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Pins 101 - Soft Vs Hard Enamel

Soft Enamel VS Hard Enamel


This is a very common question that we receive when customers are interested in designing their pins. What is the difference between soft enamel and hard enamel. The shortest way to answer this question is that soft enamel has recessed enamel making the metal edges like the pin were embossed. While the hard enamel is filled all the way level with the metal edges and then polished flat. Both are made from the same mold, and achieve the same level detail, but due to their finish they have a slightly different appearance. 

The long answer goes into the production process of both pins, and how they are produced which give them their differences. When creating a soft enamel pin, the colored enamel is laid in the recessed areas of the design and then allowed to air dry. The enamel is only added once  in this process, which means when dry the enamel clings to the edges and is recessed below the metal die line. This stops the enamel from mixing, and keeps the colors the way you intend them. This creates a dimensional look, meaning that the paint is at a lower level than the metal edges of the design surrounding each color. If you rub your thumb over your custom soft enamel pin you will feel the metal ridges.

For the hard enamel pins, the production process takes a bit longer and with more steps. Much like the soft enamel pins in the production process they add the enamel to the dye struck design between the borders of the image. From this step is where things diverge. Once they have added a layer of enamel they fire the pins at a high temperature to cure the enamel, and keep adding enamel until the colored enamel comes right over the edges of the metal from the design. Heating the enamel to cure vs allowing it to air dry creates a much more sturdy enamel product. Once the color of the design is level to the metal lines they sand and polish the enamel back until there is a level surface to the design. This results in a very smooth pin, and if you run your finger over the design you will not feel the borders/ridges to the design. It will have a polished sheen to it that shines. 

When you have the same design made in both types you will really see the differences between the two. Like in our example below, you can see the same pin made in both methods. The hard enamel on left has a smooth finish to it, all of the metal lines in the design look smooth as if they were drawn in. When you look at the Soft enamel to the right you can see the shadows and highlights from the slightly recessed enamel. The lines and edges of the design stick above the color, and look as if they are holding everything in. 

However one advantage that you can only get with the soft enamel is custom dyed metals, and can be dyed any color that you would like. This adds a ton of design options, and variation options that you can get with your order to make it special! No matter which style you choose, we can make you an amazing pin that you can be proud of attaching your name to! In the video below you can really see the differences between the two style of pin.