I get asked almost every day for tips and advice for how to get started in making enamel pins. Since starting in 2016 I've worked with an amazing middle woman, with multiple factories directly, and I have learned a lot about the world of enamel pins. I get asked so often how to start a pin business and I feel really bad that I just don't have time to write back to everyone, and so I figured I would make a series on YouTube just for you guys. I’ll be sharing tips, tricks, and basic knowledge on how to start making enamel pins. Today, I will be talking about the anatomy of a pin, so basically just the terminology around the different types of pins that there are. Let's get started!
TYPES OF ENAMEL PINS!
- SOFT ENAMEL -
Okay. The first type of pin we're going to talk about is soft enamel. Soft enamel pins have raised metal and the enamel sits inside. Basically, they cast your mold and then they have little machines that fill all the little spaces with enamel. It's the least expensive way to start and I made my very first pin this way. Be sure to check out the video for examples. A lot of people love this style and only make soft enamel. I feel like a lot of pop culture pins are soft enamel, because you can get a lot of detail in faces better than some of the others kinds because the lines can be so thin.
Soft enamel is a really great place to start if you're getting into pins. One thing I will note is that sometimes the enamel chips, so be gentle with your pins. I tend to notice the chipping while I’m packaging the pins, so sometimes it’s probably me being too rough with the pins when I take them out of their packages, but the damage rate is something to consider. Another thing to think about is using glitter in soft and enamel, because sometimes you can get a little fallout with it, so you want to do what's called epoxy on top and I'll talk more in detail about that in just a minute.
- HARD ENAMEL -
Okay, the second type of pin I want to talk about is a hard enamel pin. With hard enamel pins, to my understanding, they cast your pin in the metal finish, and then they put in the enamel, and then sand it down, so it's got a smooth surface. There are no indentations , it's all one smooth surface. This is really great for wider, fatter line quality. It's my favorite to work with! That's what all of my pins are now. When they sand it down the lines can come out a little wider, so I would suggest if you want a hard enamel pin with a lot of detail to size up, just to make sure that you get all the detail that you want in it. A good way to determine line size is to print out your design to scale and see how the lines look.
Hard enamel is a little more sturdy and I just think it looks a little bit cleaner, but that's just me. Everyone has their own preference and some people love doing soft enamel, and that's awesome. I have plenty of soft enamel pins in my collection, so there's no right or wrong one to pick. It's all personal preference. Hard enamel is a little bit more expensive than soft, just because there's a little more to the process of it all, so that's something to keep in mind.
- CLOISONNE -
The third type I want to talk about is cloisonne, which is jewelry grade. Cloisonne is shinier, it's similar to hard enamel in that the process to make them is the same. It's all smooth on one kind of surface there, but in the video you can see just how shiny it is. I think they buff it after, so there's just a little bit extra work that goes into it, but I'm not sure. I just know that cloisonne is nicer, jewelry grade, and a little bit more expensive to manufacture.
- EPOXY -
Now, I want to talk about the extra stuff you can have added to your pins. I mentioned getting epoxy on top of glitter for soft enamel, so I wanted to show you what that looked like. In the video you’ll see my very first caticorn pin is a soft enamel with glitter and epoxy on top. The epoxy is just a layer of epoxy resin that they put on top of a soft enamel pin. It makes it all smooth and it helps to keep the glitter in. The only thing with epoxy that I have found is that during the process of making the soft enamel pin and then putting the epoxy on, dust can get in, which can be problematic. Since the caticorn is white, you could really see the dust and I had a pretty high rate of seconds (or flawed pins) that I just didn't feel comfortable selling at full price. That is something to consider with all glitter, really, just because of the extra step that goes into it.
- GLITTER -
In comparison, the next time I made that particular pin, I switched that pin to hard enamel. I sized up to make sure that I had the right detail they added the glitter into the hard enamel when they made it. Since hard enamel is sanded down, you don't have to worry about any kind of glitter fallout. Some factories won't do multiple colors of glitter because of the high seconds rate, just so you know. Glitter be kind of problematic for everybody, I think. So if you’re interested in glitter, it's something that's worth talking to your manufacturer about.
- SCREEN PRINTING -
And then the last little thing I want to talk about is screen printing on pins. With most pins, you need metal around all of the colors because the colored enamel needs a place to sit. But if you don’t want that outlined effect you can screen print on a pin just like you would screen print a shirt, ensuring no metal lines. So if you didn't want to outline absolutely everything, that's the way to go. It is worth noting that glitter, epoxy, and screen printing are all added costs onto the type of pin that you want to make.
WHAT’S ON THE BACK?!
- POSTS -
Okay, so now moving on to the back of the pin. You can have one post, which is awesome for pins that are an inch or smaller. If you want to go bigger than 1.5 inches, I recommend adding a second post. Your manufacturer might recommend the best post option, so you can always ask. But generally, you want to think about how your pin is going to sit and if it’s going to rotate around or be secure. Two posts is great for extra stability.
- BACK IMPRINT -
I always, always, always have my logo added to the back. It's called a back imprint. This way if your customer forgets where they got it, if they give it to a friend, if they throw away their backing card, if for whatever reason they don't know where the pin came from, they can flip it over and then they can Google you. Because that is SO important. I've been in business for a long, long time and I never really had a way or I was too cheap to figure out a way to add my branding to small products like that. I just think it's so important to have your logo on the back just so people know exactly how to find you. The cost of back imprints can vary. I have one place that charges a flat $25 added to your mold fee for a back imprint and I think it's absolutely worth it, so however much they charge, just do it.
- CLUTCHES -
Okay. Now the last thing to talk about when you talk about the anatomy of a pin is the backing clutch. There are metal butterfly clutches, which are standard. These are literally the worst. They bend, they fall off, you'll lose your pins. I hate them. They're garbage. Don't get these. Don't do it. They're the cheapest ones, but don't do it. They're awful. I've gotten pins in the mail and the whole post is crooked and mooched cause these are so soft and the worst. Don't do it. I hate them. I clearly have very strong feelings about these, haha! Rubber clutches, however, are my standard go to. These hold so much better and they can hold tighter to a fabric. And you can get them in fun colors! I've been super into getting pink ones lately, because all of my branding is very pink. Jjust ask whoever makes your pins what colors they have available. A lot of people get custom shapes made, too, but that's a whole different thing to get into!
- LOCKING BACKS -
Locking backs are a special type of clutch that are metal and have a little mechanism that holds tightly to your pin so they don’t fall off! A lot of shops have them as add-ons, so you can offer them in your shop and someone can get them for like a dollar a added onto their purchase. There are few different kinds, but I like the ones that don’t require any extra tools to use and that’s what I offer in my shop. There are lots of videos on YouTube about how to make them and I’ve got one saved in my Enamel Pins: 101 playlist if you want to check it out.
DO YOU WANT TO MAKE YOUR OWN NOW?!
We talked about soft enamel pins, hard enamel pins, cloisonne pins, adding epoxy. We talked about screen printing, we talked about glitter, we talked about backing posts, and imprints, and clutches, everything that makes up what a pin actually is. I hope this was helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions at all and download my free checklist with the steps to start your own pin business! This list is every step you need to take to start and launch your own pins!