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Soft Enamel vs Hard Enamel Pin: What’s the Difference

From unique pins to challenge coins, a certain type of enamel is used to make these items colorful and detailed.

When it comes to choosing these kinds of products, what’s the difference when comparing the features of soft enamel vs hard enamel?

Read on to discover the two ways that enamel is used to make pins and coins and how to spot the difference.

Soft Enamel vs Hard Enamel Pin: What's the Difference
Soft Enamel vs Hard Enamel Pin: What’s the Difference

Soft Enamel vs Hard Enamel: Texture  

The most significant difference between these two types of enamel pins and coins is the texture. You can tell the difference by running your finger over the surface of the enamel, and you may be able to tell by looking at the design, too.

A hard enamel pin is smooth and flat with a scratch-resistant finish. Soft enamel pins and coins have slightly raised metal edges around each section of the design to give it a more defined look.

Both soft and hard enamel pins and challenge coins are made from the same metal mold. They also use the same colors to make them, at least for most designs.

Soft Enamel vs Hard Enamel Pin: What's the Difference
Soft enamel vs hard enamel

Another way to look at it is that soft enamel uses “recessed” sections of colored enamel that settle down in between the edges of the design. With hard enamel, the product comes out flat and smooth and often has a bit shinier appearance after manufacturing.

Manufacturing a Soft Enamel Pin  

Whether it’s a pin or challenge coin, a soft enamel design features a slightly different look and feel than its hard enamel counterpart. The colorful enamel is laid into the recessed sections of the pin or coin.

Once all of the enamel is in place, the product is placed into an oven. The oven’s high temperatures bake the enamel to make it hard and durable. This process only happens once so when the pin or coin dries, the enamel clings to the edges and the recesses below the metal outlines or “die line.”

Thanks to the raised metal ridges, the enamel colors don’t mix together. The final outcome is a unique dimensional look since the colorful paint is lower than the metal borders around each individual color.

When you gently rub your fingers over a soft enamel challenge coin, you will feel the raised metal ridges. Many people enjoy this style of enamel due to the unique texture and visual dimension.

Certain metal finishes can only be used with soft enamel. Black paint and rainbow plated challenge coins and pins should always be made using the soft enamel method.

The Hard Enamel Process  

If you’re looking for durability in the quest to determine soft enamel vs hard enamel, the hard enamel option is much tougher and more scratch-resistant. This process also results in a smooth, clean, and finished look that many customers prefer.

Overall, you can choose a soft or hard enamel product and have it made in the same design. Most of the time, it all comes down to your own personal preference or the preference of the recipient.

To make a hard enamel pin or challenge coin, the surface is first filled with the color and design. Next, the face of the pin or coin is gently ground down until it becomes smooth and flat. This combination of grinding and polishing is what makes hard enamel a good option for some metal finishes.

If you like gold or silver metal plating on your coin or pin, the hard enamel option may be best. As the enamel design is laid onto the surface, it’s repeated several times to raise the enamel high until it’s heated, hardened, and cured.

The polishing and smoothing process is what makes hard enamel pins so recognizable. The metal die lines are smoothed down to the same level as the enamel for a flat look and a smooth feel when you run your fingers over the surface.

Which One Should You Choose?  

There is really no right or wrong answer when deciding between a soft enamel or a hard enamel challenge coin or pin. Most of the time, it all comes down to personal preference, but there are a few other factors to consider.

Soft enamel allows for virtually every plating option including black paint, antiqued finishes, and other colors. Hard enamel only works with traditional plating’s like silver or gold.

Soft enamel coins or hard enamel coins

While the design should be the same for both enamel styles, soft enamel tends to show more intricate details. This is because the raised ridges really give the final product a bit more definition.

Surprisingly, soft enamel tends to cost less than hard enamel products. The main reason behind the cost difference is because it’s much more time-consuming and labor-intensive to achieve the smooth, polished look of a hard enamel product.

Soft enamel products are the most common option due to their faster turnaround times and unique details. However, if smooth and shiny is what you need, it might be best to opt for hard enamel.

Find Your Perfect Enamel Product  

In the comparison of soft enamel vs hard enamel, it really comes down to looks, texture, and production times. If you like the smooth and shiny option, hard enamel is the way to go. For those who prefer a little more texture and a bit more detail, you might want to opt for soft enamel.

If you’re interested in our products, designs, or services, feel free to explore our website and contact us today for a free quote.

Different Types of Lapel Pins

When it comes to creating custom lapel pins, the type of pin you choose will have a large impact on the overall look and feel of the custom pin. Continue on to learn more about the different types of lapel pins.

Watch our video to learn more about different lapel pin types.



A common choice for lapel pins is soft enamel. For these pins, our manufacturing process uses raised and recessed metal to separate the enamel paint that makes up the design. This results in a high-quality custom lapel pin with a natural look and a textured surface.

Hard Enamel pins are similar in their use of enamel paint, but an additional process is used in which the enamel is polished to be flush with the metal for a smooth, jewelry-like finish.

If you’re looking for a more classic or traditional appearance, die struck is another great option. Instead of using enamel paint, die struck utilizes the raised and recessed areas of metal to display your design. For die struck pins, plating choice will have a large impact on the overall look of the design.  


Due to their versatility and lower cost, Offset printed pins are another popular choice. there are no thin metal lines separating the colors. This means your design can have complex details and gradual color changes, to display an exact match for your existing design materials.

If you need pins on a tight deadline, ask us about quick pins. You can choose from a variety of in-stock shapes and sizes to display your design on a printed pin. In most cases, If you order by 10:30am eastern time, you can have them delivered the same week, with free tracking and shipping anywhere in the United States.

If you want to know more about lapel pins and lapel pin types, or our other custom metal products, check out our youtube channel or visit our website for more information regarding lapel pins and metal promotional products. Interested in getting your own custom lapel pin? Complete our no obligation form to get started on your next lapel pin project.


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