What is the difference between soft enamel and hard enamel pins?
A common question we receive is what's the difference between hard and soft enamel.
Short answer: Texture, Hard enamel has a smooth finish and soft enamel has a textured feeling due to the metal die lines.
Best answer: The biggest difference between hard and soft enamel is the finished texture. In general soft enamel pins are less smooth, more affordable and allow for more designs and colours. Hard enamel, aka Cloisonné, is more durable, scratch resistant and has a higher quality finish.
During the process of making a soft enamel badge, the enamel is laid into a mold and put through ovens at a relatively low temperature. The enamel is added all at once in this baking method which results in the enamel drying all at once. This is what causes the raised feeling when you brush your finger over the soft enamel badge.
The enamel dries below the metal ridges of the mold which hold the individual pieces or colours and stops them from mixing. This creates a layered or “dimensional” look to your badge.
Meaning soft enamel badges are not smooth to the touch. You can feel the raised and recessed details of the design.
When to Pick Soft Enamel
The only way to get an enamel badge with unique finishes such as rainbow plated, painted black, or painted any other custom color, is to use soft enamel. Soft enamel is less scratch resistant. Soft enamel badges are the most popular as they are durable enough to last, they are very affordable especially if you order in bulk and are what most people think of when they think enamel badges.
Hard Enamel (aka Cloisonné)
Polished and more durable for day after day shine - best for name badges used every day
The process of making and baking hard enamel is slightly different from that of soft enamel. Not only is the enamel added several times instead of all at once. It is baked at a much higher temperature to harden and “cure” the enamel. Once the baking process is complete, it is then polished smooth which results in the enamel leveling out with the metal die lines (the metal which keeps the colours from mixing). Which means when you rub your finger over the hard enamel badge, you get a smooth finish.
When to Pick Hard Enamel
Hard enamel pins are much more durable and scratch resistant due to being made at a much higher temperature than soft enamel and then being polished down. Most of the time, it’s simply a personal preference between soft and hard enamel. Certain finishes such as gold and silver metal plating work much better on hard enamel. If you need a durable enamel badge then hard enamel is what you are looking for. They look higher quality and that makes them popular for fancier places.