How To Make An Enamel Pin, Pt. 2: Creating the Pin

So we've arrived at the most important part - how do you actually make an enamel pin?

STEP 1: FIND A MANUFACTURER

There are lots of places to get pins made, so you'll have to search the Googles for the one that rocks your world. For my pin I'm going to use Awesome Merchandise because I have some experience with them for my other pins and merch. No this is not a sponsored blog post, and yes I do recommend you research the manufacturer that works best for you. Things to consider when choosing yours are shipping fees, time to manufacture, cost, and minimum order quantities, as well as any "shop local" or environmental concerns you may personally value.

STEP 2: READ THE SPECS

Once you've found the manufacturer you want to use it is EXTREMELY important that you read the specifications they give you for the file you're going to send them. For Awesome Merch, the specs for the soft enamel pin with paper backing that I'm ordering are like this:

Backer Dimensions: Finished Size: 5cm x 8cm

The starting point and most important aspect of a printing job is your design. Making sure that your artwork file is sent across to us correctly is crucial...

Colour Format: CMYK
File Format: PSD, AI, PDF, JPEG, TIFF, EPS
File Resolution: 300dpi

A few tips to get awesome results...

  1. Create your artwork with the resolution at 300dpi - the larger and clearer your file is, the better the end result.  Please note, we don’t accept 72dpi files as they are not usually adequate to create a quality job.
  2. Each colour has to be separated by a line of raised metal, the minimum line thickness is 0.2mm, the minimum colour area is 0.3mm
  3. If you're using text, please set your font to at least 5pt. 
  4. Clearly indicate which areas of your design you would like filling by using the correct colour values along side your artwork - we recommend Pantone Solid Coated guide. 

Note that "Backer Dimensions" refers to the paper backing the pin comes on. The rest of the specs refer to the files for both the paper backing image and the pin itself.

STEP 3: KNOW THE THINGS YOU'LL NEED

To make a pin you're going to need to make nice with technology. I use Photoshop to make my pins because it's the digital program that I hate the least while using, but you can use any software that results in a file format that your manufacturer accepts. You're also going to need to pretend that the pen tool is something you enjoy working with and know how to use. If you're anything like me that's going to require some doing, so if you don't know how to use the pen tool well I suggest looking up tutorials for free on Youtube, or a subscription based place like Skillshare if you're already a member. Yes this is a pain, but it's necessary to make those sweet sweet pins. And pro tip of the day here: once you start making the pin with the pen tool save your file compulsively - you really don't want to lose your progress and have to start over.

STEP 4: KNOW WHAT YOU'RE MAKING

Doodling with the pen tool is no one's idea of a good time, so I really recommend that you draw your pin old school on paper and scan it in, or digitally with a tablet before you start making the pin. You can then trace over your design with the pen tool and save yourself some time fiddling. For my snail pin I was using an old drawing from a sketchbook, so I scanned that in and pen tooled over it. I suggest that you try to keep your drawing/pin idea simple, especially if you're new to the pen tool, because details are hard and pins are pretty small anyway, so use detail wisely. The snail below is the drawing I was referring to for this pin, but I'm only using it as reference for the overall shape of things. It's WAY more detailed than it needs to be, because I didn't draw it with the intention of making it a pin originally.

colored pencil garden snail wildlife illustration animal illustration

 

STEP 5: CREATE THE FILE TO MEET THE SPECS

For my specs I created a file that was 12cmx12cm which is larger than the pin will end up being but close enough. I made sure that my file was set to 300dpi and the the color mode was set to CMYK for printing. Note that I'm making a soft enamel pin here, not a hard one, and the difference is that soft pins have raised metal lines and the paint/color is poured into the depressed areas of the metal like water filling a pool. So the last thing I did was set the width of the line on my pen tool to 0.6pt, keeping in mind the conversion rate between the 0.2mm minimum line thickness the manufacturer requires and the thickness I wanted my lines to be at the end. I also have to keep in mind while making my design that the minimum thickness required for any area of color is 0.3mm and can't be any smaller. This is basically 1.5 times my minimum line width so I just use that as a guide and eyeball it. I'll show you the layers of pen tool shapes that make up my snail pin in case that helps you visualize what you're going to do.

snail enamel pin pen tool how to make enamel pin

STEP 6: YOU'VE MADE THE DESIGN, NOW WHAT?

So you set up you file, you traced over your drawing with the pen tool, and now it looks like a pin. The next step in an ideal world would be to whip out your Pantone Solid Coated Guidebook, visually compare the colors to what you see on the screen, jot them down on your pin file as notes for the printer, and call it a day. But because Pantone guides are expensive and I don't have one, what I do here is look up a free PDF of it online and compare that way. THIS IS NOT IDEAL, and the reason is because CMYK colors for printed materials and RGB colors for digital viewing display differently and don't always match the way your eye thinks they will. As an example of what this can lead to I will show you the file I sent for my shark pin, and the result I got back after it was printed.

great white shark enamel pin design nature wildlife illustration how to

One is pastel and the other is a shark flavored candy corn. Much sighing occured. Alternately I used the same method to match colors for my Orca pin and it turned out swimmingly, as you can see on the before and after for that pin below.

orca killer whale enamel pin design how to nature wildlife art

So until I can get my grubby paws on a Pantone Guidebook I'm going to do my best to visually match things on the computer, and I'm going to ask Awesome Merchandise to send me a proof of the pin (fancy printer words for getting an example of the pin) before making the entire order of them so I can see how it looks and make changes before I end up with 100 messed up looking snails.

STEP 7: SEND IT TO THE MANUFACTURER

The last thing you'll do is send the file to the manufacturer, taking care to make everything as clear as possible for them and meeting all the criteria they gave you in the specs. With Awesome Merchandise I make sure to check my email frequently because if they have any questions or issues that come up with my file they'll reach out to me and I'll have to correct it before the printing can continue. So that about covers it from start to finish on how to make a pin and I really hope it helps if you're new to it and want to get started building your own pin empire. If you haven't seen the first part of this post which covers how I made the paper backing for this pin you can find it here.

How To Make An Enamel Pin, Pt. 1: Negative Painting Technique

Enamel Pin Design Process

Greetings all. Today I wanted to begin sharing the process of making an enamel pin, starting with designing and painting the paper backing the pin will come on. If you're unfamiliar with negative painting, I'll show you the steps I took and recommend some great videos that show the process in depth if you want to try it on your own.

As for making the pin, I know I'm ordering my pin through Awesome Merchandise, so the first step was downloading their art template so I knew the shape of the paper pin backing I should design for, and then thinking of what I wanted to put on it. I decided on a leafy wonderland for the snail I'm making into a pin and then got to painting.

What Is Negative Painting?

Negative painting isn't about painting in a bad mood. It's actually about painting the space around the object you're trying to show. For my example here, I painted a leafy, leafy world for my new snail pin to live in. So instead of painting the leaves themselves, I painted around the leaves, darkening the empty spaces to leave bright leaf shapes behind. Here are the pics I took of this painting at each stage.

botanical watercolor illustration negative painting

As you can see, I first laid down a wash of color that covered the whole paper, then drew some leaves on it. I then painted a darker layer of paint around those leaves. I repeated this process 5 times until I ended up with my finished leaf painting.

Designing Your Background in Photoshop

Next I took the finished painting into Photoshop to lay some experimental text over it and see how it would look as a pin backing for my snail. I haven't actually made the snail pin yet, but because I'm basing it on a snail sticker I've already made, I used the sticker as a placeholder for the pin to see if I like the direction it's going in.

enamel-pin-background-design-watercolor-negative-painting-snail-illustration-botanical-watercolor

Learning Resources For Negative Painting

Here are some links to some great videos showing the negative painting process on Youtube. These videos are by great artists with fantastic channels and I recommend checking out their work.

  • Video 1: PearFleur painting a girl and her fish squad
  • Video 2: PearFleur painting lilypads
  • Video 3: Iraville painting a snowy town
  • Video 4: Iraville painting cheeky bears

Next time I'll be sharing the rest of the pin making process, so stop in to see the finished snail pin! 

Coloring Books & Event Prep

Being an illustrator isn't always about making illustrations - a lot of time gets spent running the business side too! And that can make for the occasional week where there aren't a lot of finished new paintings to share with the interwebs. So even though I don't have any masterpieces to show you today, I thought I'd take you along with me as I begin to create my first coloring book, and continue to prepare for my booth at Crafty Wonderland this May 5th.

 

I FREAKING LOVE THE GREAT BARRIER REEF

I'm a tad obsessed with it actually. I've never been there and it's a major bucket-lister for me. So I had an idea that I could imagine that I've already gone to the reef, and that I kept a sketchbook while I was there. I'd write down notes of things that were memorable, sketch the animals that live in the reefs, and draw scenes from my dives that I could keep with me forever. Hence my the idea for the coloring book was born! I've already done the rough drawings for about 9 pages of it, so here are some pics of the (really) rough sketches.

I'm honestly stoked about how it's been coming along, and I dare to hope it will be ready and available in time for Crafty Wonderland. But even if it's not ready by then, it's definitely coming soon and I'm really enjoying working on it. Any excuse to look at pictures of the Great Barrier Reef is a good enough one for me! More updates and behind the scene shots are surely to come so stay tuned for it if you like that kind of thing.

 

MERCH ARRIVAL!

Last thing I'll share today is that some of my merch for the fair has finally arrived and I think everyone is going to be very happy with the way it all came out. I'm delighted with the quality of it all and can't wait to unleash it upon the world as phase one of my plan for world domination. Just kidding about that last part, but the excitement is real. Here's a sneak peak of some of the stuff I've gotten this week.

art-fair-merch.JPG

A couple of prints, a couple sticker packs, some individual stickers, and a bundle of notebooks that I'm pretty sure are adorbs. I'm anxiously awaiting the delivery of some more very cool stuff, including two enamel pins I can't wait to get my hands on. All this and more will be coming with me to Crafty Wonderland at the Convention Center this May 5th, so be sure to stop by and say hi if you're coming to the fair! I really would love to meet you. Until next time, stay crazy wild.

The Crafty Wonderland Diaries

If you read my last blog post you'll know that I've been accepted to vend a booth at the Crafty Wonderland event this May 5th. What this means for me is that I have SO MUCH stuff to do, and a lot of it is really unsexy by Instagram standards. So since I'm doing a lot of work I can't really share on social media, I thought I'd take the opportunity to write a blog post about making things for my first booth at an event.

SAY YOU'VE BOUGHT SOME ART FROM ME...

I want to make sure that you get the red carpet experience, so I've designed some stamps I can stamp on the bags you carry your new art home in. I want you to know who you got your art from, that I seriously appreciate your support, and in case you miss me at the event and order online I want to make sure the postman knows not to break your shit.

The Curious Wild Stamp Design

IMAGINE A BOOTH

Most of what I've been selling has been through print on demand services like Society 6 and Printful, so I need to order merch! Which means I need to design merch! So I started by thinking of the kinds of things I want to offer at my booth and came up with this list:

  • Enamel Pins
  • Art Prints
  • A Coloring Book
  • Notebooks
  • Stickers
  • Original Paintings

The original paintings thing is in the bag, so that left the rest to go about making. I decided to focus on the Mineral and Dolphin taxonomies as the art prints, so I wanted to spend some time with them and update their look to match my evolving aesthetic. This is what they look like now.

Mineral Crystal Taxonomy Art Print & Dolphin Taxonomy Art Print

For the notebooks I wanted to do a pack of 3 notebooks themed Land, Sea, & Sky so I designed these patterns for the outside covers of the notebooks, featuring turtles, fish, and birds.

Notebooks Turtles Fish Birds Pattern Design

I know what I'll be doing with the coloring book, but I haven't made it yet so I can't show you anything of it. But I can share the first enamel pin design I've made because I'm stoked about it. The pin is of Granny (J-2), the matriarch of the Southern Resident Killer Whale's J Pod. Granny was the matriarch of J Pod, and lived to be between 80 - 105 years old (there's conflicting research on this). Either way, she was the oldest known living Killer Whale until her recent loss, and was integral to raising J Pod's young and teaching this amazing pod their unique inherited culture. My favorite part about this pin is that I'm going to be donating a percentage of the proceeds to the Center for Whale Research, a group that's heavily involved in protecting, studying, and conserving J Pod and other whale pods in the Salish Sea who's numbers have been dwindling at an alarming rate. This is what the pin looks like on the paper backing it will come attached to.

granny j pod killer whale enamel pin

There's a ton of work left to do before I'm ready for the event, but I thought I'd share what I've been up to lately, and I'll try to keep you posted as I continue to make more things. If there are things you wish I'd have for sale that I haven't talked about here, please do let me know - if I can give you what you want I definitely will! 

For those of you who are here to see painting process blogs and not event table talk, I do have several paintings lined up to do soon, though I have to prioritize other things before getting to them. I can say that there are more crabs in my painting future, possibly some bearded dragons, and maybe a pelican too, so check back soon. Until next time, stay wild my friends <3