Soft Enamel vs. Hard Enamel Pins: The Differences

Soft Enamel vs. Hard Enamel Pins: The Differences

Creating your first custom enamel pin is an exciting process. Before you dive into selecting colors, artwork, or backer design, it's essential to decide whether you want soft enamel or hard enamel pins.

What’s the difference between hard and soft enamel? Custom soft enamel pins have raised metal edges that give them texture, are more affordable, and offer greater design flexibility. Custom hard enamel pins are smooth, shiny, more durable, and require a longer production time.

These characteristics make each option suitable for specific designs and purposes. Understanding the unique features of hard and soft enamel pins is the first step in creating a pin that people will love.

Different Production Processes for Soft and Hard Enamel Pins

The production processes for hard and soft enamel pins start similarly: creating a mold from the pin design and using it to form the pin’s plating. However, the steps diverge after this initial phase.

Soft Enamel Pin Construction

  1. Electroplating or Dying the Plating: An outer layer of metal, such as gold or silver, is added to the pin’s base. The plating can also be dyed with a color.
  2. Enameling: Liquefied colored enamel is added to the metal base's cavities, but only partially filled, creating raised metal edges.
  3. Baking: The pin is baked to set the enamel.

Hard Enamel Pin Construction

  1. Enamel Filling: Each cavity is overfilled with enamel, and this occurs before electroplating.
  2. Baking: Pins are baked after each color of enamel is added. If a pin has five colors, it will be baked five times.
  3. Polishing: The enamel is polished down to be level with the plating, resulting in a smooth finish.
  4. Electroplating: A thin layer of metal is added over the exposed edges, typically in shiny metals like gold or silver.

Design Flexibility with Soft Enamel Pins

Soft enamel pins offer two main design advantages:

  1. Accommodates Both Simple and Complex Designs: Soft enamel pins do not undergo polishing, allowing sharp edges in complex designs to remain intact.
  2. Accepts Any Plating Color: Since soft enamel pins aren’t polished, any color can be added to the plating, enhancing design versatility.

Higher Value of Hard Enamel Pins

Hard enamel pins may have limitations, but they are often perceived as higher quality due to several factors:

  1. Higher Production and Purchase Cost: The additional steps in the production process increase both the time and cost of creating hard enamel pins.
  2. Elegant and Durable: The smooth, polished finish gives hard enamel pins a superior aesthetic appeal and makes them more durable.
  3. Perceived Quality: The glossy finish and substantial feel of hard enamel pins contribute to their higher perceived value, making them suitable for luxury items and commemorative pieces.


What is a soft enamel lapel pin?
Soft enamel pins have raised metal edges, are more affordable, and offer greater design flexibility.

What's the difference between hard and soft enamel pins?
Soft enamel pins are textured with raised edges and are less expensive, while hard enamel pins are smooth, shiny, more durable, and take longer to produce.

Why are custom enamel pins so expensive?
The manual labor involved in creating each pin, from printing and painting to assembling, contributes to the high cost.

Is it expensive to make custom pins?
Yes, the cost of materials and labor can add up quickly. However, custom pin makers often purchase pins for $2-3 and resell them for $10-15.

Why are lapel pins so expensive?
The time-consuming process of confirming designs, collecting proofs, and making adjustments adds to the overall production time and cost, typically taking 7-15 days for completion.


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