There are 3 major types of pins that control the color in a pin, and 2 types of pins that decide how the metal pin itself is made. Without further ado, let’s dive in.
1. Soft Enamel Pins
Soft enamel pins are by far the most popular pin type, and for good reason. They provide the most bang for buck, and they provide a major quality that some people prefer - a nice depth effect.
When looking at a soft enamel pin, you can see a very distinct depth effect by noticing the highlights in the enamel. This depth effect is actually a result of the enamel curing process.
Once the metal pin itself is made, enamel is added to each recessed area according to the design.
Imagine using Microsoft Paint, drawing a closed circle, then using the fill tool to fill that circle with a specific color.
It’s the same process here, except done by hand with enamel. Once all the needed areas are filled with enamel, the pin is allowed to air dry.
Ultimately this air drying process is what causes the enamel to settle a bit, slightly lower than the metal edges of your design.
Because of this, the metal and enamel are on two different levels. So if you were to run your thumb over the surface, you’d be able to feel the metal edges of the design, and the sunken levels of color, resulting in the soft enamel depth effect.
2. Hard Enamel Pins
Hard enamel pins are a step above soft enamel pins when it comes to quality. The only difference here is how the enamel is treated. Remember how soft enamel pins are allowed to air dry which causes the enamel to settle? That doesn’t happen here with hard enamel pins.
With this pin type, the enamel is cured and hardened with heat. Several layers of enamel is applied to ensure that the enamel sits flush with the metal edges of the pin. When you run your finger over the finished pin’s surface, you won’t feel any raised or recessed areas, but rather it will feel smooth.
Visually speaking, this enamel curing process gives the pin a more professional and quality look about it. Commonly, companies prefer to choose hard enamel pins depending on budget constraints.
3. Offset PrintedPins
Offset Printed Pins - the magical pin type that allows for the fastest turnaround. We’ve found that most people don’t understand offset printed pins as compared to the “normal” pin types, and that’s okay. Let’s clear the air here.
The biggest benefits to offset printed pins are:
- They can be made and shipped fast.
- You can use gradient colors, and more details than a “normal” pin type could handle.
It all comes down to how an offset printed pin is made, as it’s a bit different process which allows for the above benefits. Once the design is created, it is simply printed out on sticker paper using a high quality photo printer. Because the design is printed rather than using a metal mold, we could easily turn a detailed photo into a pin. The sticker is then peeled off and placed on a metal blank. An epoxy coating is then applied to the surface which provides protection and a nice 3D dome effect over your design. The pins are put through a UV light machine which helps to cure the epoxy, a clutch is added to the pin post and it’s done!
Offset printed pins are made in-house rather than at our factories, which is why we’re able to turn them around so quickly.
4. Die Struck vs Die Cast Pins
While hard enamel and soft enamel refers to how the enamel is treated, die struck and die cast refers to the how the pin mold is made. You could have a die struck soft enamel pin, or a die cast soft enamel pin, and the same with a hard enamel pin.
With the die struck process, the design is stamped into the metal.
With the die cast process, a mold is made and liquid metal is injected into the mold. This allows for more intricate designs with cutouts. If a design with cutouts was to be made using the die struck process, the pin would likely break.
We can help you determine whether your design requires the die struck or die cast process. Ultimately you’ll just need to determine whether you would prefer a soft enamel pin, hard enamel pin, or offset printed pin.