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DIY Enamel Pin Design: Colour Matching

Posted by Craig Davidiuk - 13 August, 2018

Color matching is one of the more challenging concepts that enamel pin designers struggle with. With so many ways to specify color on a pin, how do you know which one is right?

It’s important to understand two key concepts prior to designing your first enamel pin.

First, you should never attempt to match colors using a computer monitor. The reason is that our office monitor will display differently than your monitor. And more important, the factories monitor will display differently than both of our monitors.

Even if you personally have a professionally calibrated monitor, our factory partner doesn’t. So how do we make sure we are all on the same page? The answer is the Pantone color matching system. We’ll elaborate on the mechanics of using this in pin design shortly.

 

The second concept you need to understand is that our factory is mixing a liquid epoxy and there probably isn’t a computer monitor in sight. The manufacturing documents that accompany each order and written in Mandarin and contain Pantone numbers. They mix epoxy colors to match the physical Pantone book and our art proof. Like printing inks, the factory has a set of base colors that they add and subtract different tones too,  in order to achieve a suitable match.

 

Designers take note, just because you are looking at a Pantone color chart on your monitor, doesn’t mean it till look the same at our factory. If a precise match is important to you, invest in a Pantone coated color chip book. If you don’t have one, print out your design on a quality printer and head to a print shop and ask to borrow their “Pantone Coated book” so you can specify which color is right for you.

 

The reason is that Pantone corporations color matching systems is a universal method for matching colors in nearly any design or print related industry. We always use the Pantone Coated chart. So does our factory. So if you are providing numbers without a “C” on the end, or have more than 4 digits,  you are using the wrong book.

 

In the event you don’t have the means to see a Pantone color chip chart, we can specify colors for you using our judgment. In the past few years, we have seen the quality of monitors reach a place where we can match your RGB/CYMK/HEX numbers on our screen to our Pantone book. It’s not a “best practice” but it will work in a pinch. Note that if we specify the colors for you, there won’t be any ability to dispute our choice.

 

Note that you don’t need to spend much time specifying the metal colors. Electroplating is not subject to Pantone colors. It’s a chemical process.  On our enamel pin designer cheat-sheet, we offer you a couple metal color chip charts for bronze, nickel and gold. You also don't need realistic metal gradients for our purposes. Once the design hits the factory, they strip all that detail away and make it a black and white image prior to mold making.

 Free Enamel Pin Design Course And Tips

 

How to properly specify colors for your enamel pin design

 With your Pantone book in hand, find the color you wish to use.

 

Click Image To Purchase Book

Pantone Book Large

 

 

In your design software, add your selected pantone color to the swatches or saved color palette.

  

 

In Photoshop

hit “Swatches” and then pick Pantone Coated

photoshop-pantone-loadup_large

In Illustrator
 go to Window>Swatch Libraries>Color books>Pantone Coated

Illustratrator-select-pantone-coated_large

Add the colors to your enamel pin design

Use colour chips from the pantone coated chart in your program. The other option is to pick a similar colour using an RGB or CYMK picker and then label the colour with pantone number. 

 

Armed with the correct Pantone numbers, we always ask our factory for a photo of your pin next to our art proof as a final quality control measure. We ask for a photo of every single pin we order.

 

factory-color-match_large

 

You might be wondering why we don’t use hex, cymk or rgb numbers. The reason is that these color systems do not have a physical color chip book that we can use. These color systems are designed for digital applications. It's always best to back up your choice with a selection from a physical Pantone book. 

 

One final note, sometimes by the time you think color matching, your design is complete. You don’t necessarily need to make sure the colored areas on your design have an actual Pantone color chip specified to each area (ie- recolor art with Pantone chips instead of RGB chips) . You can simply add some small squares containing that color on the side of your design and assign a Pantone number to it. As long as you communicate that the yellow on your pin, is Pantone 102, then we are fine. The color chips are the language that allows all parties involved in the process to know exactly what is required.

 

color chips assigned

 

 

As long as you communicate that the yellow on your pin, is Pantone 108, then we are fine. The color chips are the language that allows all parties involved in the process to know exactly what is required.

We also have a video that explains color matching and software setup in detail. 

If you have any questions about color matching or any aspect of enamel pin design, send us a message and submit your art here. 

 

 

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About The Author

Craig-Headshot-18-temp

linkedinCraig Davidiuk has been in the promotional products his entire life. His family owned and operated a pin factory until 2002 and he eventually took over the company in 2012. He also has a diploma in Media Resources from Capilano University. Today his company is one of the leading suppliers of custom pins, medals and swag in Western Canada.

He is a father of one son with his wife, Courtney. Craig enjoys skiing, mountain biking, DJing, playing saxophone and world travel.  The Davidiuk family resides in 100 Mile House, BC.