What's The Difference Between Hard and Soft Enamel Pins?

October 16, 2023

Enamel pins have been steadily growing in popularity again over the past few years. This resurgence from their popularity a while ago is a common cycle of whats seen as cool. Luckily, enamel pins have become easier to produce and available in far more interesting varieties. If you are looking at boarding the plane before enamel pins take off, or are an experienced pin collector looking to learn a little more, you have come to the right place. This article will cover everything you need to know about hard and soft enamel pins, what their differences are, and how they are best used.

Table of Contents

What are enamel pins?

Enamel pins are cool little metal pins that are mostly used for decoration, rather than serving a purpose. Though they can do that too. They are usually made from iron that has been molded and/or hammered into shape. These pins have a long history of being used as collectibles, or to promote different ideas, events, or businesses. Charities and sports teams like to use them as a way of showing support. They are often pinned to a jacket, lapel, or backpack as a way of expressing someone's support of a particular cause or as a way of showing off personal style and flair.

How are enamel pins made?

Enamel pins are almost entirely metallic, with the primary metal being iron. This is why they are so sturdy and long-lasting, as opposed to plastic pins. The best part about enamel pins is how much they can vary in both size and shape. Because of this, the pins are often molded from molten metal. This allows them to come in pretty much any shape and size. Once they are cooled, they are either hammered or filed into the correct shape and finish. It is all done by machine, not by hand, so there is always consistency between each pin.

What defines a hard enamel pin?

A hard enamel pin is smoother finished than that of a soft enamel pin, it is also likely to be a far smoother and sleeker-looking pin. This, unfortunately, means it doesn't hold vibrant colors quite as well, but that is the trade-off for a more "professional" looking pin. The smoothness of the pin means that it might end up costing a little more per unit, as more effort and time must go into creating it. This is only going to become a problem with very low quantities, as quantities of pins ordered increase this price difference will become less meaningful. Hard enamel pins may look a little bit "duller" in color, but that can be counteracted by choosing pastel colors or simply using metals.

What are hard enamel pins best used for?

Hard enamel pins are best used for business settings, where professionalism is taken into consideration. These pins are best used with metals and pale finishes, like a simple silver company logo, rather than a picturesque beach scene. They are very smooth so they will look more "expensive" than a soft enamel pin, but, that likely won't matter you. Companies that use pins to promote their brand or a special event would use hard enamel pins over soft every time.

What defines a soft enamel pin?

Soft enamel pins are a little rough around the edges compared to their hard counterpart, they also have raised edges rather than a smooth finish. This gives them a more textured look and allows them to hold an image or array of colors better. Soft enamel pins are cheaper to produce than hard enamel pins, which combined with their increased customizability has led them to be the most popular choice of the two. Soft enamel pins have a little more texture due to their roughness, which can be seen as a good thing if you are trying to give some "depth" to your image. They are also quicker to produce in bulk, as they require less work per unit.

What are soft enamel pins used for?

Soft enamel pins are great for covering with interesting patterns, colors, images, or designs. Since they are a little cheaper and arguably less professional looking they are most often used for casual events, like a music festival, rather than a professional conference. Since these pins hold color and patterns so much better there are far more available on the market. They are great for showing off personal style and flair or collecting commemorative pins. The Olympic pins are always very popular for this reason. Since the pins often display the flags of each country, they are regularly made of soft enamel.

What are the biggest differences between hard and soft enamel pins?

The biggest differences are mostly on the production side. The different finishes and smoothnesses that transitions into varied levels of customizability are what sets them apart. There is also likely to be a pretty noticeable difference in cost per unit at lower quantities, this gap becomes less noticeable at scale but not when you are working at the low hundreds. Or even low thousands. Since they are pins and their only primary function is decorative, you can use whichever pin you like for whichever purpose. For example, you don't have to use hard enamel pins for your business. You just might like to. Custom pins are all about flexibility, so feel free to use whichever pin you prefer.


Hopefully, this article has answered any questions you may have had about the differences between these two pins. So much of these differences are preference-based, neither one is better than the other because their uses are so flexible. The price will likely play the biggest factor of all for you, but even that is only minimally different at any meaningful quantity. If you are unsure about which pin might be best for you, it's a good idea to speak to the company beforehand to discuss your uses for the pins. If you still arent sure, its best to go with soft enamel. They are cheaper and far more flexible for whatever it is you might need them for.

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