Leslieanne's Ten Top Tips For Making Hard Enamel Pins

Are you an illustrator, designer, or other creative type, wishing you could turn your art into a lovely little hard enamel pin? Then read on!

At the beginning of the year, I hadn't made a single enamel pin.
I'd ummed and aahed and thought about it. I knew I wanted to do it, I'd sold lots of buttons, so I had the ideas and I was reasonably sure I'd sell at least a few, but I still over thought it all. A lot. (It's what I do!)

But, with the advice and encouragement of some wonderful creative pals, in January, I finally sent my first tiny design into production, crossed everything & thought good thoughts!

Since then, all of ^^^ these little pretties have happened, and I've had SO much fun finding my way around the pin making world!
To be honest, I still feel like a bit of a newbie, and I'm absolutely still learning, but it's going pretty well & I'm loving the learning curve. But it is a learning curve, which is why I decided to write this post - I am in NO way an expert, but if my experiences (and mistakes!) can help another artist make their enamel dreams come true, that'll make me a happy gal indeed!
So here we go, Leslieanne's 10 top tips for making enamel pins:


1. Design. Chances are you already have an idea (or five), but you need to make sure those ideas will work in pin form. Your design needs to have a solid outline around each section that you want to be a different colour - think of it as a colouring book page, or a stained glass window. Also, keep the scale of the finished pin in mind - things can look completely different when you shrink them down, try printing your design at the size you want your pin to be to make sure it still makes sense.

2. Colours. I love a rainbow as much as the next gal, but bear in mind: more colours = more expensive production costs. Also, too many colours on a tiny little pin can get a bit squished, so use them wisely. Also also, if you can get hold of a Pantone colour guide, DO! The colours used for enamel can look completely different on screen to how they turn out in real life, so a Pantone guide really is invaluable. (They are an investment though, so I'd recommend scouring EBay for a second hand one, or see if your local library has one if you can't afford to splash out straight away.)


3. Originality. There are a LOT of pin makers out there & sometimes, it can feel like everything has been done already, and of course certain themes/ideas will always be popular. Personally, though, I think it's super important to at least do a quick google image search and a keyword search on Etsy to make sure there's nothing too similar to what you're planning out there already. Nobody likes a copycat, and nobody wants to accused of ripping off someone else's work. While we're on the subject of respecting other artists...

4. Do your research! Don't message your favourite pin maker and casually ask where they get their pins made. It's not cool!* Would you walk into your favourite high street store & ask for a list of their suppliers so you could go buy wholesale & sell 'em on yourself? Nope.
Some makers are totally fine with sharing info, and of course that's their choice, but most makers I know (including myself!) prefer not to. It's not that I'm being precious, or difficult, it's simply that finding a great manufacturer is hard work!
There are a LOT of options out there, and the best one for you depends a lot on the pin you're making. Plus, a factory that does great work for one maker, might turn out to be awful for someone else. Personally, I've 'broken up' with two factories this year because they started out great then went downhill - I'd have felt terrible if I'd recommended them to someone else and they'd received shoddy pins thanks to me!
(*there's a big difference between asking a maker at random and asking a fellow creative friend for advice ;)

5. Manufacture. All that said, I will happily tell you that my pins are manufactured in China, as are pretty much all enamel pins. The UK/US based companies generally outsource the production to Chinese factories and charge more to cover their service as a 'middleman'. (which is fine, though I do think some of them could do with being a little more transparent about the process!)
In my experience, dealing direct with a Chinese factory is less expensive and quicker, but it can definitely be a lottery in terms of price and quality. Best advice? Reach out to as many as possible, ask for quotes and examples of their work & go with whoever feels like the best fit.

6. Backing Cards. Are important, but probably not as important as you might think. When I started, I thought it would be brilliant to have a different card made to match every new pin. Then I realised it would also be very expensive and potentially wasteful! Soo, I opted for a generic design I can change seasonally instead. As long as it's eye catching & has your logo and contact details on there, you're probably good to go!

7. Pre-sales are a massive headache. That's possibly controversial as I know a lot of people swear by them and they can be great to drum up interest about a new design while it's in production, but for me, they're on my never again list! (I did one for a pin that was made by one of the factories I've since broken up with - the pins that arrived were mostly dreadful & I only just had enough to fill the pre-sale orders I'd received - anxiety levels were HIGH!) 

8. Set your own quality control standards and stick to them! When you receive your pins, check each one carefully in good light. Unless you're really lucky, there will be a few with flaws, that's just par for the course I'm afraid. However, if there are loads of imperfect ones, don't be afraid to go back to your manufacturer and ask for replacements or a partial refund. (Also - don't stress out about a few flawed pins - people LOVE a seconds sale!)

9. Swap Lots! By far my favourite part of this crazy pin making journey, has been getting involved with the massively creative community of makers out there. Swapping is a brilliant way to get your pin seen by new people & grow your own collection at the same time! Don't be shy about asking other artists if they'd like to trade, but do always be polite & be aware that not everyone will say yes - and that's totally fine!

10. Feel the fear & do it anyway! Making your first enamel pin is scary. Well, I thought it was! Sending a reasonably sizable chunk of money to someone on the other side of the world, for a product you've only seen an emailed proof of, is always going to be a leap of faith. But if you can't stop thinking about it, you should totally do it. I did, and I haven't looked back since!

Oh, and if I've inspired you to take the plunge, please do come back & tell me where to find your pretties so that I can have a peek!


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