10 Secrets of better working with enamel pin maker

by | Mar 15, 2019 | product 101


I once saw a cool Gudetama enamel pin on a backpack. I am a fan of this Japanese character, so I asked the owner where she got it. She said she made it.

I was so intrigued by this, so I immediately went online to learn how. This guide contains tips for you to find the best enamel pin maker in 2019.

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Image Source: Aliexpress.com

1.  Make an Original Enamel Pin Design

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Image Source: Pexels.com

Before you can have a pin made, you need to come up with a design.

The problem is you can’t really just copy any image that has been trademarked or copyrighted. And no, modifying a character that has been copyrighted is not acceptable.

Changing the shape of its eyes or the color of its hair will not hack it. You can only make an enamel pin from an original design. If you want to use another artist’s work, you will need a license for it.

The good thing is, everything can be turned into an enamel pin design. Even your old artwork can be modified so it can be made into custom lapel pins.

This will allow you to show your work to a wider audience. They can even wear your work on their clothes, bags, shoes, or cap. That’s free advertising.

Choose A Design That Is Trendy If You Want to Sell You Pins

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Image Source: Supercutekawaii.com

If you plan on selling your custom enamel pins, you need to choose a popular design. This will be helpful if you are just starting out as a pin seller. You probably still need to build up your following on social media.

This means only a few people will see your work. If you feature designs that already have an existing market, the customers will find you faster. For young girls, these could be fairies, flowers, or unicorns. For boys, these could be cars or robots.

You can also work on a timely theme. You can make skeleton enamel pins in time for Halloween.

Once you have the following, you can start introducing your unique creations. Some might consider this as selling out. Don’t. Even if you are just making unicorn pins, you are still putting your own artistic twist to it.

2. Make the Design Pin-Friendly

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While all artwork can be an inspiration, not all aspects of it will translate into a pin design. There are so many things I wish I knew before I submitted my first pin design. It would have saved me weeks of emails and phone calls to and from the enamel pin maker.

I had to redo my design maybe four times before it was finally deemed good enough for printing. The problem was not that the design was ugly. It was because it was not ready to be made into a pin.

3. Below are the tips that I learned during my redesign process:

vivipins Best Designer

Tip1: Avoid too many details – Putting lines to represent texture is something I had to unlearn. This is because it can make the pin look messy and cluttered. Instead of fine lines for texture, just use bold lines for the outline of your design.

Tip2: Draw your lines in metallic colors – Your drawing’s lines are going to be the raised metal part of the enamel pin. Using metallic ink for the lines will let you see how your design translate as a pin. It will also allow you to check if your color choice actually works.

Tip3: Remove gaps or complicated outer shape – Holes inside your design and fancy edges means more work for the pin maker. This means they will charge you higher per pin. If you plan on selling your work, this is something you want to avoid.

Tip4: Send your design as a vector. When you are done with your design, you will have to send it to a pin maker. The best format you can choose is a vector.

There are more things to remember when you are creating a design for your custom enamel pins. But the ones mentioned above should suffice for beginners.

4. Create the Right File for the Enamel Pin Maker

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As mentioned, the best way to send your chosen enamel pin maker your design is as a vector. To turn your design into one, you will use software like Inkscape, Corel Draw, or Adobe Illustrator. Most artists already know the steps to converting your sketches into a digital file.

If You Don’t, Here Are the Steps:

Step1: Scan your work. Import this to the software that you use for drawing. One such software is Manga Studio.

Step2: Using a digital pen, go over your outlines. Make sure that it is clean. No wobbling or broken lines.

Step3: Export your work to Corel Draw or Illustrator once you are happy with your outline. Create a Live Trace of all the lines that you drew.

What this does is it creates a vector trace of the outlines. It can now be resized and edited with ease. Make sure to remove extra points and smoothen or sharpen the areas that need it.

Step4: For fonts, make sure to trace its outline. Your pin maker may not have the particular font that you used. This will make it easier for them to make your pin.

Step5: Use the Pantone finder to find the right color codes for the ones that you used. This will ensure that the pin maker knows the right color to choose for your design. You might need to buy the color guides, but you can always check your local library.

Now that you are done with making the file of your design, you will need to save it. Create .svg, .ai, or .eps files. Your lapel pins company will use those for making their mock-ups.

5. Decide on the Metal and Finish of your Enamel Pin

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Before contacting any pin maker, you need to do some research. It is advisable that you know your options for metal and finish for your pins. This way, you won’t be wasting their time or yours when you are asked to make decisions. As for metals, you may be given the following options:

  • Brass
  • Iron
  • Zinc alloy
  • Pewter
  • Copper

Most of the time, the pin type will dictate which metal to use.

Here Are the Types That You Can Choose From:

Cloisonné (hard enamel) – This type of pin is usually the most professional-looking. There is a smooth surface all throughout. That means the metal outlines and the colored enamel are all levels.

The pin maker starts by stamping the design onto a copper or brass base material. This creates the cavities for the color and the outline. The cavities are then filled with glass enamel. The layering of enamel and the buffing gives it its smooth and flat surface.

Soft enamel – while it is very similar to hard enamel pins, this one is a cheaper alternative. The pin maker gets a plate of iron and stamps the design on that.

Instead of using glass enamel, the colors are painted on. This is the reason why soft enamel pins have a three-dimensional feel. If you want it to resemble a hard enamel pin, an epoxy cover will do the job.

Few More

1)Die-struck – This is for pins that do not require any color. It is basically just the base material with a stamped-on design.

2)Silkscreen or printed – This style of pins is made by cutting the iron metal base to the shape desired. The design is then printed or silkscreened onto the surface. A clear epoxy layer is then applied to seal the image. This is perfect for designs that are too intricate for enamel printing.

3)Photo-etched – Instead of stamping, the design is etched on the surface of the copper plate. Pin makers use a chemical process to do this. Afterward, a clear epoxy is applied to keep the design from fading.

4)Offset printing – If your design requires gradient or color bleeds, offset printing is the only method to use. The image is printed onto the copper metal base. It is then sealed using an epoxy coating.

Once you have decided on these details, you can start looking for a pin maker. Below are the steps that you can take to make the hunting pain-free.

6. Contact A Direct Pin Maker


While it is ideal to go to a local pin maker, those could prove difficult to find. There are very few companies that offer that type of service outside of China.

What most enamel pin makers do is they act as middlemen and send off the designs to a Chinese printer. If you select such a company, you can expect to be quoted a much higher price.

Keeping the overhead price low is what you need if you plan on selling your enamel pins. That is why you need to ask the local pin making company if they do the manufacturing themselves.

You can search for a pin maker online. There are many suggestions for reliable pin makers by other bloggers. It might be ideal for this to be your first question to them.


Check the Quality of Their Work

The next step would be to check the quality of their work. It is crucial that you ask to see actual samples of their output rather than just pictures. You might also want to look at reviews left by their former clients.

The more positive reviews there are, the better. This means many have already tried out their services. Having a lot of clients is a plus but not a sure thing. They can be paying for positive reviews. Check for testimonials that come with pictures or sound specific.

7. Ask the Right Questions Before Making A Decision

You Must Know How to Delegate

Before saying yes, make sure that the pin maker can produce your enamel pins to your liking. Ask them the following questions:

Do they work with the type of metal and finish that you want?

1) Can they send you a free mock-up of your pin?

2)How many pins will you need to order per design?

3)How long would it take for them to produce your enamel pins?

4)How much per pin do they charge usually (based on the size and colors of your pin)?

5)What are the payment options?

If you are doing the communication online, note how quick the company is to reply to your inquiry.

If you are doing it over the phone, keep tabs of how friendly the sales representative is.

You would want to choose a friendly company if you want to maintain a long relationship with them. Communicating your design specifications can be tough if the person at the other end is impatient.

Go Over the Details of Your Questions

Now, let’s go over the details of your questions. You already know that there are different finishes for enamel pins. You will want to go to a company that can offer what you want: hard or soft enamel.

Asking for a free mock-up is also necessary. Seeing your pin design is not the same as seeing your design on a pin. You might want to change some element of your design after looking at the mock-up. Maybe tweak the size or shape? So, this is one thing that you have to ask for.

Some companies have a minimum order requirement of 100 pins. If you are not confident that you can sell that, choose a pin maker with a lower quota.

Vivipins accepts commissions for as low as 30 pins. This company is ideal if you want to custom lapel pins no minimum for its initial run. After settling into your niche and building your brand, you can start ordering more pins.

Look into the Price

Another thing that you need to look into is the price per pin. Normally, if you have a pin that is 1 to 2 inches big, you can be charged up to $200 per 100 pins. The price will depend on the type of finish, the number of colors, the intricateness of the design. That’s about $2 a pin.

If you are ordering in a smaller batch, you will definitely be quoted a bigger price. You need to consider your price limit. Remember that the demand for your pin will go down the higher its selling price.

Next, look into the turnaround time promised by the pin maker. Some claim to deliver 10 days after you send in the final design. Others take as long as 20 days.

If the pin maker has to send the design overseas, the delivery time can be affected. Factor this in if you are planning to join a convention or a fair. Sending in the design too late might end up costing you more.

Finally, ask about their payment options. Most companies accept credit card payment. If you don’t have this, you may need to look for another pin maker.

8. Ask If Your Prospective Pin Maker Does Extra Services

Once you have narrowed down your choices, there are questions that you can ask the pin makers. Knowing the answers to these can help you decide on which company to choose.

  • Do they do special numbering at the back of the pin?
  • Do they offer back stamping?
  • Do they do special packaging?
  • What type of clasp comes free with the pins? How much do they charge for a better locking pin?
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Image Source: Seanmort.com

You should ask about special numbering if you plan on launching a limited run for a design. These types of pins can turn out as collector’s pieces. Having numbers printed at the back can assure your customers that they are getting one of a few.

Back Stamping

Back stamping is a way for you to put your logo on the pin. It can be an additional charge in the beginning since the pin maker has to make a mold. Once that is on file, they can just use it for stamping your other pins.

If you plan on selling your pins, you will need to attach the pin on cardboard. Not only will this be great for branding, but it will also allow you to showcase your pins better.

Ask the enamel pin maker if they already do cardboard backings. If not, you can always print your own and do the packaging yourself. It might just be a good idea to ask anyway. Some companies offer this service for free.

Finally, don’t forget to inquire about the kind of clasps that the pin makers offer. Some will offer plastic or rubber clasps for free. If you are happy with that option, go for it.

However, if you want to ensure that your pins stay pinned, maybe inquire about metal clasps. See if the additional charge will fit your budget.

9. Make Sure to Have Ways to Fix Issues in Case Something Goes Wrong

I really regretted sending my designs off to an enamel pin maker who did not communicate well. This was my first try to have a pin made from my design.

It was unfortunate that I picked the wrong one for my first go. I already noticed that they do not respond immediately to emails.

When I finally sent my payment to them, they stopped replying altogether. I inquired regarding shipment after the promised turnaround period.

I wasn’t really surprised when I did not get a response. It was over a month after my initial transaction with them that they finally sent my finished pins.

While the quality was okay, the clasps were falling off pretty easily. I tried calling their hotline to ask for a possible fix. But it was really hard to get anybody to answer. I simply gave up and bought replacement clasps elsewhere.

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Image Source: Pexels

So, What Did We Learn from that Terrible Experience?

You choose a pin maker that has good customer service. This way, if you have any questions, instructions, or complaints, you can easily reach your pin maker.

Another good thing to know is the tracking number of your package. Once the package leaves the factory, you’d want to be able to track where it is.

Additionally, you wouldn’t need to pester the pin maker about when your package will arrive.

Finally, you need to clarify with your pin maker what their policies are regarding defective items. Do they do refunds? Do they simply send new pins to replace the ones that did not meet your standards?

10. Always Leave A Review on Your Pin Maker’s Accounts

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One of the things that helped me pick out a good enamel pin maker is reading client reviews. The great thing about social media is that people can now post their experiences with companies.

If they received good service, they will write it there. If they received bad service, they will write that everywhere they can. You should do this too.

Leaving a good review might put you in the company’s good graces. Leaving a bad review will remind you never to do business with that company again. Additionally, it might give that company ideas on how to improve their services.


Coming up with the design for your enamel pin maybe not as easy as you think. It can be very different from the usual sketches that you do. But with a little tweaking, I’m sure you can come up with a great design. However, it is only half the job.

You need to find a good pin maker that can actually turn your design into a pin. The quality of the end product will depend on them.

The process of looking for a good enamel pin maker may seem tedious. It will be worth all the effort when you finally choose a good one.

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                           ABOUT VIVIPINS

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