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What Are The Different Types Of Custom Lapel Pins?

Posted by Craig Davidiuk - 23 April, 2019

The first you need to make when purchasing custom enamel pins is to decide on the manufacturing process.  After than you need to choose your paint style, electroplating finish and packaging options.

In this article we'll review the choices and give you the knowledge you need to create your own custom lapel pin.  Read our Lapel Pin Buyers Guide and learn about the different types of custom enamel pins you can purchase.


Pin Buyers Guide 2023

Find Out What Types Of Pin Badges Are Right For You

There are three ways most manufacturers create custom enamel pins. You can stamp them,  cast them or print them. Our lapel pin buyers guide will educate you on each one and help you gain a better understanding of what you are buying.

There are a few products on the market that have so many different names! Lapel pins, enamel pins, pin badges, and pin buttons are just a few. At Ultimate Promotions, we've been calling them custom lapel pins since we started doing this in 1971. 

The vast majority of lapel pins you see on the market are made using the die-struck process.  It's the most common because it is affordable and offers a higher level of detail than a cast pin.  

Custom Die Struck Lapel Pins

As the name suggests we use a stamping mold and create your pin badge design in metal by stamping it.  With this pin type, we start with a stamping mold and trim die. This is usually the biggest cost for orders less than 1000pc. 

To make the "die", the design is engraved with CNC machines into steel, in reverse. This process is the most common among suppliers and manufacturers.  Most stamping dies to take around 10-15 hours to create. This is why setup charges range between $50 and $150 for most orders. For this reason, it's best to try and keep your pin size between 0.75" and 1.25".  


This image shows  pins being stamped on a hydraulic press

custom lapel pins made using die struck process

The mold is placed under a hydraulic press and a zinc metal strip is placed over the design. Each pin is stamped one at a time.. In the past factories would use copper and brass but due to price increases, most suppliers have used zinc since the 90s.  Zinc is cheaper and easier to work with. The main advantage this process offers is crisp details. The stamping mold is steel and stands up to repeated impacts. This is the process we use for all of our custom enamel pin orders. 


 Custom Die Cast Lapel Pins

With this product, manufacturers create molds with multiple copies of the same design. Molten zinc is then poured into the molds and the finished product dries hard.  This process allows manufacturers to make smaller orders more cost-effective.  The process is not as common as it used to be. The clarity of legibility of the pin suffers a bit with this process. We do not offer this product for lapel pins. We do use it on larger and thicker medals that are too big to be stamped. 



Printed Logo Pins

This category is not used very often by our customers.   There are a few reasons to use this process:

  • your art contains a lot of fine detail that can't be rendered in die struck
  • art has a photo or is full colour
  • branding standards dictate that art can be changed (ie- coloured text is often too small to hold colour in die struck process) 
  • you personally prefer this type of pin. 


low cost enamel pins no minimum

This pin design has several areas that can't be enamel-filled due to the detail and the complexity of the design. It was a natural choice for the printed lapel pin process. 


Choosing The Right Enamel Pin For The Job

In our experience, 99% of the pins we sell are suitable for die-struck.  In the event it's not suitable we can usually edit your design so that it works.  People have a pre-defined idea of what a pin is supposed to look and feel like. Let's not complicate things, shall we?

There are reasons to use the other processes but those decisions are usually dictated by complex art.  Pin manufacturers always have in-house art departments. At our company, art services are free of charge. If you get us to do your art, it ensures that best practices for enamel pin design are being followed and your art won't create issues for manufacturing. 

Creating pins is a multi-step and complicated process.  You can attempt to draw your design idea prior to contacting us, but there's a significant change we'll have to edit it. 

This blog contains dozens of articles to help graphic designers through the process.  Designing for pins is completely different that print or web.  So it depends on your commitment to learning design.  It's also common for us to take your idea and edit it so that it means our requirements for manufacturing. 


Painted Or Plain Pins? 


Here we encounter another strange industry name that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Enamel is enamel. There is nothing "soft" about soft enamel and the same paint is used in both processes. The difference is how much paint is used on each enamel pin. 


Hard Enamel 

With this enamel process, the paint is level with the surface. This process took hold in the '70s and was invented to replace Cloisonne enamel. (BTW- most people that sell cloisonne are actually selling hard enamel epoxy)  Using the hard enamel process also allows for enhancements like silk screening. The design below features blue dots silk screened over black enamel and the effect is quite stunning! 



Pick Hard Enamel When…

  1. When Perceived Value Is Important. Custom lapel pins made with hard enamel are ideal for things like necklace charms and jewelry. The paint is level with the surface giving it the look and feel of quality. You’ll need to charge more if you are re-selling.
  3. Personal Preference. You prefer the way it looks. The pin feels “high-end”. A lot of uniform logo pins and years of service pins use hard enamel. 
  5. When Special Effects Are Needed. If you require transparent enamels.You can use this enamel type on both processes but it really works well with hard enamel. Especially when you combine engraved background textures.


Soft Enamel

 This custom lapel pin process offers two advantages. Price and appearance. There is a massive uptick in pin sales to artists and creatives and this market just loves soft enamel!  Old-school pin buyers thought this process looked "cheap". These days we hear that many people actually prefer the more textured and curved look of painted surfaces. 

 If you google "enamel pin trend" you'll see what we mean. The other thing that has gone along with this trend is innovation. Pin manufacturers figured out how to dye the base metal for the soft enamel process and this has been a total game changer!
custom enamel pin for artists white dyed metal enamel pin


Pick Soft Enamel Pins When…


  1. You Need A Coloured Base Metal (ie- Black or White)

The single most compelling reason to select soft enamel is if you want to change the base metal colour to something other than bronze, nickel, or gold.

The coolest thing that has happened to the industry in the past 5 years is the arrival of dyed metal. This has nothing to do with the enamel. But as an artist, you can definitely relate to positive and negative space. Using a black or white dyed metal base opens up a lot of creative possibilities. With traditional base metal (ie- bronze, nickel, gold) you are always compromising your art colour selection to work with the raised metal details in your art. With dyed metal, it’s way easier to keep your art the same way you designed it. Otherwise, you are always changing details like eyes, action lines, and borders to gold or silver.

Here is the catch: dyed metal is available only with the SOFT enamel process.

In Soft Enamel you can dye the base metal black, white, purple, orange, or pink. It doesn’t add any cost and it opens up so many choices for artists


2. For The Look Of It

The primary difference between soft and hard enamel is that the paint is thinner in soft enamel. This gives the enamel a bit of differentiation from the base metal. It catches the light a bit more. Hard enamel doesn’t have that quality.

3. Pick Soft Enamel For The Price

On average, the price of soft enamel is around 40% cheaper depending on your quantity.

4. Your Design Is Larger than 1.5"

There is another trend in enamel pin land. BIG pins. Especially on the fandom and collector side of things where artists can get away with charging a lot more for a pin. The sizes are creeping up to three and even four inches now!

Each process experiences a hefty price jump above 1.25" due to the base metal coil size. So for larger pins, you’ll probably price yourself out of the ballpark for large pins unless you use soft enamel.

Glitter & Transparent Enamels

We've been huge fans of transparent enamels for decades. You can combine clear enamels with engraving textures or regular enamel for some stunning effects. In the example below, the blue really "popped" a lot better as transparent enamel. 

With glitter enamel, it is wise to have a large enough area for the effect to be noticeable. 

You can read detailed articles about glitter and trans enamels. 



Metal Finish: Gold, Silver & Bronze Pins

The last category of pins in this buyer's guide is also our favorite!  Once you understand metal finishing and textures, you can really come up with some stunning designs! Metal finish pins resemble jewelry and have a simple, understated, and classic feel to them.  In addition to regular bronze, nickel, or gold, we can antique or sandblast the pins for you. 



enamel pin finishing guide


Pick Metal Finish When.....


Corporate Award Programs.  After nearly 50 years in business, we've supplied hundreds of years of service award programs. The common practice is to render your logo in metal instead of painted and then add a year designation to the front of the pin. We can either engrave or print your award level (ie- 10 YEARS). Check out our employee pins page for more information. 

Corporate Logo Pins. If you want your employees to wear a logo pin, it's often preferable for the recipient to wear a simple, understated pin instead of a multi-coloured design on their jacket. 

Historical PinsWe've done a number of pin designs that feature an old building or the face of a person. We can use 3d engraving techniques or antique electroplate to give it the right "feel"

Jewelry.  Artists and creatives are finding out that there is money to be made in jewelry design. We can craft custom necklace pendants, scarf pins, and earrings. 


custom lapel pins usa canada hard enamel pins custom


We hope you found our lapel pin buyers guide helpful! If you have any questions, be sure to contact us and attach your design so we can help!

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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 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.