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Articles on designing your own custom merch, growing your brand, and managing manufacturing as a small business.

A Guide to Pin Styles: Enamel Pins, Metal Pins, and More

Thinking of creating pins for your small business?

Great idea! Pins are a fun way to get your cool designs out in the world and allow your customers to express their individuality by dressing up clothing, accessories, and so much more.

But now that you’ve decided to start selling custom pins… the deciding has only begun.

You’ve still got to choose the designs, find a great manufacturer… and settle on the right style of pins so your next custom pin collection is a major best-seller.

Did you know that there’s more than one type of pins out there? In fact, here at The/Studio, we offer six main types of pins: soft enamel pins, hard enamel pins, die-struck pins, 3D mold pins, and offset printed pins. While all of them are super fashionable and high-quality, some pins are better suited for different needs.

Are you looking to create a colorful art deco piece for your customers to pin on a leather jacket?

Are you striving to create an heirloom-quality lapel pin that looks totally official?

Are you simply looking to create a fun novelty gift for an event you have coming up, with photorealistic detail?

Are you planning on selling baseball caps and you’re looking for a cool way to personalize them?

Whatever your vision, you can bring it to life with The/Studio… as long as you select the right type of pin, that is!

Before you start production or even design, get clear about what type of pin you’re setting out to create.

Read on for a guide to the six main types of pins, along with a brief overview of other areas you can customize to make your custom pins your own. 


Enamel pins

Enamel pins are perhaps the most popular pin type out there. When you think of a pin, chances are this is where your brain goes. Enamel pins are made with a combination of enamel and metal. They’re often brightly colored and can be made in any shape. They’re usually a good fit for fashion statements on jean jackets, leather jackets, canvas tote bags, baseball caps, or other accessories. However, they’re not all fun and games – it’s also possible to create an official-looking lapel pin using enamel. Enamel pins may be used to express personality, show affiliation to a team or organization, or represent a brand.

There are two types of enamel pins available: soft enamel pins and hard enamel pins. While both types of enamel pins achieve that classic colorful look, their production, cost, and overall look vary significantly.


Soft Enamel Pins

Custom Pin soft enamel

Soft enamel pins are the most traditional type of enamel pins. Soft enamel pins are created by pouring soft enamel between metal lines. First, a soft enamel pin is plated with metal die lines. (At The/Studio, a wide selection of 14 metal finishes and colors are available.) Then, enamel colors are added to the open areas of the design.

Soft enamel pins offer a classic pin look. You’ll notice grooves or dips between the enamel and die lines on the pin. They allow for a higher level of detail and more contrasting designs, with texture and shine. 

Soft enamel pins are available in a wide variety of colors. In fact, The/Studio offers the flexibility to add 21+ enamel colors on just one pin. Soft enamel pins are also one of the most affordable custom pin options. They may cost as low as $0.40 each, depending on the order quantity.

Soft Enamel Pins at a Glance

  • Colorful
  • Textured
  • Metal + enamel
  • Inexpensive


Hard Enamel Pins

custom pin hard enamel

Hard enamel pins also achieve that classic, colorful pin look, but they’re a bit different from traditional soft enamel pins. Also known as cloisonné pins, hard enamel pins are created by adding each piece of colored enamel individually, then melting and baking it together on top of a metal plate. This results in a smooth, multicolored surface. The enamel is polished flat across the pin’s surface, without the textured feel of soft enamel pins.

Hard enamel pins are also available in a wide variety of colors, with 21+ enamel colors available. Hard enamel pins typically cost more than soft enamel pins due to the more involved design process and production time. Still, they may cost as low as $0.46 each, depending on the order quantity.

Hard Enamel Pins at a Glance

  • Colorful
  • Smooth
  • Metal + enamel, with only enamel visible
  • More expensive


Die-Struck Pins

custom pin die struck

Die-struck pins use raised and recessed metal to bring custom designs to life. Their overall look and design process is similar to that of a custom coin. Die-struck pins are made by creating a mold, then stamping the design directly onto metal. The design is brought to life in the texture, not with color or enamel additions. (Though you can add enamel detail to a die-struck pin if you wish.)

Die-struck pins are ideal for classic, intricate designs that would look great imprinted on metal and don’t require any color. They’re a popular option for lapel pins since their monochromatic look is rather understated and sophisticated. Die-struck pins are a great choice for logo pins, recognition pins, commemorative pins, or award pins. With a wide selection of 14 metals and finishes available, they’re still highly customizable.

Die-struck pins are one of the most affordable custom pin options available. They may cost as low as $0.40 each, depending on the order quantity.

Die-Struck Pins at a Glance

  • One color
  • Textured
  • Metallic
  • Inexpensive


3D Mold Pins

custom pin 3d mold

Have a custom pin with a really unique shape in mind? A 3D mold pin might be the way to go. 3D mold pins are created by forming a custom mold, then pouring metal into it. They can be fully customized to suit any shape or detail, no matter how intricate.

Similar to die-struck pins, 3D mold pins are typically made with metal only, without enamel color additions. 

3D mold pins can be customized to suit a variety of styles. They can look rather modern with geometric, pop culture designs, or extremely elite and classic with highly detailed insignias. They’re also a very popular option for lapel pins. Though they are typically made using just one type of metal, The/Studio’s wide variety of 14 metals and finishes allows for a lot of customizability.

3D mold pins typically cost a little more than die-struck pins or soft enamel pins. Still, they may cost as low as $0.46 each, depending on the order quantity.

3D Mold Pins at a Glance

  • One color
  • Highly textured
  • Metallic
  • More expensive


Offset Printed Pins

Looking for a photorealistic pin? Look no further than offset printed pins. These extremely customizable pins are created by printing a design in full color, then protecting it with an epoxy coating. They’re ideal for pins that require an extremely high level of detail and lots of colors. (While enamel pins can support 21+ colors of enamel, adding on more than 5 colors on a single pin comes at an additional cost – offset printed pins include as many colors as your design requires at one flat rate.)

Offset printed pins are a popular option for novelty pins since they can bring any photograph or artwork to life. They’re a great option for weddings, concerts, fundraisers, trade shows, or other special events. They’re also worth considering for any designer who has artwork that would look great on a pin but doesn’t wish to alter their designs too much for the different medium.

Offset printed pins can be protected with a thin epoxy coating or a thick epoxy dome. Thin epoxy coating has a flat, shiny finish. Thin epoxy coating comes at an extra cost. Still, they may cost as low as $0.46 each, depending on the order quantity.

Offset printed pins with a thick epoxy dome are the most expensive pins available at The/Studio. They may cost $0.48 per pin, depending on the order quantity. In this type of pin, the design is printed using offset plates, then thick epoxy coating is applied to seal the design creating a dome shape. 

Offset Printed Pins at a Glance

  • One color
  • Smooth texture, flat or domed
  • Printed
  • More expensive


Which Pin Style is Best?

The best pin style for you will depend on your intended pin design, your customers, and your business.

For example, if you’re looking to create an official-looking lapel pin as merchandise for a golf resort, you’d probably like a pin that looks classic, understated, and expensive… while if you’re interested in creating eye-catching, brightly colored pins for young people looking to decorate their vintage denim jackets, you’d be better off choosing a pin that allows for as much color and detail as possible.

If you have a specific design or photo in mind that you’d like to recreate as accurately as possible, an offset printed pin may be best. It’ll look the truest to your original design.

For unassuming lapel pins, the die-struck style is a total classic. Its coin-like look is understated yet sophisticated, making it a good fit for professional clothing or business casual looks alike. However, 3D mold pins are a great option for pin creators looking for a metallic look, but who have a more custom shape in mind.

For brightly-colored pins, enamel is definitely the way to go. You’ll just have to choose between hard enamel or soft enamel depending on your design – hard enamel is a great choice for artistic pins that don’t need defined lines throughout, while soft enamel is better for more detailed designs.

If you’re looking for the best all-around pin, we’d have to go with soft enamel – it’s the most traditional and most popular pin for a reason, with bright colors and the ability to support detailed and simple designs alike. Plus, it’s one of the most affordable pin options out there.


Pin Customization Options

Guess what? Your pin style isn’t the only thing that will end up influencing the overall look of your pin. When you create a custom pin using The/Studio’s DIY online product creation tool, you’ll also have countless other customization options to help you make your pin style your own – even after you’ve decided which of the six main pin styles is the best fit.

You’ll also have the chance to customize the following pin features:

  • Material color/finish – Choose from a shiny gold, shiny gunmetal, shiny silver, shiny nickel, shiny rose gold, shiny brass, shiny copper, antique gold, antique silver, antique brass, antique nickel, antique copper, brushed brass finish, or black paint finish. You’ll also have the option to choose two metal colors of the same finish if you’d prefer.
  • Backing attachment – Decide what sort of backing will go on your custom pin. Choose between a traditional butterfly clutch pin backing, a rubber clutch backing, deluxe clutch backing, 2-piece magnet backing, safety pin backing, bar magnet backing, rubber clutch backing, or bent legs backing.
  • How many colors – Choose whether your design will involve no color, less than 5 enamel colors, or any other range of enamel colors up to 21+.
  • Additional upgrades – Explore fun add-ons! Indicate whether you’d like to add on glitter enamel, embossing, extra backing attachments, engraving, sand-blasting, thin epoxy coating, glow-in-the-dark enamel, debossing, rhinestones, translucent enamel, or aluminum core metal to your pin.
  • Custom backing cards – Planning on selling these pins in your store? Order custom backing cards to make sure your pins are totally retail-ready.

Note that some of these features may come at an additional cost.


Ready to choose your pin style and start customizing your ideal pin? Start the process here.




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