Over the past few months, enamel pins have exploded into the fashion world and entrepreneurs everywhere are wondering how to make enamel pins themselves and hop on the trend.
These tiny metal pins are highly customizable and can feature any design, including offbeat illustrations, branded logos, and anything else you can dream up. Enamel pins act as an extension of people’s personalities and give them the chance to customize and accessorize jean jackets, backpacks, hats, and more.
From graphic designers to apparel masterminds to major retailers like Urban Outfitters, creatives and makers worldwide have started to build successful online businesses by transforming their unique designs and ideas into enamel lapel pins.
In this post, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to designing, manufacturing, and selling enamel pins to help you discover how to make enamel pins and create your own online accessory powerhouse.
This guide has everything you need to create beautiful designs, source reliable manufacturers, and build a business that stands head-and-shoulders above the competition.
Header photo: Rachel Lin
How to Make Enamel Pins and Sell Them Online
Enamel pins are a fun and fulfilling way to transform your designs into a gorgeous physical product, but making them can seem out of reach if you aren’t sure where to start.
We put together this guide to help ambitious people like you. People who have a dream or an idea for their very own enamel pin business, but aren’t totally sure how to make it happen yet.
Where to Start
Building a new product or business always starts with researching the right resources to get the job done. So, if you’ve found this article: Congratulations! You’ve just completed the first step and you’re already on your way to creating your first set of enamel pins.
With this guide and the right tools at your disposal, making your own enamel pins is easy.
If you’ve never made enamel pins or started your own business before, you’ve probably found yourself asking questions like:
- How do I turn my designs into an enamel pin?
- How do I create products that people will actually want to buy?
- How do I know who my customers are?
- How do I even sell things online?
- Where can I find products to sell online?
In this post, you’ll get the answers to all of these questions and more as we walk through the entire process of creating and selling lapel pins from start to finish. We’ve done all the hard work and research for you, so that you can get started as quickly as possible.
1. Find a Unique Niche
Want to know the secret to creating a great product? Find an audience first.
If you can narrow down a unique niche for your enamel pins, the rest of the process will be much easier. Understanding your audience also means understanding how to design a great product and sell it to to that audience.
The best foundation for a successful business is a passion project. When you find a niche that you’re passionate about first, creating and selling enamel pins online won’t feel like work. It’ll still take time and effort, but you’ll enjoy every part of the process if it’s something that you truly care about.
How to Find a Niche for Your Enamel Pin Business
Use our free starter kit to sell enamel pins!
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Let’s take a look at how to discover niche audiences and determine if they’re a good fit for your business.
When it comes to niches, there are two basic ways to find an audience: Choose a niche that you care about or find a niche that you either already understand or can easily learn to understand. All it takes is a bit of market research to find a passionate, engaged audience that will be perfect for your brand.
Using Your Own Niche Communities
If you’re already an active member of a niche community, creating a business that caters to their values is a straightforward process. Remember: A niche can be any community with a specific, definable set of interests.
Remember: A niche can be any community with a specific, definable set of interests.
Not sure which niches you belong to? Take a look at your interests and think about the communities that surround them. Do you have any hobbies? What are your favorite TV shows, movies, or books? What are the things that you’re crazy about?
Discovering New Niche Communities
Targeting your own community can be a rewarding strategy, but sometimes it’s better to find new niche audiences with fresh opportunities instead.
To see what active niches are out there, there are a few different methods:
- Reddit: Using tools like Reddit List, you can discover the most active communities on Reddit. Reddit is a meeting place and message board for some of the world’s largest subcultures which makes researching and validating niche audiences simple.
- KW Finder: Another way to evaluate demand and interest is by using KW Finder to find out how often people are googling terms related to your target niche.
- Google Trends: You can also use Google Trends for a more generic overview of global search volume. While Google Trends isn’t as in-depth as the other two options, it can help you quickly determine the viability of a niche.
Determining Whether a Niche Community Is a Good Fit
Once you’ve done some research and found a set of niche communities that could work for your business, it’s time to determine whether they’re good fits for creating a successful, sustainable product.
Here’s a simple framework for evaluating a niche’s potential:
- Is it a unique niche? Your niche should have defining traits that set it apart from larger, more mainstream audiences. A set of unique traits will make your niche easier to target.
- Is it a sustainable niche? If you’re planning on building a successful business, your target audience should be more than a flash-in-the-pan fad. You’ll want to find a niche that has the potential to stick around for a long time.
- Is it an active niche? Without an active community, marketing to a niche can be a major challenge. If your niche has lots of engaged members, it will be much easier to build an audience that will rally behind your business.
- Is it a scaleable niche? While you might start out targeting a single, small subset of the population with your products, if you’re successful, you’ll want to expand. If you think that targeting your niche will not limit your business’ potential in the future, it’s a good fit.
- Are there influencers in your niche? If your niche has major players that are popular social media influencers, marketing to your audience will be considerably easier. Are there certain members with large followings on Instagram or Pinterest? Even just a few big influencers can go a long way.
2. Create Your Designs
After you’ve determined who you’re going to be selling your enamel pins to, you’ll need to figure out what those pins will actually look like.
Even if you don’t have any design skills, creating beautiful pins is still totally possible. There’s a wide variety of options out there to connect you with talented artists or turn your original designs into physical products.
Let’s take a look at the different resources and tools that you can use to design stunning enamel pins, regardless of your skill level.
How to Design Your Own Enamel Pins
For creating mockups of your lapel pins, using Photoshop or Illustrator is probably your best bet. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, here are some free alternatives that you can use to create your own original designs:
...or Find a Designer Instead
Maybe you aren’t confident in your design skills or you don’t have the time to create your own designs. Whatever the reason, there are lots of great options out there for outsourcing your design work to talented designers from around the world.
Here are some great marketplaces for hiring graphic designers and purchasing design resources:
Note: If you’re purchasing design resources, make sure that they have a commercial license, so that you can use them for your products.
Some Things to Remember
When it comes to enamel pins, there are a few guidelines that your final designs will need to follow:
- Your designs will need to only use solid colors which means your enamel pins can’t include gradients or transparent colors.
- Due to the size of enamel pins, you should also avoid using small text or fine details in your designs.
- Normally, your manufacturer will only need a JPG or PNG of your design, but be sure to ask them for details like sizing and bleed area to make sure you’re following their specific guidelines.
3. Manufacture Your Pins
Once you’ve come up with your designs, you’ll need to track down a manufacturer who can take your ideas and transform them into enamel pins.
Even if you’re an experienced entrepreneur, researching and contacting manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors can seem a little intimidating. However, it’s actually a straightforward process if you know what you’re looking for ahead of time.
In this section, we’ll explore a step-by-step process for researching and evaluating manufacturers as well as things to keep in mind once you’re ready to get your enamel pins made.
Soft Enamel vs. Hard Enamel
To make enamel pins that fit your vision, you’ll need to do some research to determine the exact materials that will work for your brand.
Lapel pins come in two different styles: Soft enamel pins and hard enamel pins.
Soft Enamel Pins
Soft enamel is the most popular choice for creating enamel pins and a favorite for beginners. It generally has more color options with richer and more vibrant colors available. Using soft enamel also allows you to get more texture detail into your design, including borders and edges that you can actually feel. However, soft enamel pins are also much less durable than hard enamel pins and they can be scratched easily.
Hard Enamel Pins
Hard enamel is much more durable and rugged than soft enamel, but can be more expensive and generally has more restrictions when it comes to coloring. Hard enamel pins can appear subdued and less vivid than soft enamel pins. Additionally, hard enamel pins use a clear coat of resin on top which creates a flat, textureless surface. Hard enamel is a good choice if your pins will need to withstand the elements and if long-term durability is important to you.
Factors That Influence Pricing
As a rule of thumb, it’s important to try to keep your costs low when ordering pins. Here’s a look at the factors that increase the final price of your order:
- The number of colors used in your design
- The complexity of your design
- The size of your pin
- The quantity of your order
In terms of order quantity, the main cost for manufacturers is building the initial mold for your product. Once they’ve built the mold to cast your pin, the cost to add more pins to your order is not as impactful on your bottom line as the cost of creating the mold. Just something to keep in mind when you’re considering how large of an order you should make.
Finding a Manufacturer for Your Enamel Pins
There are many companies in North America, Europe and Asia that offer enamel pin manufacturing. A quick Google search for enamel pin manufacturers can turn up lots of different results. Here’s a quick look at a few options:
Alternatively, you can use Alibaba to track down a reliable manufacturer overseas.
Connecting with overseas manufacturers is an intimidating process. If this is your first time dealing with manufacturers, you probably have no idea where to start—but that’s totally fine.
Our guide, Alibaba 101: How to Safely Source Products from the World’s Biggest Supplier Directory, has everything you need to know about finding the perfect manufacturer for your product.
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Manufacturing Specifications for Enamel Pins
For enamel pins, there are a few details that you should keep in mind when reaching out to a manufacturer.
Most enamel lapel pin manufacturers will allow you to customize the materials that you use for your pins, beyond hard or soft enamel. You’ll be able to choose the color and texture of your enamel pins’ base before dyes are added, so make sure you ask to see all the options available. You should also ask about the options available for the needle on the back of your pin, including whether the clasp for the needle is steel, rubber or some other material.
Additionally, find out if your chosen manufacturers will also let you customize the way your pins are shipped. Enamel pins usually arrive in small plastic bags, but some manufacturers will allow you to add a custom backing card to each bag for a unique, professional touch. If backing cards are available, make sure you’re given the exact design specifications for them including color limitations and bleed area.
Validating Your Idea
Any trustworthy manufacturer will send you a proof or sample pin for you to inspect before ordering a full run of product. Be sure to thoroughly examine this sample to make sure that your product lives up to your vision.
After finalizing your product design, the next step is to validate demand. Order the smallest run possible first and see how it does. Once you’re positive that there’s a substantial demand for your product, then you can think about scaling up and increasing the size of your orders.
The Finished Version
Want to see what a finished enamel pin looks like? Check out our very own Money Bags Pin on the Shopify Stockroom.
Over to You
Making your own enamel pins is easy, so it’s time to get selling! You’re a creative person, now it’s time to share your creativity with the world.
Ready to open up shop? Start selling enamel pins today with a free trial.
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