Enamel Pin Design Guide

A Starter's Guide To Custom Enamel Pins

Enamel pins are an exploding trend in todays fashion, design, art, business and culture. Versatile in their ability to be both subtle and robust in attaining attention, enamel pins are able to get you noticed the way you want to be noticed. Whether you’re an artist yourself or  seeking the help of a profressional designer, we at GLP are always ready and excited to land a hand to help you create the perfect piece of bling to catch the eyes of everyone around. From sleek and professional to poppy and expressive we’re ready to work together with you, and we guarantee you’ll always be happy with the results.

Whether you need some help getting started creating your own pin or just generally interested in the enamel pin design process, we have put together a comprehensive illustrated guide to help you along your journey into the world of custom enamel pins.


What Is Enamel?

Also known as “vitreous” or “Porcelain” enamel, enamel was first used back in ancient Egypt! Wow, it’s a classic!

Traditionally, enamel paint is a type of paint made from melting and fusing powdered glass.

The enamel is injected into the recessed metal of the pin mold using an Enamel Syringe.

The 3 Types of Enamel Pin

Soft Enamel Pins

Hard Enamel Pins

Die Struck Pins

Soft Enamel Example
Hard Enamel Example
Die Struck Example

Basic, simple and affordable. Soft enamel is a good choice for simple designs and people that want affordable pins.

You can tell a soft enamel pin by the way the paint puckers up against the metal.

Classy and professional. Hard enamel is created using the same process as soft enamel,  but finished with a buffed sheen that evens out paint and metal to create a flat surface.

You can tell a hard enamel pin by its flat and even surface.

Not technically enamel at all, Die Struck pins use only different depths of metal to create a design. Die Cut pins are great for logos or very simple designs with an industrial/elegant feel.

You can tell a die struck pin by its lack of color, being completely metal.

  • Puckered Look

  • Economical

  • Playful Look

Good for:
  • Simple Designs

  • Party Pins

  • Budget Pins

  • Flat/Even Look

  • Professional

  • Elegant Look

Good for:
  • Business Pins

  • Promotional Pins

  • Detailed Designs

  • Dimensional Look

  • Sophisticated

  • Industrial Look

Good for:
  • Business Pins

  • Promotional Pins

  • Simple Designs


Enamel Pin Design Process

Enamel Pin Design Process

Artist Interpretation

While all of our artists are highly skilled and talented, they are all unique and their choices can vary.

To the right is an example of how a single design can look different at the final lapel pin design stage depending on the artist’s choices.

Even with a fairly simple design, like our Super Cat here, certain choices must be made in order to meet the factory standards so the enamel pin can be made successfully.

Illustrated here is an example of an original sketched design (top),and if it were assigned to three different artists so you can see the different choices that might be made.

As you can see the final product can vary quite a bit depending on the choices made in simplifying the original art to meet factory requirements. This example is also assuming the client who submitted the original design sketch didn’t submit any preferences or enamel choices, which if included would of course narrow the variance of the final outcome.



Vector vs. Raster

There are two main types of computer images: vector and bitmap(raster). A vector image is made with polygons and coordinates, while bitmaps use color depth and pixels... but that’s mumbo jumbo we don’t need to know.

What’s important about a vector is that it basically means it can be resized as much and as many times as you want without the loss of any quality, where a bitmap loses quality. This is usually the type of image used for signs, billboards, posters or anything else that needs to be really big or really small. It’s also what we use here at GLP to create our pin designs! Yay vector!

Vector vs. Raster Example
When we resize the same image multiple times is when you really start to see the difference. Both of these images were resized 8 times, you can see the vector is exactly the same to its original while the bitmap image has become a scary ghost version of its former self. WOAH!
Here are some examples of what resizing does to a vector image vs a Bitmap/Raster image using our friend...Batcat!
Resize Example


Factory Ready Design Rules

Enamel pins are painted by hand using Syringes filled with paint. The paint flows out of the syringe and into the pin, filling up the shapes created by the raised metal. Each shape becomes a little pool of paint.

Enamel colors must be enclosed by Raised Metal. The Raised Metal acts like a wall that contains the enamel paint.

Not only are the lines we see here the outline, they are the metal we will see when the pin is finished. This is what we refer to as “raised metal.” When you pick a metal type (polished gold, black nickel, etc.) these lines will be that metal.

Enamel Pin Design Rules

Because Enamel Paint is injected into the Pin’s recessed metal areas one color at a time, both the raised and recessed metal areas need to be at the smallest a certain size. If recessed areas are not large enough the Enamel Paint will not flow properly. This causes inconsistencies in the enamel paint.

If a design requires smaller details or colors without raised metal outlines, Screen Printing is an option. Screen Printing must be done on Hard Enamel Pins because of the pin’s flat surface.

Factory Process 

Enamel Pin Factory Process

 Enamel Pin Colors

The type of colors we use to create our luscious pins are known as Pantone Colors. While similar to other color system like RGB and CMYK, there are some differences, and there’s a good reason why we use these guys above others.

Let’s talk about the color systems and why we’re all about Pantone at GLP.


What’s Pantone?

Pantone color is a color system used in physical media, like print and paint. Chances are you’ve already heard of RGB and CMYK, but just in case lets brush up.

Enamel Pin Design Guide RGBRGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. It uses a combination of these three colors in order to create every other color. If you wanted to create a shade of purple you would use a combination of red and blue. RGB exists mostly in light emitting non-tangible forms, such as computer monitors and phone screens. If you’re looking at this on your computer or phone, you’re seeing everything in RGB.

Enamel Pin Design Guide CMYKCMYK is just like RGB except instead of using Red, Green and Blue, it uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black to create every other color. This is mainly used in ink. If you were to pop open your printer, chances are you’d find these 4 ink cartridges inside. That’s why when you’re running low on magenta, everything from your oranges to your violets will print out faded. CMYK colors are the most limited and usually more noticeably dull than RGB. Because each printer varies slightly, you may experience a slight difference in color depending on where its printed. If you were to print this page out you’d see everything in CMYK.

(If you had a bunch of ink and didn’t want to take my word for it, you could print this page and compare the RGB graphics to the one on the screen and you’d see the difference.)

Enamel Pin Design Guide PantonePantone color is unlike RGB and CMYK because every color is premixed and named. This leaves nearly no variation from one product to the next. Lets say we had a project that was going to be printed multiple times throughout a span of a few years. If we did standard CMYK each print batch could vary slightly, especially if we switch printers or something like that. Now if we stick with Pantone, we know we’ll always get the same color every time. That’s why we use Pantone colors to make your pins, that way its sure to come out exactly right!

Lets say we wanted this specific shade of purple. Well with Pantone it’s easy, it’s got a name and no matter what program we use or who we need to print it, we can always find it as good ol’ “Pantone 262 SC.”

Pantone ColorIf we used CMYK to get the same purple, the printer would combine these
percentages of each ink to get there, making plenty of room for minor (and sometimes major) variances.


Enamel Pin Size Options

Whether you’re looking to create a small inconspicuous symbol or a large badge of distinction, we offer a variety of sizes for our enamel pins to suit your needs. The size you want is mostly a preference, but there are some good factors to consider when determining how big or small your design should be. Use this guide to help you determine the best size for your final design.

0.75" - 1.15": Great for simple designs without a lot of detail.

  • Company Logos
  • Sponsor Pins
  • Promotional Pins
  • Freebie Pins

1.25" - 2.00": Average size pin. Good for medium to high detail pins.

  • Pins with Text
  • Medium - High Detail
  • Good for Most Requirements

2.15" - 3.00": Great for pins that really standout.

  • Pins with High Detail
  • Pins with Complicated or Detailed Design
  • Artist Pins
  • Showcase Pins