re.sub(u'[\ufe00-\ufe0f]$', '', emoji)

emoji_df = (
    .assign(emoji=lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(strip_variation_electors))
        name=lambda x: x['description'].apply(lambda x: x.replace(' ', '-')),
        length=lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(len),
        split=lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(list)
    .loc[:, ['name', 'emoji', 'length']]

1    1320
2     258
3     190
4      13
5      13
7      12
8       3
6       3
Name: length, dtype: int64

Extract using regex

def extract_emoji_from_html(emoji: str, version=0) -> str:
    #html_search_string = r"<img alt='{}' class='imga' src='data:image\/png;base64,([^']+)'>"
    html_search_string = r"<img alt='{}(?:[\ufe00-\ufe0f])?'(?: title='.+')? class='imga' src='data:image\/png;base64,([^']+)'>"
    matchlist = re.findall(html_search_string.format(emoji), emoji_page_html)
    return matchlist[version]

emoji_b64 = {}
for _, df in tqdm(emoji_df[['name', 'emoji']].iterrows(), total=emoji_df.shape[0]):
    name, emoji = df['name'], df['emoji']
        emoji_b64[name] = extract_emoji_from_html(emoji)
    except IndexError:


Check results

is_found = pd.DataFrame({'is_found': 1}, index=emoji_b64.keys()).sort_index()

joined = (
    pd.merge(emoji_df.set_index('name'), is_found, left_index=True, right_index=True, how='left')


joined.loc[lambda x: x['is_found'] == 0]

emoji length is_found
keycap:-* *๏ธโƒฃ 3 0.0

Write to files

import base64

for name, img_data in emoji_b64.items():
    b64 = base64.b64decode(img_data)
    with open(f'apple-icons/{name}.png', 'wb') as f:


Appendix: multi-character emoji

import pandas as pd

emoji_df = (
        name=lambda x: x['description'].apply(lambda x: x.replace(' ', '-')),
        split=lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(lambda x: [x.replace('โ€', 'ZWJ').replace('๏ธ', 'VS') for x in list(x)]),
        length=lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(len)
    .loc[:, ['name', 'emoji', 'length', 'split']]


What is going on here?!


Most (but not all) of these emoji are unchanged by stripping the trailing variation selector character.

    .loc[lambda x: (x['length'] == 2) & (x['split'].apply(lambda x: x[-1]) == 'VS')]
    .assign(stripped=lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(lambda y: y.strip('๏ธ')))

Besides trailing variation selectors, some length-two emoji are emoji flag sequences, which are made up of two “regional indicator” characters.

    .loc[lambda x: x['length'] == 2, :]
    .loc[lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(lambda y: list(y)[1]) != '๏ธ']


Most length-three emojis are created by joining multiple emojis together using a zero-width joiner character.

emoji_df.loc[lambda x: x['length'] == 3, :].head(30).sample(10)


Emoji of length four seem to be composites of two other emoji, a ZWJ, and a seemingly unnecessary variation selector.

    emoji_df.loc[lambda x: x['length'] == 4]
    .assign(stripped=lambda x: x['emoji'].apply(lambda y: y.strip('๏ธ')))


Length five emoji seem to be some combination of:

  1. Sequences of two emoji, incl. two unnecessary variation selector characters.
  2. Sequendes of three emoji, joined by two ZWJ.
    .loc[lambda x: x['length'] == 5]
    .assign(stripped=lambda x: x['emoji'].str.replace('๏ธ', ''))
    .assign(length_stripped=lambda x: x['stripped'].apply(len))

Further reading

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