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!