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How To Design Enamel Pins, Step By Step Guide

Posted by Craig Davidiuk - 21 May, 2020

Our step by step guide walks you through the process to design a pin using a vector based art program.


How To Design Enamel Pins



Designing enamel pins has become incredibly popular with creatives and artists around the world. Our guide will walk you through the mechanics of designing pins properly. 

This tutorial is relevant for people that are designing enamel pins:

  • using vector or bitmap based art programs like Adobe Illustrator. [Get Template]
  • using traditional art mediums such as pen and ink


The important thing to realize is that regardless of how you create art, the factory is going to require a vector file. Most suppliers re-draw submitted JPGs or PNGs for free. So it depends on how you wish to spend your time.


Step 1: Pick a Metal Electroplate Colour

Start by deciding what colour your metal will be. Every pin has raised areas (metal) and lowered areas that allow for enamel fill. You have to keep the enamel areas separate by using raised metal. 

Most creatives like the black or white dyed metal because it resembles the line colour on most art. It also creates a nice contrast for the enamel fill. Note that dyed metal is only available in the soft enamel finish. This is only one of many reasons most designers prefer soft enamel. 




  • What electroplate goes best with your art? If you like black lines, use black dyed nickel in the soft enamel finish. 
  • Dyed metal is a great option if you require coloured details. Hint: about 75% of pins we sell to artists use dyed metal instead of bronze, silver gold
  • Decide if your fine details are best rendered in gold, silver or bronze. Bronze is an overlooked electroplate that goes really well with turquoise and blues and greens. 
  • Consider ditching the enamel all together and going with an antique metal pin or sandblasted


Step 2: Start big, work your way down. 

  • Enamel pins always start with a container or shape for the design. Dynamic shapes look the best as opposed to squares and circles. 
  • If you are tracing or designing your art from scratch, start with the outside border first. 
  • Create art in layers: Outline, raised metal details and colours. 
  • In illustrator, we often use pink lines when tracing art. This allows us to see all the areas we have drawn in the event we are tracing over original art. You can easily replace the line colour in Illustrator or Photoshop with the "edit colour" command. Or just re-colouring the pink lines when you are done. 
  • This example below shows the first shape we'd make if we were tracing a submitted design. 



Step 3: The details!

  • Start with the easy shapes first. Now that your border is done, direct your efforts towards smaller details and shapes. You may need to overlap lines. Don't worry about perfect alignment. We clean it up later by thickening the metal lines and masking out the rough edges.
  • Remember, your shape has to be 2mm at scale in order to hold colour. Just trace the shapes for now. We'll colour them in later. At that time we can make some of the smaller areas raised metal. 
  • Don't get too hung up on a perfect trace if you are using the bezier tool in Photoshop or Illustrator. You are crafting metal lines that will be stamped in zinc alloy. It's a fairly crude resolution by the time you shrink your design down to actual. 
  • Identify which areas of your pin are raised metal. Identify details and accents that should be metal and trace them. Use our cheat sheet to snag the metal and enamel colour chips and create a colour palette to assign a colour. Just use flat gradients. 
  • Once you have completed your trace, proceed to Step 4 below. 



Step 4: Scaling To Actual & Assigning Colour

  •  Load your Pantone coated colour book in Illustrator or Photoshop and create colour swatches out of your preferred colours. Select colours from actual Pantone book, not your monitor!


  • Use eyedropper tool to assign colours
  • Create a box at your desired size. Copy and paste your art into the box. Make sure your Adobe Illustrator Preferences are set to "Scale Line Widths". 
  • At actual size, use the 2mm dot to determine if your coloured areas meet minimum. 
  • Change small enamel areas to raised metal
  • Print your design at actual size before submitting to a factory or pin seller.  If parts of your design are muddy or complex, you won't get better results if we manufacture it that way. 


Step 5: Get Feedback

Do you want some feedback? if you want me to check it and provide a private screencast. 





About The Author


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 is a graduate of the Media Resources Program from Capilano University. Today his company is one of the leading suppliers of custom pins, medals and swag in  North America. 

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. 

Craig is a veteran enamel pin designer. His vast understanding of electroplating, die struck technology, enamel inlay really comes in handy when looking for a supplier. His ability to "see" pins in a different way is what impresses his custom lapel pin, custom medal and challenge coin customers the most.