If you have looked into making your own enamel pins, you have probably seen the terms "hard enamel" and "soft enamel". Many people have the same question: What’s the difference?
The biggest difference between hard and soft enamel is the finished texture. Hard enamel pins are flat and smooth, and soft enamel pins have raised metal edges. Both methods use the same metal molds, and both will have bright and vibrant colors. But there are also some special options that are exclusive to soft enamel.
When to Pick Soft Enamel
Soft enamel is one of the most popular types of pins, having a raised and textured look and feel that many people enjoy.
Enamel pins must be baked in an oven to cure and harden the enamel. Unlike hard enamel pins, the soft enamel metal plating process is done before the enamel is filled in. This means that there are some metal finishes that can only be on soft enamel. If you want your pin to be rainbow plated, painted black, or painted any other custom color, then you'll need to use soft enamel.
When to Pick Hard Enamel
Hard enamel pins are more durable and scratch-resistant compared to soft enamel. Many people choose hard enamel over soft enamel because of the clean, finished look. Many designs can work in both hard and soft enamel, so most of the time it comes down to personal preference. Hard enamel pins are first filled in with color, then the pin's face is ground down to be flat and smooth. The grinding and polishing makes them incompatible with certain metal finishes. If you want a standard gold or silver metal plating, then hard enamel might be a good choice for your design.
Painted Black Metal vs Black Nickel
A very important distinction between hard and soft is that certain metal finishes are only available with soft enamel. With soft enamel, your metal can be painted any custom color you'd like. The most popular color is black. If you want black metal with hard enamel, your only option is black nickel. Black nickel is actually a very dark gray color and is slightly shiny. If having your metal be a true, dark black is important to your design, then soft enamel is your best choice. Rainbow plating, also known as anodizing, is only available with soft enamel.