Not sure of the difference between soft enamel, hard enamel or die-struck pins? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. All About Pins is asked weekly about it and we’re here set the record straight so you can decide which type is best for your custom pins.
Soft Enamel Pins
While making soft enamel pins, a design’s shape is stamped and then cut from a sheet of metal before plated. The initial stamping creates raised and recessed areas (one level of metal raised over another lower level) and we fill-in the recesses with enamel paint to color your design. The raised and recessed levels give soft enamel pins a distinct “bumpy” or textured feel when running your fingers over the surface.
Between soft and hard enamel pins, soft enamel is slightly cheaper to produce and, at your request, we can add a free epoxy resin coating to protect the surface. The textured feel of a soft enamel pin allows for more line detail than hard enamel pins and full enamel paint allows for more visual variety over die struck pins.
Hard Enamel Pins
In-house, we offer a type of hard enamel pin called cloisonné pins. Making our hard enamel pins is similar to making our soft enamel pins but with the added step of filling each recess with colored resin. After the resin fill, each color on an order of pins is individually baked at a high temperature to harden and cure the enamel, before applying a polish so the final product has a hard and glossy finish with a nearly flat surface.
Hard enamel pins have a smooth jewelry-grade surface compared to the metallic ridges of soft enamel pins and the enamel becomes much more durable. We use a resin fill instead of a more traditional glass fill in order to provide the full spectrum of Pantone color options. The final polish that gives hard enamel pins their distinctive smoothness also means the metal lines in a design can become slightly less detailed but the colors will look much sharper and more vibrant than soft enamel pins.
While we constantly get requests for colorfully illustrated designs, sometimes less is more and that’s where die struck pins come in. Stamped in metal in the same way as soft enamel pins, die struck pins forgo the addition of enamel paint and remain sheathed in the natural look of their plating for a classic metal look with the option for sandblasting the recesses for visual contrast. Die struck pins are popular with designers or organizations looking for a classic metal appearance with our standard high polish plating.
As an extra service, All About Pins can antique plate the pins to give them a rare vintage appearance. Antiqued die struck is actually our most popular type of die struck plating and the plating can have a dramatic effect on a coin’s detailed appearance. Compared to the stylized look of painted enamel pins, some clients view the simplicity of die-struck pins as more elegant and refined.
Side by Side
Placing the different types of pins side by side you can more easily tell some of the more specific differences between each pin type. If you’re still confused about their differences, think about it this way. If the surface has a textured feel with definite recesses where the enamel paint fills color, then it’s a soft enamel pin. Meanwhile, if it has an almost smooth texture with a painted enamel surface, then it’s a hard enamel pin. Should it have a textured surface but an unpainted metal surface, then what you’re holding is a die-struck pin.
Which Pin Type to Choose?
That question might be harder to answer than you might expect.
Slightly cheaper to produce and order than hard enamel, soft enamel pins are at the forefront of the enamel pin craze and can be found at gift shops, Etsy stores and corporations alike. However, the smooth finish of a hard enamel pin is more durable and the smooth finish has a much higher perceived value. Hard enamel pins have also seen a jump in popularity with recent fashion trends and are historically used for high-grade lapel pins, military pins and corporate pins. Meanwhile, die-struck pins give a uniquely vintage appearance that is especially popular with award pins or organizational pins.
As you can tell from the example above, the different textures, surfaces and colors can give each type of pin a very different look and feel. Ultimately, a choice between either of the three pin types is likely going to be decided more by your personal aesthetics and your specific design than anything else. All else fails, All About Pins offers unlimited free revisions on all our orders so you have a chance to test how pin might look under different designs before going to order.
Let All About Pins Help
Still can’t decide? Let us help! If you can’t decide which pin type would look best with your design, All About Pins has over a decade of experience working with artists, businesses, government agencies and national organizations to help you explore different options for your pin designs. Remember, after you request a free quote we send you a free art proof of your design with free revisions on any aspect of your custom pin.