Soft Enamel Pins VS Hard | The True Difference [ Infographic ]

Written by Robin Brown on March 19, 2021
The distinction between soft enamel and hard enamel pins can be easily identified by their visual characteristics. Soft enamel pins possess a textured, three-dimensional surface that provides a tactile experience when touched. On the other hand, hard enamel pins exhibit a sleek, two-dimensional appearance. They lack any ridges or raised surfaces, resulting in a smooth and even texture when touched.
hard vs soft image

1. What Are Soft Enamel Pins?

Soft enamel pins are characterized by their three-dimensional appearance and textured feel. These pins are crafted using die-struck metal or stamped metal, which forms the desired design. Once the pin is struck, a thin layer of enamel is applied, resulting in a pin where the raised edges and grooves of the design can be felt.

2. What Are Hard Enamel Pins?

Hard enamel pins are characterized by their smooth and even surface. Similar to soft enamel pins, they are manufactured using die-struck or stamped metal techniques. In the case of hard enamel pins, the enamel is carefully poured into the design until it covers the metal ridges.

Once the enamel is poured into the pins, they undergo a polishing process, which results in their distinctive smooth two-dimensional appearance.

3. Soft Enamel Pin Advantages and Limitations

Below are the key advantages and disadvantages of using soft enamel pins.

● Cheap
● Textured, three dimensional look
● Thinner and lighter than hard enamel pins
● Can use any plating option – metal, dyes, antique finishes, etc.
● Able to capture subtle detail
● Faster to produce

● Ridges can break or get caught on clothes
● Vulnerable to damage since there is no enamel protective layer
● Not as luxurious as hard enamel
● Can result in more imperfections during the manufacturing process

4. Hard Enamel Pin Advantages and Limitations

Here are the key advantages and disadvantages of using hard enamel pins.

● The smooth and sleek finish
● More durable than soft enamel pins
● Often considered higher quality due to price and sleek appearance.
● Fewer impurities in the production process
● Scratch and chip-resistant due to protective coating on top.
● Shiny, bubble-like appearance

● More expensive
● Takes longer to make due to the final polishing process
● You have limited plating options. You can only use metal finishes, such as gold, silver, or nickel.
● Only work with solid colors – does not allow for overly complicated designs.

5. The Differences Between Hard Enamel and Soft Enamel Pins

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Price

●  soft enamel pins pricing

soft enamel pins price imageSTART A SOFT ENAMEL PINS DESIGN

● hard enamel pins pricing

hard enamel pins price imageSTART A HARD ENAMEL PINS DESIGN
Soft enamel pins are generally priced lower than hard enamel pins, although the price difference is not typically double or triple. The variation in price will depend on the manufacturer, but hard enamel pins are generally around 20% to 40% more expensive.

At Vivipins, our hard enamel pins are approximately 10% more costly compared to our soft enamel pins.

The price of a pin is influenced by factors such as size, style, design complexity, number of colors, and additional features. While there are cheap enamel pins available, the lower price may be attributed to other characteristics of the pin. All other factors being equal, soft enamel pins are cheaper than hard enamel pins.

The increased cost of hard enamel pins is due to the more time-consuming and intricate production process involved. Firstly, the painting process for hard enamel pins requires more time and attention to detail compared to soft enamel pins. Secondly, the additional polishing stage of hard enamel pins is more labor-intensive.

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Detail

image vs of hard and soft
Soft enamel pins maintain their advantage in the realm of detail. They have the ability to showcase more intricate elements compared to hard enamel pins.

The exposed and lifted ridges and grooves of soft enamel pins contribute to their superior detail visibility. This characteristic makes it easier to observe and identify the finer aspects of the design.

In contrast, hard enamel pins are filled to the top with enamel and subsequently polished. During the polishing phase, the ridges of the design may become more rounded, potentially diminishing the clarity of the details.

With their raised ridges, soft enamel pins possess a three-dimensional appearance. The texture and ridges create an impression of enhanced detail, making the pins visually appealing.

On the other hand, hard enamel pins appear more two-dimensional due to being filled and polished, resulting in a comparatively less detailed pin.

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Durability

Hard enamel pins excel in durability compared to soft enamel pins.

The durability of hard enamel pins can be attributed to their protective coating, which acts as a safeguard against scratching or chipping. This finish provides a layer of protection for the paint and any raised metal ridges on the pin.

In contrast, soft enamel pins feature exposed metal ridges that contribute to their three-dimensional appearance but also render them more susceptible to damage. The exposed metal increases the likelihood of scratching or chipping.

For instance, if a soft enamel pin were to be accidentally dropped on the floor, the concrete would directly impact the pin's paint and ridges.

In the case of hard enamel pins, the protective coating ensures that the paint and metal outline never come into contact with the concrete, enhancing their resilience.

Some manufacturers offer an epoxy protective coating option for soft enamel pins, which can enhance their durability. However, this protective layer compromises the distinctive rigid, three-dimensional feel associated with soft enamel pins.

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Texture

hard vs soft enamel pins image
Soft enamel pins once again outshine their hard enamel counterparts when it comes to texture. The distinct advantage of soft enamel pins lies in their ability to provide a textured experience.

Soft enamel pins feature a rigid surface that allows one to feel the intricate details and contours of the design. This textured quality is what gives soft enamel pins their distinctive and appealing appearance.

In contrast, hard enamel pins offer a smooth and polished finish. With hard enamel pins, the surface is devoid of any noticeable ridges or textural elements. The pins are filled to the top with enamel and then meticulously polished, resulting in a sleek and rounded aesthetic.

If your preference leans towards pins with a textured and three-dimensional look, soft enamel pins are the ideal choice. On the other hand, if you seek a more polished and understated appearance, hard enamel pins may better suit your taste.

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Elegance

Elegance and beauty are subjective qualities that vary from person to person. However, in general, hard enamel pins are often regarded as more elegant compared to soft enamel pins.

The smooth and sleek finish of hard enamel pins contributes to their perceived elegance. The polished appearance and refined surface give off a sense of high quality and sophistication.

Soft enamel pins, on the other hand, are more widely popular and typically more affordable. This availability and lower price point contribute to their broader appeal. However, the relative rarity and higher cost of hard enamel pins contribute to their exclusivity, which is often associated with a sense of classiness and elegance.

Ultimately, the perception of elegance can vary depending on personal preferences and cultural contexts.

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Size

The match regarding size between soft enamel and hard enamel pins ends in a draw. There is no inherent difference in size between the two types of pins.

The variation in size primarily depends on individual manufacturers. Different manufacturers may produce pins of varying sizes, so it's important to consider their specific offerings.

Furthermore, the level of detail in a design can also influence the size of the pin. Intricate designs require larger dimensions to ensure that the details are clearly visible. When designs are scaled down to smaller sizes, the intricate elements may become less discernible.

In general, both soft enamel and hard enamel pins can range in size from ½ inch to 2 inches. However, it is worth noting that some manufacturers may offer pins in larger or smaller sizes.

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Finish/Surface

The surface or finish of a pin, also known as plating, differs between hard enamel and soft enamel pins. Soft enamel pins offer more plating options compared to hard enamel pins.

When it comes to soft enamel pins, there is flexibility in choosing various colors and materials for the plating process. Options include gold, black paint, or an antique finish, among others.

In contrast, hard enamel pins have fewer plating options. Typically, only metal platings such as nickel, bronze, or gold are used for hard enamel pins.

If you specifically desire a black plating or black ridges in your design, the limitations become apparent.

With soft enamel pins, it is possible to have the plating painted black. However, with hard enamel pins, black paint is not an option. The only alternative is to use black nickel.

It is important to note that black nickel does not appear as a true black color. Instead, it has a dark grey hue with a shiny finish.

● Soft Enamel Pins vs Hard Enamel Pins: Manufacturing Process [ infographic ]

hard vs soft image
The manufacturing process for soft enamel pins and hard enamel pins follows similar steps initially. The significant differences arise after the dies have been cut and polished.

Both types of pins go through the same general steps, but the techniques and order of those steps vary.

For soft enamel pins, the electroplating process is carried out first. This involves adding a thin metal coating to the pin. After electroplating, the pins are painted with enamel colors. Unlike hard enamel pins, soft enamel pins do not undergo a final polishing process.

On the other hand, hard enamel pins involve a meticulous layer-by-layer application of colors. The colors are added and cured before the pins undergo electroplating. Finally, hard enamel pins are polished to achieve a smooth and even finish.
different hard vs soft image
● Step by Step Breakdown

1.Creating the Mold For The Pin

The initial process begins with creating the metal for the base of the pin. This is done either using the die-struck or metal stamp process. These methods are used to create the shape and size of the pin.

2.Cutting the Design

Once the metal base is created, the design is cut out of the metal.

3. Polishing

Once the design is cut, the metal is polished to give it a smooth finish.

After the design is cut and polished, the soft enamel and hard enamel pins follow a different process.

● Soft Enamel Pins

4. Protection: Electroplating or Spraying

Depending on the manufacturer, these steps may vary, but the purpose is the same. The step adds a protective layer to the metal to make it more durable.

5. Adding Colors

After the pins are cut, and coated layers of color are added to the design.

With soft enamel pins, only a thin layer of color is applied to keep the metal ridges of the design exposed.

6. Baking

Once the colors are applied, the pin is placed in an oven to help the colors set.

7. Quality Control and Packaging

Once the pins are removed from the oven, they are inspected for impurities and packaged.

● Hard Enamel Pins

4. Adding Color

On hard enamel pins, after the pin is cut, the colors are added to the design. Each layer of color needs to be added individually and dried before a new color can be applied.

Hard enamel pins receive multiple layers of color until it is flush with the

5. Baking

After the colors are applied, the pin is baked to let the colors set. Hard enamel pins are baked separately for each color that is applied.

6. Protection: Electroplating or Spraying

A protective layer is applied at the end of the manufacturing process to hard enamel pins. Whereas soft enamel pins receive protection before the colors are applied.

7. Polishing

To finish the pin, the pin is polished and ground to give it a smooth finish.

8. Quality Control and Packaging

Once the pins are polished, they are packaged and ready for shipment.

6. When should you buy soft enamel pins?

Soft enamel pins are indeed more popular and widely available compared to hard enamel pins. They are often favored for their affordability while still maintaining a high-quality appearance.

If you are working within a budget but still want a visually appealing and attention-grabbing pin, soft enamel pins are a great choice.

Soft enamel pins are particularly suitable for intricate designs that require multiple colors. The recessed areas of the design allow for the application of different enamel colors, resulting in a vibrant and detailed pin.

One of the standout features of soft enamel pins is the texture they offer. The raised metal edges and grooves give the pins a tactile feel, allowing you to appreciate the details simply by touching them.

Whether you want a cost-effective option, a design with multiple colors, or a pin that stands out with its texture and detail, soft enamel pins are an excellent choice.

7. When Should you buy hard enamel pins?

Indeed, durability is a significant advantage of hard enamel pins. These pins are designed to withstand regular use and exposure without sustaining damage.

If you anticipate that your pin will be subjected to frequent handling or wear, opting for hard enamel pins is a wise choice. Their scratch-resistant properties, along with the absence of ridges, make them less prone to breakage or chipping.

In addition to their durability, hard enamel pins are often favored for their elegant and sleek design. The smooth and detailed finish of hard enamel pins is commonly associated with high quality and is considered desirable by many.

If you are seeking a pin that can withstand everyday use and offers a sophisticated appearance, hard enamel pins are an excellent option to consider.
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Article written by Robin Brown
Robin Brown is part of the content team at Vivipins where he develops resources to help customers start and grow their own businesses.
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