February 06, 2021 6 min read
In this quick but in-depth 4-step guide I will tell you exactly how to get started making your very first enamel pins, easily. Doesn't matter if you have no artistic ability or a small budget this guide will show you how to make it work. I've also included links to resources I use myself as an established pin maker.
Whether you’re starting a new enamel pin business, making your own merch, or you just want to make some pins for your friends, this is the article you’ve been waiting for. You don’t need to be an artist or designer to make bad ass enamel pins--you just need this step-by-step guide.
The first thing you need to do when making enamel pins is to draw out your design. Sketch it out in black and white, and don’t worry about making life-sized just yet. You can start with a big sketch and then downsize when you’ve got all the details ironed out.
Here’s our tips for first time pin designers:
Once your design is ready, it’s time to turn it into the right kind of file. You can either sketch out the design on paper and scan it or create the image on a tablet or computer.
Once your design is uploaded, clean it up using an editing program like Procreate, Photoshop, or Illustrator. Convert the file to a vector and make sure all your lines and colors are clean. Make sure to use Pantone colors, since most factories require this.
Once you pick the factory you want to work with, check which file type they want your design in. Most factories prefer PDFs or Adobe Illustrator files, but make sure to ask before you send the file over.
Pro Tip #1You don’t need to know how to draw or deal with complicated file stuff. Most factories offer design services now. You can sketch out your pin design idea, take a clear picture of it on your smartphone, submit it to your chosen manufacturer and get a proof to check.
Cons: You would need to have a factory you trust. All factories are in China so the time difference would make this a long process. Communication/ Language barrier gaps could make this a very tedious and draining process.
Pro Tip #2: This is what I recommend for beginners especially.
Now that the design is done and ready to go, you still have a few decisions to make.
When it comes to enamel pins, there are two main materials they can be made of:
The pin post is the needle on the back of your pin that you use to secure it to clothing or fabric. In terms of functionally this detail is very important. The factory you work with should automatically add the correct number of posts depending on the size of your pin design. As a general rule of thumb if its larger than an inch it should automatically be double posted. If your enamel pin design is larger than 2.5” and has a square design think of having 3-4 posts
Just think if you have a single posted 2” pin it will “hang” off fabric and if the design is meant to face a particular way it could spin in place. No pin collector would like that.
Then you can pick what kind pin backs you want This option will come down to price, preference, and loss prevention. The standard free options are rubber backs and butterfly clasps.
Options That Cost
It’s important to remember that these options are only a few cents in price but when you multiply that by the number of pins you order they could get pretty costly. Magnets and Safety pins aren’t popular choices for pin collecting buyers and would make your pins “un-useable” by collectors that add their collections to pin boards because those options do not come with posts.
Once all your final details are ironed out, it’s time to contact the factory and place your order. Before you pick who to work with, send them a low-res file of your artwork (so they don’t steal it!) and ask about the material, size, quantity, and pin-backs you want.
All factories that produce enamel pins are in China. They are not U.S. based. If you do find a “U.S manufacturer” you are working with a middleman. It will cost you more to work with a middleman but can ease the stress of vetting and communicating directly with manufacturers.
To find a factory you can search:
They should email back soon with a cost estimate and a design mock-up. Once you approve it, you generally pay half of the cost up front and the other half after you get an image of the final product and you approve it. Then they’ll ship it out and give you a tracking number. The actual production often takes 4-6 weeks depending on the number of enamel pins you order.
And that’s it, folks! Making your own enamel pins may seem like a lot of work (and it is!) but it’s so rewarding to make your own wearable art. Good luck!
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