Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Custom Lapel Pins

Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Custom Lapel Pins | Custom Pins Now

‍Ignore all the myriad of options you find out there and focus on the only 2 types of pins: Diestruck pins and offset printed pins.  Both are metal pins but made differently. Diestruck pins are made by pressing a die into a thin piece of metal creating raised and recessed areas. Enamel (paint) is then put into the recessed areas to create the color of the design.  Printed pins on the other hand are literally printed.  The design is printed directly onto the metal creating the design and then covered with a clear epoxy coating.  Diestruck pins are perceived as better quality.

Everything else you might read about custom lapel pins starts to get more technical and can be confusing but all pins fit into one of these two categories.  Below is a more in-depth look at custom lapel pins.

What type of custom lapel pins should I choose?

For those that like the technical details here is more explanation of the different types.

  • Die Struck - No color, with this option the pin can be just the color of the metal such as:  silver, gold, copper, brass, bronze, or black nickel.  The design is created by raised and recessed metal to show detail.  The benefit of this type is it is very clean and classy, more jewelry like.  The negative to this is with shiny metal sometimes it is hard to clearly see the details.  To solve this problem, you can add antique to any of the above metals to give contrast from the raised and recessed areas.  Or you can add sandblast, which is a grainy texture, to the recessed areas to give contrast.
  • Die Struck Hard Enamel with this option enamel is added in the recessed areas to give color to the design.  The enamel is then hardened by heat, ground off, then polished producing a smooth shiny surface on the pin.  You can use any metal color option you want as noted in the No Color section above.  The only thing you have to remember is there has to be a raised metal border around every color, since this is what holds the enamel in its spot.  Which also means you cannot have gradient colors, every color must be a solid color.
  • Die Struck Soft Enamel With this option it is exactly like hard enamel, except for how the enamel is treated.  The enamel is air dried, which results in the paint settling just a little leaving the metal borders around the paint raised and the paint itself ever so slightly recessed.  This leaves a more dimensional look and feel.  Because the process has a few less steps than hard enamel, soft enamel pins are a little less expensive than hard enamel.  There really isn’t any negative to soft enamel it just becomes a preference.  One benefit sot enamel has over hard enamel is that the colors are truer.  On hard enamel because the enamel is hardened by heat the colors often darken a little and don’t match as well the colors chosen.
  • Offset Printed – w/epoxy dome this is a completely different style of pin.  It is still a metal pin, but the design is produced by printing, not enamel.  You start with a thin sheet of metal, print the design directly onto the metal, then cut each individual pin to shape.  Following that process a clear epoxy coating is applied over the design to protect the print.  The negative of offset printed pins is really only one thing, it is perceived as the lowest quality.  Offset printed pins are good pins, but if you compared them side by side to an enamel pin people more often would choose the enamel pin.  The benefits of this style of pin is the flexibility to print anything even a real-life picture.  It is a faster process so if you are doing 5000 qty or so it can be done quicker.  It also allows gradient colors to be used rather than the spot color of enamel pins.

Will my design work on either type of pin?

Most designs can be adapted to any style of pin, it just depends on how much you are willing to modify your design.  Any design can work as an offset printed pin, because it is printed.  It absolutely does not matter what your design looks like it will work with offset printing.  So, if you like the offset printed style pin then your work is done – go with that option.

For enamel pins there are a few more considerations.

1. Does your pin have gradients?

If yes, you will either need to replace the gradient with a solid color or chose offset printing.

2. Does your pin have tiny colored words?

If yes, then you will either need to replace the colored letter with a raised metal colored letter (ie gold or silver).  Tiny letters don’t have enough space to outline with a stroke of metal and add paint, so the only way to do tiny letters is to make them raised metal with no color fill.

3. Does your pin have thin colored lines?

If yes, same answer as #2

4. Do you have exact branding standards for your logo?

If yes, then depending on #1, #2 and #3 above you may or may not be able to do an enamel pin.  There are various other ways to accommodate logos and still do an enamel pin.  One way is silkscreen.  Silk screening is just like silk screening a t-shirt, you lay down a template and wipe paint over the template to create the design.  This eliminates the need for a metal border, but still allows you to have an enamel pin.  The negative is that the silkscreen is not as durable as enamel.  Typically, it will be fine if the pin is just worn normally, but if it is going to be bumped and scratched a lot silkscreen is not a good option.

5. Do you need your pin quick, 2 weeks or less?

If yes, does your design have lots of colors, more than 4?  If yes, then enamel pins will be tough to get done in time.  Unlike printing where all color is printed at the same time, with enamel pins colors are added 1-2 colors at a time, then dried, then the next 1-2 colors are added and so on.  You can see that the more colors you have the longer the process is to complete the pin.  So, if you have 4 or more colors in your pin, it is best not to rush it or choose an offset printed pin.

6. Does your pin have inner piercings or cutouts in the design?

If yes, none of the options discussed to this point will work.  There really is one other style of pin we have not discussed and that is die cast style pins.  We don’t really mention diecast because it often confuses people.  Everything we have discussed about hard and soft enamel pins applies to diecast pins, with one exception.  Die cast pins have cutouts, die struck pins do not.  The process to make die cast pins is different than making a die struck pin.  With die struck pins a design is stamped into a thin piece of metal leaving raised and recessed area.  With die cast pins a mold is made and then liquid zinc alloy is poured into the mold to form the pin.  This process still leaves raised and recessed areas, but also leaves inner cutouts.  In the real world most people would never know the difference, but cutouts are always a giveaway that it is die cast.

Who is the best custom lapel pin company?

That is always a tricky question.  The reality is most companies are very similar in terms of the pins they make, the processes they use and the end quality.  The difference really boils down to price and service which are big determining factors.  There are dramatic differences in pricing and service so make sure you choose a company that has a track record, stands behind their product but most important is responsive to your emails and phone calls.  We have addressed this topic in one of our other blog posts Who Makes the Best Lapel Pins?

How do I design a lapel pin?

Designing a lapel pin is not really that hard, and in fact most pin companies will design the pin for you – for FREE!  All you have to do is provide a basic idea and then let the magic begin.However, if you are the designing type there are some things to consider to make the best pin possible.

1. What is the purpose?

The first question to ask is:  What is the purpose of your pin?  Will it be worn?  Will it be a giveaway?  Is it a collectible piece?  Is it for recognition?  Is it for pin trading?  The answer to these questions will help determine the type of pin you need to design or request.

2. Size matters.

If the pin is too big no one will wear it.  If it is too small no one will see it.  Professional lapel pins worn on a suitcoat typically range from .75 to 1 inch in size.  Trading pins typically range from 1.5 to 2 inches in size.  Collectible pins typically range from 1 to 2 inches or bigger.  Promotional pins are typically smaller to keep the cost down and range from 1 to 1.25 inch in size.  In general, and most common, custom lapel pins range from .75 to 1.25 inch in size.  So, if you ask for a 3-inch pin we will question the size as 3-inch is very very big.  Size does matter when it comes to pins.

3. Simple is Best.

People generally tend to put everything they can think of on a pin, a logo and all the words explaining everything they are trying to convey.  However, pins are not meant to explain everything.  Pins are meant to draw attention and stimulate conversation.  Simple designs are much more powerful, because they are clean, can be recognized from a distance, and open the door to questions.  So, remember the saying “KISS” – Keep It Simple Stupid.  This definitely applies to custom pins.

4. Colors, Colors and More Colors.

Colors bring life, fun, and excitement to a pin but more is not always better.  The preferred number of colors from the factories point of view is 4.  This is enough to work with but does not overwhelm the pin.  Many companies offer 4-8 colors free so don’t be afraid to take advantage of the extra colors but simple is still the best policy.  If your particular design requires more than 8 colors, it can be done but complicates and lengthens the time to produce.  A good thing to remember is, pins are very small, when they are blown up big on a monitor you see all the different colors, but when they are shrunk small, little tiny colors don’t really show and therefore aren’t really necessary in the design.  One suggestion is, rather than using 2 colors that are similar shades, use only one shade.  By the time it gets put on a small pin – you won’t see the difference.  The last important thing to remember is custom lapel pins us pantone colors.  There are various pantone color charts.  It is important to always select colors from the Pantone Coated C color chart.

5. Give it Shape.

If size matters, then shape does not matter.  What do we mean by this?  Well, often people think that round and square pins are cheaper.  This is not the case.  The shape of the pin makes no difference in the cost of the pin.  Pins are priced based on the longest dimension so whether it is round, square, or some odd shape it will be the same price.  But we suggest that giving your pin a unique shape adds interest to the pin and makes it unique.  So, shape doesn’t matter, but it sure adds a nice touch to a design.

6. Gold or Silver.

The last question to consider is what metal finish do you want?  Most designers design with black lines, this is fine, but doesn’t really reflect what the finished pin will look like.  You have to remember that little details can dramatically change the look of a pin, metal color is one of those little details.  Most pins are made with gold or silver plating. That means the lines are all either gold or silver.  If you are unable to create artwork with gold or silver lines that’s ok, just send the black line artwork and we can change it.  Gold is complementary with some colors and silver is complementary with other colors, based on your particular design choose the metal color that seems to look best.

What file type do I need to provide?

There are many different programs and file types out there.  With the exception of offset printed pins, all artwork has to be vectorized, which means every detail is translated into lines.  These lines are what the machinery uses to translate the design into raised and recessed areas.  That said, Adobe Illustrator is the program of choice and is what is used to vectorize artwork.  Regardless of what you send us we have to vectorize it in Illustrator.  So, if you have an ai or eps file type we prefer to get that, that makes our job easier.  But many people don’t know how to use Illustrator so you can design it in any program you want and we will then vectorize it for production.  If you are doing an offset printed pin then really the only requirement is the highest resolution file type that you have, which usually means the original file either a PDF, PSD or AI file.  We can use anything, but the higher the resolution the better the print quality on the pin.  Some JPG files that are saved as high resolution will work just fine.

If you made it through this document hopefully you now know everything you ever wanted to know about custom lapel pins.  The most important thing to remember is you don’t have to know everything.  We are in business because we love pins, and we love helping people create their vision.  We know all the technical stuff so you can just focus on telling us what you want and then we will guide you through the rest of the process.  It really is an easy process from start to finish.  Tell us what you want, we design it, you approve it, we produce it, we ship it, you enjoy it.

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