Enamel Pins 101: Making the Actual Art!


Let’s Design Some Pins!

Right off the bat, I want to say this – if you’re totally clueless when it comes to graphics software, if you have no idea what a “vector” is, or if “Adobe” brings to mind Southwestern houses… that’s totally okay. In this post, I’m going to run you through a few different ways you can create your art that we can absolutely, totally work from – the best method is whatever one is most comfortable for YOU. We can handle just about anything, so if you aren’t sure, send it over to us.

IMG 2651

Most of the pins we make start out as raster images – as long as they’re large and crisp, they work great! This little fella is by Kory Bing.

Back to Basics: Drawing By Hand

Yep, believe it or not, we can totally work from a hand-drawn picture! Admittedly, this method gives you a little less control over the final output than some of the others, but it can also be a great way to maintain a hand-done feel in the final pin, which can add a ton of charm. In order to work from a hand drawing, we need a clear, black and white outline only. It’s fine to send a colored version as well (that will help us add color) but in order to create the vector file that we need, we need a good-quality scan or photograph of black ink on white paper, with crisp, not-sketchy lines. Tracing over your existing art onto a new sheet of paper with a nice black pen is usually the easiest thing to do. Once we’ve created the vector, we can easily color in the spaces, like a coloring book. Once you have traced your artwork in solid lines, you can either get it scanned at a copy shop or try to take a really well lit photograph to send us. We understand that not everyone is familiar with design software, so if you work in a traditional format and are capable of sending us a clean black and white version of your art, we will make it work.

Raster Programs: Photoshop, Procreate, etc

If you’re already comfortable in a raster-based graphics program like Photoshop or one of the many drawing apps out there, we can use that! We can easily make vectors from those images. Like with hand-drawing, the outlines need to be crisp and not sketchy – and also like hand-drawing, it can be helpful to send an outline without any color. Any sort of “brushy” or watercolor effects won’t translate, so stick to solid blocks of color surrounded by solid outlines. Please remove any effects like a drop shadow, gradients, etc before sending.

A raster file is something that has a set amount of information. If you design it small and it needs to be made larger, it will stretch the pixels and blur the details. It’s always best to design larger than you will need and this applies to any product you want to create. It’s easy to make something smaller, but it can be challenging to make it larger without detail loss. If you want a 1.5” pin, try designing at around 6”.

Placing your photoshop file into Illustrator and saving it as a .ai file, does not make it a vector, but, we can help you with that.

Remember: the outline will be the metal, so consider your metal color as you work! You may not want to use charcoal as a fill color if you’re using black nickel metal, for example, and you won’t get the same contrast with nickel (silver) as you will with black.


The evolution of a pin design! From a rough sketch, to a pin-ready raster, to vector format and our template… to a finished pin that glows in the dark! This design is by Sour Demonz.

Vector Programs: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Draw, InkScape or Corel Draw

If you’re already experienced with vector graphics programs, that’s awesome. By all means, send ‘em on over! A few things that make the process a little easier:

  • Keep your vectors as clean and simple as possible
  • Make sure to outline your fonts! Otherwise they may not come through. The easy way to do this is to select the text and in Ai, go to Type > Create Outlines. What this does is change a font into set artwork instead. If we do not have your font, it will try to auto replace it in the software.
  • Please unlock all your layers, and delete any layers/content that isn’t necessary.
  • Avoid using clipping masks.
  • Expand everything!
  • If you feel comfortable using pantones, please either assign them in your file or put a list on the artboard for us. To find the pantone books in Ai, select the swatches panel and click on the bottom left icon that looks like a stack of books. In the drop down, select “color books” and pick Pantone+ Solid Coated. This is the only book we can choose colors from.
  • It’s easiest to save your vector as a PDF file to send over if you are using software other than Adobe Illustrator.
IMG 1455

This design was drawn in Adobe Draw with an Apple Pencil. Adobe Draw allows you to export images as vectors.

knithair3 1web 1024x1024

…and here’s the finished pin, in two color variants! Pin by Wild Hunt.

What Doesn’t Work So Well:

  • Pencil sketches, most paintings, anything with a ton of colors and shading or indistinct, sketchy lines
  • Photographs
  • Gradients, textures, and other digital effects

If your art is heavy on those things and you really want to keep it that way, there is still an option- printed pins! We’ll talk about those in another post, but for now suffice to say: don’t despair, there is a way!

As long as you can send us some kind of clean file, we can make a vector for you and we do not charge to do so. The only times we charge art fees are if your artwork needs a lot of work to get it to be clean enough to make a vector for you and that is simply billing for the art time it would take us to essentially recreate your artwork from scratch.

Leave a Reply