“What is the difference between soft and hard enamel?”

One of the questions we get most often here at is, “What is the difference between soft and hard enamel?” 


Soft Enamel

When creating a soft enamel pin, the enamel is laid in the recessed areas and put through ovens to bake the enamel hard. The enamel is only added once in this process which means when dry, the enamel clings to the edges and recessed below the metal die line (that stops the enamels from mixing). This creates a dimensional look, meaning the paint is at a lower level than the metal borders surrounding each color. If you rub your thumb over your custom soft enamel pin, you will feel the metal ridges.


Hard Enamel
For hard enamel pins, not only is the enamel added over several times raising the enamel higher, it is heated at a very high temperature to harden and cure the enamel. It is then polished smooth so it can be at the same level as the metal die lines. If you rub your thumb over a hard enamel lapel pin (also known as cloisonné lapel pin), it will feel smooth and you will not feel the metal borders/ridges.



Which One is Better for My Pin?

Mostly, hard vs. soft enamel is a matter of preference, but here are a few things to consider when deciding what’s right for your design:

  • Hard enamel can tend to look a little more “high-end”. Soft enamel is traditionally more popular in the music/artsy/punk type scenes, but hard enamel has rapidly caught up and is very popular with a lot of modern illustrators and pin artists.
  • Soft enamel is faster and cheaper than hard enamel. Because hard enamel has to go through more steps than soft, the labor time is higher. Soft enamel can be rushed a little bit when necessary, but hard enamel has to take its time. If you need your pins ASAP, soft is a better bet.
  • Because soft enamel is plated before enamel is added, it has more metal plating options than hard enamel does. That means with soft enamel; you can have pure black or white metal, any Pantone color you like, or even rainbow anodized metal. Hard enamel is limited to the standards – gold, silver nickel, brass, copper, rose gold, and black nickel (which is a shiny dark charcoal color.) We can also do a matte gold or nickel if you don’t want the metal to be polished.
  • Soft enamel is a little bit better at holding fine detail, especially in the metal outline. Because hard enamel is sanded down, metal lines can tend to widen a little bit from the pressure applied to the surface.