Sometimes called lapel pins or badges, enamel pins are a popular accessory for people of all ages. You see them every day: the small metal pins adorning lapels and bags, ties and hats, showing a variety of designs in gleaming enamel. Collectible and valuable, enamel pins are popular among music fans, sports fans, schools and organizations, even political groups. More importantly, they represent a unique opportunity for you to earn money creatively, by manufacturing and marketing your own designs.
The first step is design.
Designing for pins is not the same as, say, designing a logo for print. You want a design that will not only fit on the small face of a pin, but that will create a strong, clean image at that size. Some good rules of thumb:
Use a minimum of lines and make them strong – remember, they’ll be cast in metal!
Try to limit your palette to no more than five colors – this will help keep your image strong and clean and your costs down.
Once you have drawn your design, scan it if necessary, and then save it as a vector or PDF file. The vector file will allow for the closest reproduction of your art, but most factories can work from a PDF as well. Often the factory can help you create your digital file, or you can use special software packages such as the Enamel Pin Foundry.
The second step is production.
When planning your production budget, consider the following:
- Size: most pins range from 1-2 inches
- Colors: as stated above, the more colors used, the higher the overall manufacturing cost
Setup and quantities: there will be an initial setup cost for the mold and a minimum quantity required. While larger orders can result in a cheaper price per pin, it can be best to start with the minimum in order to gauge the popularity of your design. Remember that for subsequent orders, you will only have to pay the manufacturing cost, as the mold has already been created.
- Material: there are two kinds of enamel, hard and soft. Take the time to research each option. Most people prefer the detail of soft enamel, but it depends on your design and budget.
- Pinbacks: there are two kinds of pinbacks, single and double. A double is more secure and worth the extra cost! Your customers will appreciate this detail.
When you have a rough idea of what your specifications are, it’s time to solicit quotes from factories. Be sure to reach out to 3-4 factories for a good comparison, and make sure they each provide an estimated delivery time.
Once you’ve chosen your factory, it’s on to step three: manufacturing.
Submit your artwork and make sure the factory provides a mockup before creating the mold … and a picture of a cast pin before they finalize your shipment and send it. Seeing a photo of an actual pin can lessen delays caused by manufacturing mistakes – saving you time and money!
Don’t forget your packaging! While a simple cardboard backing is fine, what about one with a logo? In a contrasting color? How about boxes, envelopes, even small tins? Unusual packaging will make your pin stand out from the others and lead to more sales.
By following these basic steps, you can produce a wide variety of designs easily and beautifully, whether just for fun or to start your own business.