Choosing the Right Pin Type

Choosing the right pin type.  Have you tried to buy something only to find so many options that you almost give up? Wondering, what is a lapel pin? For a first time pin buyer you might experience this same feeling when you start hearing terms like hard enamel, soft enamel, diecast, diestruck, photodome and buttons.  For a person who deals with and sees pins everyday these terms are very clear and make perfect sense but to an inexperienced pin buyer they all blur together.  Choosing the right style is probably the hardest question when you are trying to customize your own pins.  No worries we are here to help.

You’ve heard a picture is worth a thousand words. Well it’s true.  We’ve attached a picture of a single design that has been produced using 4 different methods.  Your first insight here is that most designs can be produced using any method.  They just look slightly different.  With this visual you are now prepared to start understanding the simple differences.

Really the picture above covers 90% of all custom pins. There are other subtle variations or things to consider but those don’t really need to be discussed unless your particular design requires it. So to avoid muddying the water we just focus on these types of lapel pins.

Soft Enamel/Hard enamel pins (top row) are essentially the same.  They are both designs struck into metal using a die to create raised and recessed metal areas.  Paint is then added to the recessed areas to create the image.  You will notice that all colors are solid and in their own spot.  Each color is separated by a raised metal divider line.  That line is what keeps the paint in its spot.  The only difference between the hard and soft enamel is how the paint is treated.

Soft enamel – the paint is essentially air dried so it settles just a little leaving the metal border raised and the paint slightly recessed.  If you rub your thumb across the surface of a soft enamel pin you will feel the raised metal borders.  The final look is more of a dimensional look.

Hard enamel – the paint is hardened by heat then polished smooth so the metal borders are flush with the paint.  If you rub your thumb across the surface of a hard enamel pin it will feel smooth but you will still see the divider lines.  The final look is more of a jewelry quality look.

Photodome/buttons (bottom row) are both printed style pins.  They are both metal based but the image is printed and then attached to the metal rather than struck into the metal.

Photodome pins – have a clear epoxy coating that is hardened with UV light to protect the print.

Buttons – are aluminum with a clear poly disk covering to protect the print.

So how do you choose?

Really it boils down to preference – what look do you like. The only time you must use a photodome style pin is if your image has gradient color.  When colors fade from one to another this can only be done as photodome.  Here are a few more general guidelines.

  1. Soft enamel is the most popular; it is a good pin and least expensive. It is great for giveaways or if budget is the main concern and for trading pins.
  2. Hard enamel is the best quality; it is a great pin, jewelry quality and most expensive. It is great for image, corporate and if you are trying to impress.
  3. Photodome is a good alternative if your design has gradients, you need pins super-fast.
  4. Buttons are good for political campaigns, school kids, point of purchase advertising and if budget really is a huge deal.

If we still haven’t answered your questions about choosing the right pin type, or you are still confused don’t hesitate to call us 866-345-7467– at PinProsPlus we help people every day make the best selection. Or visit our frequently asked questions page to order custom pins with confidence.

Click here to go to the selection page for all pin types: