6 things you need to consider when creating enamel pins

6 things you need to consider when creating enamel pins


Ever since I was a teenager, starting to discover a personal style, I’ve loved wearing enamel pins. Even when I was at university, my day-to-day uniform was a shirt, jeans, and a blazer featuring a pin on the lapel (my favourite was a Mockingjay, take that as you will).

When I started selling art online, it was a goal of mine to create my own enamel pins, and while researching, I realised there is more to it than just creating the artwork. And while there are plenty of guides out there regarding how to properly format artwork for enamel pins, this blog will focus on all the other things you need to consider.

I hope this guide helps to remove some of the stress that comes with designing your own enamel pins, letting you focus on creating awesome designs!

Where do I get custom pins made?

One of the first things to consider is whether or not you want to get involved with the logistics of pin manufacturing or not.

If you are like me, and you want to source a manufacturer yourself, then the biggest directory of enamel pin manufacturers is Alibaba. Each company will have different minimum order quantities, turnaround times, and have different fixed fees, so it’s definitely worth sending multiple quote requests and comparing them.

The biggest advantage to choosing your own manufacturer, is that you will end up paying less for your pins in the long run. You also have a wider array of choice when it comes to speciality finishes.

I will be the first to say that I am a total “Monica”. I love the process of getting multiple quotes, creating a spreadsheet with cost breakdowns on, and liaising with people across different time zones. But I understand that for many creatives, being a project manager isn’t something that want to spend their energy on. If you fall into that category, then I recommend using a third-party middleman.

Click here to get access to my free pin cost calculator!

Third party manufacturers take a lot of stress out of the process. You upload your art file, select the quantity you want, any special finishes, and then sit back and wait for your delivery. One such company is Vograce.

The biggest advantage to using a company like this, is that you don’t need to go through the hurdles of finding a manufacturer, and you are working with company that is accessible to you during your regular waking hours.

The main downside to this, is the cost. My first order of pins would have cost twice as much had I gone through a third party company, and for me, the time spent contacting suppliers, gathering quotes, and managing the process was worth the inconvenience.

Should I use soft enamel or hard enamel?

One of the biggest decisions that you will make with your pins, is whether to create hard or soft enamel pins. Both have their benefits, and ultimately there isn’t a right or wrong answer, however some finishes are only available for hard enamel pins.

Soft enamel gumball machine pin by Lynn_doodles
Soft enamel pin by @Lynn_Doodles

Soft enamel pins are characterised by having raised edges where the lines of your design are, which provides a texture when you run your finger over it. Because the process of creating soft enamel pins is quicker, they are also less expensive to produce, which will save you money on each unit.

Worm enamel pin by Pinstachiio
Hard enamel pin by @pinstachiio

Hard enamel pins, on the other hand, have a completely smooth, flat finish. While these pins have a sleek finish to them, they are slightly more expensive to produce. This extra expense is unavoidable if you want to include screen printing on your design.

What are the different costs associated with pin making?

One thing that I had to get my head around when working out the unit cost for my pins, was how the fixed costs and variable costs would play into the final unit cost.

Variable costs are the easiest to understand. These are the costs that are directly tied to the number of pins you order. Things like speciality enamel, the screen printing process as well as the metal for a pin are all examples of variable costs. Whether you order 50 pins, or 100 pins, glow in the dark enamel will still cost an additional $0.10 per unit

Fixed costs are best classified as one larger cost that you need to pay, regardless of how many pins you order. The main fixed cost you’ll run into when it comes to enamel pins, is the mould that the pins are made in. This cost varies by manufacturer, and by complexity/size, but for my most recent set of pins, I paid between $65 and $70 per mould for 1.25 inch pins.

When it comes to fixed costs, it’s important to divide this expense by the number of pins you are getting made. If I order 50 pins, then the $65 will be split 50 ways, adding $1.30 to each pins manufacturing cost. If I order 100 pins, then I only need to add $0.65 to the cost of each pin.

This is the same when it comes to screen printing. Each colour you get screen printed will require a new “screen” to be set up, and each new screen costs extra, so really consider if the additional detailing you can get with screen printing is worth it.

One last thing to note, is that when you get a mould made, most manufacturers will keep the mould for 2 years, so you won't need to repay that fee if you reorder those pins.

I wrote a post about how to price your enamel pins, that you can find here: "The Ultimate Guide to Pricing Your Enamel Pins"

How should I fund my enamel pins?

Creating enamel pins can be expensive, so something that’s worth considering is how you’re going to fund the process. The two main ways of funding an enamel pin project, are self-funding, and crowdfunding, through sites like Kickstarter.

For full transparency, below is a breakdown of how much I was quoted for my first 2 pins.

Breakdown of how much enamel pins costs to make from manufacturers overseas


Personally, I didn’t feel like I had a big enough following at the time to order the pins, and hope that I would sell enough to cover my costs. I also don’t currently get exposure to customers through conventions or artist markets, so putting my project on Kickstarter was the right decision for me.

A huge advantage to using Kickstarter is that the funds are safely handled by a middle man, so you can have peace of mind that before you make an order with a manufacturer, the pins will have a home to go to. You are also able to include stretch goals, which allows you to fund a few different pins within a theme. My second Kickstarter campaign was for a series of 10 potion bottle enamel pins, all of which were successfully funded.

Another huge advantage to using Kickstarter, is that your project will be discovered by people who normally wouldn’t have heard of you otherwise. On my most recent campaign, approximately 65% of the backers hadn’t previously placed an order through my online store, or were part of my community over on Twitch.

The major downside to using Kickstarter is that the platform does charge a percentage on money raised. As of writing this, Kickstarter charges 5% of the total funds raised, as well as an additional 3% + £0.20 per pledge in payment processing fees. This additional charge needs to be considered when setting your funding goals.

What are the different finish options available for enamel pins?

One thing I love about enamel pins, is how many different features and finishes you can include. whether that's a stained glass effect, a glitter finish, chains, or rotating parts. Even the back of the pin can be customised with your logo! As mentioned in above, speciality finishes will carry an additional cost, but if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’d also justify the expense.

It's also important to note that different factories have different finishes available, so you might have to hunt around for a bit to find the finish you're after.

    How should I grade and package my pins?

    Finally, when the pins arrive, all that’s left to do it grade and package them. When I ordered my first pins, I received slightly more pins than I’d ordered. While this is a nice surprise, this was to cover any pins that might not be “A-Grade”. A-Grade pins are pins that are considered perfect. The enamel is clean, there are no smudges, scratches, or air bubbles, and the metal isn’t tarnished.

    Below A-Grade pins are B-Grade pins, then C-Grade pins, and these pins will have some form of defect, and as such are clearly labelled as B/C-Grades and sold at a discount.

    Each manufacturer will have a different threshold for what they deem an acceptable number of B-Grades in an order. Typically, it’s around 10%, but this varies, and may be something you want to discuss before placing your order.

    It’s worth noting that one creators B-Grade is another creators C-Grade, so it’s worth being clear what people can expect to receive if they order a B-Grade pin from you

    I personally hold my pins to a very high standard. In one instance, I was told that a blemish that I thought was a deal breaker for an A-Grade pin, wasn’t noticeable at all by the person who bought it, so they felt like they had gotten a really good deal!

    Finally, I want to quickly touch on packaging.

    Collection of packaging examples by @Arcasian__
    Examples of pin backing cards by @Arcasian__

    When your pins arrive, they will be in individual bags to keep them safe, but I think that a nice backing card can really set the scene for your pins. My first pins are part of a series I have set at a summer camp, staffed by Cryptids, so I wanted each backing card to reflect the character that was on them. Mothman enjoys spending alone time in the woods at night, and Jackalope teaches archery, so his backing card was at the archery targets.

    When it comes to dimensions, I personally create backing cards that are business card size. The main reason for this, is that business card printing is widely available and super affordable. Despite how affordable this is, this is still a cost you need to include when you price your pins.

    For my latest pin series, I am selling them as blind bags, so I have contacted an additional manufacturer to print custom mylar bags. I can’t talk too much about that process at the moment, but once the process is complete, I will post about my experiences, and whether or not they are worth it.

    In Conclusion

    I hope this blog post has helped you get your head around the process of creating enamel pins outside of creating the artwork. In my experience, creating enamel pins can be as hand-on, or as hands-off as you are comfortable with. My biggest advice, is to stay on top of the costs, as these can mount.

    I have created an online spreadsheet that can help you manage the cost of your enamel pins – if you’d like to get your hands on it, click here. (it’s read only, so you’ll have to save a copy first)

    If you want to check out the enamel pins I have available, click here

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