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5 Tips for Designing Pins

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

You're an avid pin collector and you just can't find a specific design that you want... so why not make it yourself? Or you just wanna make something that's one-of-a-kind and yours. The designs bubble up in your head and you just can't stop thinking about it...all the possibilities! So where should you start!?

Designing a pin isn't hard, but it can get complicated if you let the waves of creativity carry you away. If you're just starting out, there's a few tips to keep in mind when you're designing...

Keep It Simple: Think of your design as a color by number picture. Only one enamel color can be filed in each space, so make sure your lines connect or else different colors are going to be flowing into each other! For beginners, start with a simple design, just so you can get the hang of the whole process. I recommend a design that's less than 5 colors and has plenty of space for the color filling. With less colors, the cost of the design will be cheaper. I mention plenty of space because remember pin making is a handmade process so if you have a part of your design with teeny tiny details, you can bet your brand new pin will have missing sections of color! Keep it simple!

Watch the Edges: Pay attention to the edges of your design because if there's a tight squeeze between spaces you may end up with some metal fill that wasn't expected because the tooling can't cut to such fine detail.

No Gradients: Again think of each section of your design as blocks of color. So any attempts to be fancy schmancy with gradients or color fades is not going to fly.

Choose Your Colors: When working on your design you may fill it with the perfect color, but when it comes to translating to a pin, it may not go so well especially if you let the manufacturer choose. Manufacturers use PMS colors to match your design. PMS is a color system often used for print and physical materials vs. RGB which is the color system computers use to project colors digitally. RGB doesn't translate directly to PMS so the RGB color you pick may be much brighter (or darker) than the PMS color the manufacturer recommends. The most ideal situation is buying a PMS book (and make sure to buy the coated version) because then you're looking at the colors your manufacturer is looking at. However, a PMS book is definitely not budget friendly and is only an investment if you decide to really dive into pin making. Instead you can do your best with PMS online sources, but just keep in mind it may not be 100% equivalent to what you see on the screen. I used this PMS Guide before I bought a PMS book, but even now I fill my design with the colors referenced in the online PMS guide then double check against my PMS book because I found the manufacturer didn't have all the colors listed in the PMS book (*I bought a 2018 version which was the most recent at the time).

Keep It Simple: Oh hey, hasn't this one been mentioned before? Keep it simple! Less details means less need to communicate!

Again, keep it simple and learn from the experience! Even after making over 30 pins, I still have trouble with some of these. Once you have a good handle on how to make pins, you can start exploring more detail and extra features which we will discuss in future posts!

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