Due to its versatile uses and affordable cost, lapel pins are becoming increasingly popular in recent year. They are a great way to to promote an event, raise awareness, raise funds for a charity and so on. Moreover, lapel pins are fun to wear, easy to create, and among all of these, they can be highly customized, which makes it even more tempting for people to order some.
Lapel pins can be worn on t-shirts, suits, jean jackets, hats, bags, or even on shoes. You can basically throw them on anything.
In this post, we will discuss how to make enamel pins from scratch. If you have an idea of making one, well, you came to the right place. It might seems a little daunting when it comes to creating your own enamel pins, especially if it is your first time. But don’t worry. This article covers everything you need to know considering enamel pins from designing, manufacturing to ordering. And we will walk you through the whole process step by step.
1. Create your designs
Once you make up mind upon making enamel pins, the first thing to start with is to create your own design. Remember, the basic rule is to keep it simple. Pins are small and the regular size for an enamel pin is 1-2 inches. Try to express one message that is most important to your design.
Besides, there are few other things you should always bear in mind.
Colors: Most pin manufacturers use Pantone Solid Coated colors for enamel color filling. This means if you use CMYK or RGB colors, they have to transfer all those colors to PMS Solid Coated ones before they can start production. And sometimes this can change a lot to your design. And also, colors vary from screen to screen. If color is essential to your design, you can buy a copy of Pantone chip book for reference. Or simpler, ask the factory for a sample pin before going into full production.
Line works: It is very important to keep all the lines connected to one another. Lines are all transformed into metal lines on the pins and they necessary to separate different colors and prevent color enamel from mixing with one another during color filling process. Also try to avoid small texts in designing as they don’t always come out well. And every factory has their standard about line thickness. For example, if 0.1 is the thinnest line thickness, you should not use lines thinner than that.
Format: Vector files are the most preferred format and just the kind of format used for manufacturing. As far as I know, many factories use Adobe Illustrator for pin designs. Generally, providing vector files can not only reduce the time needed for a proof but also help to keep the details as close to your original design as possible. If you don’t have a vector file, pictures in JPEG are also acceptable.
Hard enamel vs soft enamel
There are some basic knowledge you need to know about manufacturing. Enamel is the fluid paint applied to lapel pins, and can be divided into two types: hard enamel and soft enamel. The terms are also considered as two different coloring processes. And you may wonder which one is the better option for your design. Let’s take a look at the differences between them before you make a decision.
Soft enamel: In coloring, a thin layer of soft enamel is filled to the recessed area on the pins one by one. This results in a dimensional look on soft enamel pins, which means the enamel paint is in a lower level than the metal lines. If you put you thumb on the pin, you will feel the metal ridges of it. Soft enamel is also cheaper in cost and can be a good choice if you have a tight budget.
Hard enamel: For hard enamel pins, thick hard enamel is gently applied to the pins. When dried, excess enamel will be polished off the surface, making the enamel at the same level as the metal lines. And this gives the pin a beautiful smooth finish. If you prefer a flat surface with a jewelry look, hard enamel is definitely the perfect choice.
Look at your design and tell me what color is that you have for the lines. And that color is the metal finish for your pins. If it’s black, then black nickel finish is a good choice. Common metal finish options are gold, silver, copper, bronze, dyed black, antique silver, antique gold, matte gold, and matte silver. Most of the options are available for soft enamel pins, and only some are suitable for hard enamel pins. Unlike soft enamel pins, plating comes after color filling for hard enamel pins, which means dyed black and antique plating are not applicable for hard enamel pins as they will blemish the enamel.
Back stamp is some letters or a simple design put on the back of the pins. It can be either embossed or engraved. Raised or embossed back stamp is the most popular option. Recessed back stamp with ink is also an option if you are making a really big pin.
Important things you should know before ordering >>FAQ
Quantity: Every manufacturer has a minimum quantity for every order. Make sure to take this factor into consideration before you order. Generally, for lapel pins, the MOQ is 50 or 100 pieces for each design. There are also manufacturers who do not require a minimum quantity, but the pricing can be very high. If this is your first time making enamel pins, the wise choice is to have a sample made out of your design before going to full production. And it will give you an idea of whether it will sell well so that you can order accordingly.
Time: My advice is start early. As long as your design is finalized, you should go ahead to talk to the manufacturer you use. The normal production time for lapel pins is 2-3 weeks depending on the complexity of your design and the manufacturing process. You should also ask about the time for shipping and a proof. And make sure to allow enough time for that as well.
Sampling: If you are uncertain about how the pins will come out, you can always ask for a pre-production sample. In that way, you check how your pins look like. If it does not come out the way you expected, remember slight changes are still possible. You can fix it by changing the colors or choosing a more proper metal finish to make it look better.
Now that you are well informed about pin styles, metal finish and back stamp options, it is time to make some custom pins. Have a quick quote to get started. If you want to dig up a little deeper into enamel pins, don’t stop now. Let’s take a look at other options that will make your pins much more special than a regular one.
Special enamel options
There are numerous ways to make a pin stand out. Special enamel types are one of them. Simply by adding Glitters, glow-in-the-dark enamel, or translucent enamel to a pin, it will make it totally different from the rest.
Glitter: Glitters are a great way to make a pin sparkle in the light. Bright colors like gold, silver, red, purple are the most common glitters. You can either choose to fill the entire pin with glitter enamel or just add a little bit glitter to highlight the details.
Glow-in-the-dark enamel: As suggested by the name, glow-in-the-dark enamel is for whenever you want your pins to glow or in the dark. And it is perfect for designs related to fairies, Halloween, galaxy and so on.
Translucent enamel: Translucent enamel is also something that will give your pins a special charm. Once I saw a silver pin in a design of a transparent jar full of stars. And I was like looking right into the galaxy. Just use your imagination and be creative! Every pin can be unique and attractive.
Customized pin means not only the design but anything can be customized from material, pin style, metal finish, pin attachment to packing.
Material: Many manufacturers allow customers to choose the material for custom lapel pins. The most common options of material are brass, iron and zinc alloy. Brass and iron are both good materials for die struck enamel pins due to their plasticity. Brass has the highest quality among all of the three materials. Iron is also popular with high quality and more affordable cost. Zinc alloy is for die cast pins, and it is especially perfect for designs with more than two cutouts.补充
Pin attachment: Most pins come with standard rubber clasps or military clasps which are usually offered free of charge. And there are a variety of other pin attachments including colourful rubber clasps, magnets, jewelry clutches, 3M sticker, safety pins, long needle sticks, etc. Except rubber clutches and military clutches, the rest all come at an extra cost.
Packaging: Generally, lapel pins are packed in individual clear zip lock bags to be protected from dust and scratches. Actually, packages act not only as a way of protection and sometimes can be as important as lapel pins themselves. A nicely packed enamel pin can look just as precious as a piece of jewelry. There are a lot of excellent ways to present lapel pins. A fashionable choice is custom backing cards, a great way to get your pins a stylish look and extremely popular among young people. Other popular choices are clear plastic cases, velvet boxes and velvet pouches.