Soft Enamel vs Hard Enamel Pins – Which is right for you?

There are two main types of enamel pins – soft enamel and hard enamel. Each pin will have unique qualities and characteristics, however, the main difference between hard and soft enamel pins is the production process.

Hard Enamel

Hard enamel (also referred to as ‘cloisonné’) derives from the French word ‘cloisons’, meaning ‘partitions’ or ‘cells’. This method involves soldering thin metal wires onto a base metal pin to create tiny cells, into which enamel powder is placed. Once applied, the Cloisonné pin is fired in a kiln, melting the enamel powder and bonding it to the metal surface. The cells are then filed down flush with the metal surface and polished to ensure a smooth, high-quality and durable finish.

The metal is first stamped into shape, and recessed areas are filled with enamel colour. Many people mistake hard enamel for glass, as it has a smooth and glossy finish. This type of pin is also very durable, making it ideal for creating your perfect custom enamel pin. If you have three colours in your custom pin design, it will be placed into the oven three times, allowing the colour to bake and set.

Hard enamel pins are durable and scratch-resistant due to being made at a much higher temperature, while the finish complements gold and silver metal plating because of its glass-like qualities.

Key benefits at a glance:

  • Highly durable
  • Scratch resistant
  • High-quality finish
  • Long-lasting
  • Beautifully smooth finish

Soft Enamel Pins

The production process for soft enamel pins (also known as imitation enamel) is that it’s very similar to that of hard enamel pins, with a few critical differences. Soft enamel pins begin with raw materials like red copper, which are put through a press and injected with enamel paste. They’re then baked in an oven, ground, polished and electroplated – resulting in a smooth, level surface. These pins have a more traditional look and feel and can be produced in various colours and designs. Soft enamel pins are also less expensive to produce than hard ones, making them an excellent option for those working with smaller budgets.

The only way to get an enamel badge or pin with highly detailed finishes comprising a multitude of colours (such as rainbow plated, painted black, or painted any other custom colour) is to opt for soft enamel, as it’s less scratch-resistant. Soft enamel badges are crafted to last but are also very affordable, especially if you order in bulk and are what most people think of enamel badges.

When it comes to choosing between hard and soft enamel pins, it depends on your needs and preferences. Soft enamel pins may be the right choice if you’re looking for a pin with a more traditional look and feel or working with a smaller budget. Hard enamel pins may be the better option if you’re looking for a high-quality, durable pin with a smooth, glossy finish.

Key benefits at a glance:

  • A more traditional look and feel
  • Less expensive to produce
  • Available in a wider variety of rich colours and intricate designs
  • Tidy finish with the metal surface but also some texture and detail

Why does hard enamel cost more?

The cost of hard enamel pins is higher than soft enamel pins for a few reasons. Firstly, the production process is more complex and time-consuming. Secondly, hard enamel pins require more raw materials and are often made with a higher-quality metal. The number of pins you order will also affect the price – with hard enamel pins, many enamel pin manufacturers will require a bulk order or set a strict minimum order quantity (MOQ), whereas soft enamel pins can be made to order because they’re less expensive and time-consuming to produce.

What’s the best method if my design has lots of intricate details?

Choosing a soft enamel pin is likely the best solution if your custom design includes numerous colours and intricate details like people, animals, or delicate typography. One of the significant advantages here is that the enamel dries beneath the metal ridges of the custom mould, which prevents the individual colours from running and blending. Essentially, you have a lot more control over the quality of your finished product, and it can also be more cost-effective because it requires less time in the oven.

Is soft enamel best for vibrant colours?

Yes, because a real enamel badge will gain its colours from solid particle cloisonne glaze, and the imitation enamel badge uses enamel colour paste, which is significantly richer than a real enamel badge. That said, even though hard enamel pins, badges and emblems have less vibrancy, the colours are still beautiful, and some prefer the more subtle look.

Why do many businesses choose hard enamel for branding and advertising?

Hard enamel pins often come at a higher price point, however, you can still incorporate colourful logos and branding into hard enamel pins with a high-quality finish that is as durable as it is stylish. If you are looking for enamel pins to hand out at a tradeshow or corporate event, hard enamel pins convey a look of sophistication whilst standing the test of time.

What’s the difference between 1D, 2D & 3D designs?

Most 1D or single-dimensional designs are simple, with artwork including a logo or wordmark. With 2D pins, you have more freedom to create a beautiful design, but upgrading to 3D artwork is a wise move if you’re looking to make a big impression and perhaps have a more complex or detailed design, which may require highlights and shading for more definition. 3D pins are the most popular style for those looking to create a high-quality, intricate custom enamel pin. As the name suggests, 3D pins are produced with height, meaning your design will literally pop off the metal surface.

Why are soft & hard lapel pins becoming more popular?

Lapel pins are undeniably stylish yet timeless.  They have been around for centuries, but in recent years, there has been a real resurgence in their popularity. In a world where we are increasingly disconnected from one another, lapel pins offer a simple way to show support for a cause or to display your personality. Whether you choose hard or soft enamel pins, they make great gifts, party favours or simply a fun addition to your collection. From the South Korean boyband BTS (also known as the Bangtan Boys) to Darth Vader and Peter Pan, there are no limits to the designs that can be created. Below are just a few of the reasons why lapel pins  have become so popular in recent years:

  • They’re affordable and versatile, making for fantastic gifts
  • You began growing a collection quickly and easily
  • Produce a custom design to showcase your personality
  • Lapel pins can be worn on clothes, bags, hats and more
  • Your pin will allow you to demonstrate your support for a cause, raising vital awareness
  • Give a friend or family member a meaningful lapel pin representing their hobbies or interests

Make a statement – get started today!

There are no limits to what you can do with a custom lapel pin. Whether you’re looking for a way to show support for your favourite team or you want to create a gift for a friend or family member, there are endless possibilities. Hahapin has over 20 years of experience helping customers make their custom pin concept a reality. We offer both soft and hard enamel pins, so we’re sure to produce a design that’s right for you.

We’ve seen just how vital our bespoke enamel pins can be, uniting people, raising awareness of important causes and providing a fun way to show off your personality. Whether you already have a design in mind or want to explore several ideas with us, our friendly team will take the time to understand your needs before producing a  high-quality, personalised pin that you can treasure for years to come. Remember, when choosing a soft or hard pin, it’s important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We can guide you through the advantages of each material, detailing why one might be preferable over the other for your particular design.

To learn more about us and how we can help you, please share your design idea today or send us a message, and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.

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