How to Design Enamel Pins with Adobe Illustrator - QUICK & EASY


Adobe Illustrator can be pretty intimidating for first time pin makers and for seasoned pin makers, so I'm going to take all of the scariness out of it for you today. I'm about to show you everything you need to know about Adobe Illustrator when it comes to making enamel pins. So when you're done with this video, Illustrator won't seem frustrating, and you'll be excited to power through all your designs! I've been using illustrator for 15 years, and I have developed a system with my manufacturer to make designing pins and sending them to the factory and absolute breeze.

Okay. Step one, let's get your sketches into the computer. If you've been sketching on actual paper with a real life pen, then you can take a photo of the sketch with your phone and just email it to yourself. It's easy peasy, or you can take a photo with your camera, or you can scan it in. If you're using something like Procreate, then you can just, either AirDrop it between your iPad and your Mac, or you can use something like Google Drive, or again, just email it to yourself. There's no right or wrong way to do this. Again, as long as you're getting it onto your computer, that's perfect.

Okay, so step two is to outline your image. So, just drag your image file into Illustrator to open it up. And after this, I like to set the opacity of my sketch to about 50% and lock the layer, so I don't mess anything up. Then I lock that layer and create a new layer above.

Then you create a new layer, and head over to the Pen Tool. This is the main tool that you'll use as you vector your image. It'll take some getting used to, and everyone I know who uses it hates it in the beginning, but once you practice enough, it'll become second nature. There are other options too, but let's look at the Pen Tool first, because it's good to know the fundamentals.

Watch the video to see the Pen Tool in action!

Another fun tool is the Curve Tool. This thing is really cool. It actually anticipates the curve that you're making, so you don't have to do the manual click-and-drag of the Pen Tool. It’s just another way to do a curve, and I really like it.

The Smooth Tool is another good way to adjust curves. It’s nested under the Shaper Tool and allows you to modify a curve in a more organic way. Give it a try if you’ve got some particular curvy curves!

Let me know in the comments if the Pen Tool makes sense. Let me know if it's not quite as scary anymore, and tell me how amazing the Curve Tool is in the comments, please, because I'm into it. Okay! All right. Back to the work.

Now that I’m moving on to color, I lock the outline layer and make a new layer underneath. You’re color layer doesn't have to be perfect because it's hidden under your outlines and this part goes by a lot faster, plus you can edit the colors really easily.

Watch the video to see one of my favorite ways to add blocks of color to a pin design!

If you're using your color picker, and you don't know how to find the closest Pantone Color, all you have to do is go to Edit > Edit Colors > Recolor Artwork, and then click the tiny palette in the middle of the window. This limits the color group to colors in the Swatch Library. Choose the Pantone Solid Coated from here, and it will pick the closest Pantone color for you.

To keep the integrity of your strokes, so they don’t scale when your artwork is resized, you want to expand your strokes and turn them into shapes. To do this, you select everything, and then you go to Object > Expand > Stroke. Now, all your strokes are shapes!

Another quick bonus tip is to use Pathfinder and merge everything to make your strokes all one giant shape. This makes it really easy to re-color in the template, which I will show you next.

Now, just toss it into your template, indicate your colors, finishes and any extra details and you’re ready to send your design to your manufacturer! My manufacturer has approved this template and they say there is nothing else I could possibly need when I send over designs! I've got a copy of this manufacturer approved template down below, so download it now for everything you need to send to your manufacturers. Seriously, it is the only template you will ever need.

Okay. So, that is how I vector all of my pin designs. That's exactly what I do every single time I go from sketch to vector to manufacturer. I promise you’ll get the hang of it, and you will be busting out so many pins. It's going to be incredible!

And if you want to start growing your following while you're waiting for your pins to come in, then be sure to check out my free webinar, The Five Ways to Grow Your Following Fast. It's all about Instagram. I give super actionable stuff, and you can kickstart your reach while you're waiting for your pins to come in.

I hope this was helpful!! Go makes some pins!!

Different Types of Enamel Pins and How to Choose What to Make


So it can be hard to choose between hard and soft enamel when you're making new pin designs. In this video and blog post, I'm breaking down the differences between the different types of enamel pins to make it easier for you to choose. Deciding the type of enamel pin to make can be difficult. You want the actual, physical pin to work well with your design, you want it to work with your brand, and there are so many different options to choose from. It can be a little bit overwhelming, but by the end of this post, you'll be able to choose with confidence! I take all of this info into account when I make my own pins, so I can determine exactly what works best for my design and what will sell well in my shop.

Okay, so let's talk about soft enamel first. These are made by doing a die struck mold, and then a little machine will fill in all the little spots with enamel, just like a little bowl. These are the cheapest way to go, and I think they're super fun. You can get a lot of detail in soft enamel pins and there are lots of different options. Take a look at the video to see some examples.

Another thing you can do with soft enamel to mimic a hard enamel look is to add epoxy on top to give a smooth finish. This is a good thing to do if you want any glitter in your soft enamel pins, because that way there's no fallout from the glitter because the glitter is just sitting there with nothing else on top. There’s an example of this in video above.

For pros and cons for soft enamel pins, they are the least expensive types of pins to order. It's what I started out making. It's really easy to get in with those if you want to test out making pins.

I do find that there is a higher rate of seconds with certain manufacturers for soft enamel pins, though. Under-filling, meaning if they don't put enough of the enamel in the pin, can be an issue. And I just find that there are a few more errors because there’s nothing on top of the enamel protecting it. So, if any dust gets on it, it'll just stick and you can see it sitting on the enamel. I've also found that in the processing, if I'm not careful with my pins when I'm putting them away and packaging them, then they can get chipped easily because again, there's nothing protecting the enamel. So that's just something to think about.

Okay, so hard enamel is different. Hard enamel is the one that has a smooth finish. There are no dips, and these are made by polishing it down after it’s filled, so it has a totally smooth surface. You can see different examples of hard enamel pins in the video above. I feel like I have to size up a little bit more with these types of pins, because when they’re polished, sometimes that process can make the lines a little bit thicker. But that's just something to think about in your design. I chose to use only hard enamel, because I use a lot of thick lines in my work, so I decided I wanted everything to be consistent and clean. The only soft enamel that I have in my shop is the alien because I'm nostalgic for it.

For pros and cons, it is more expensive. It's not like twice as much, but it's a little bit more expensive to get into them. So just keep that in mind.

I think that one of the pros for them is that since they cost a little bit more to produce, there's a higher perceived value for hard enamel pins. So you can mark them up a little bit more depending on the design.

So do you have a specific type of pin that you like to collect? Let me know in the comments if you have any preference at all or what's your favorite one to collect. I'd love to know!

Okay, so the cool thing is that a lot of manufacturers will let you split your inventory between finish colors. So, my double-dip cat cream cones, were my second or third designs ever, were made in gold and silver. This helped me determine what my audience really liked, because I put them both up for sale and the gold finish sold out so fast and the silver finish sat in the shop for weeks. I took that as a message loud and clear from my customers, and all of my pins now have gold finish on them because I like it all to be consistent and that really informed my decision.

Another tip, if you are choosing between enamel finishes is to use Instagram stories and do a poll. Ask your audience what they'd like! But, be sure to frame your questions around what they like to wear, or what types of pins do they have/collect? You can ask if they have more gold finish pins or more silver finish pins or do they not care at all? That kind of framing can lead the conversation, which helps you determine what they truly like best.

And don't discount your own preferences. If you love working with a gold finish, use a gold finish. If you want to experiment with a whole bunch of different kinds of finishes, do that. Don't feel like you're pigeonholed into something just because you know a majority of your audience is into a specific type that you don’t like. You can always experiment. You can always try new things. So, don't get too stuck in choosing the finish because you can change it later on, too.

Okay, so that is soft versus hard enamel. I hope this has been helpful. If you're reading this, you are probably curious about starting your own pin business, so I have got a quick one page checklist to launch your own pin business. So check that out below for sure!

Now that you know the differences between them and have seen a bunch of examples, I'd love to know which ones you like best!

Three Big Myths You Probably Believe About Making Enamel Pins [VIDEO]

Three Big Myths You Probably Believe About Making Enamel Pins [VIDEO]

[VIDEO] Let’s talk about the three big myths that you probably believe about starting an enamel pin business. There's a lot of information floating around about pins and a lot of people talking about pins right now, so I'm breaking down the three things that are completely untrue and should stop holding you back!

Instagram Basics for Pin Makers [VIDEO]

Instagram Basics for Pin Makers [VIDEO]

[VIDEO] I have some top tips that will help up your Instagram game and get more eyeballs on your pins. I'm talking about things like varying your feed to make it more interesting, what do post when you don’t have a lot of inventory, but you still want to get your stuff out there…things like that. Let's get into it.