Soft vs Hard Enamel

Posted by Adrian Alexander | Tuesday March 19th, 2019 | Topic: Design

Visually Similar, Texturally Different 

As you go through the process of designing your custom coins, one thing to take into consideration is whether to use soft enamel or hard enamel to add color to your final product. Both choices come with their own set of benefits, and it’s true that hard enamel is not a very common choice when it comes to challenge coins, but that’s not to say that it shouldn’t be utilized more often.
When choosing between hard and soft enamel coins, one of the most important things to keep in mind is that you aren’t choosing between two different sets of colors, or between higher or lower quality paint. The look of the colors of your coin will remain the same no matter which option you choose. What will change if you decide to go with hard enamel instead of soft is the feel of your coins.

So Popular It’s Become the Standard

The question of whether to choose hard or soft enamel for your coin might seem like a foreign concept to certain customers with a long history of ordering challenge coins. That’s because the truth is soft enamel coins are so common that they’ve become the standard for orders. Some customers might be so used to getting their orders of soft enamel coins that they never even considered the fact that there’s another option.


When your finished coin comes out looking as great as this one, it’s hard to fault someone for not considering another option for the colorfill. Soft enamel colorfill is a simple and straightforward process by which paint is added to the recessed areas of your coin. Raised lines within the design are used to keep the colors from bleeding into one another. Once the colors are added to these recessed areas, the coins are heat treated to get the paint to dry quickly and to strengthen it against chipping or other wear and tear.

signaturecoins-soft-vs-hard-enamel2 It’s easy to see how intricate color patterns can get with soft enamel designs. And how vibrant your colors are capable of being. Because of the die striking method used to create most of our challenge coins, the soft enamel colorfill is an obvious go to option. But the days of believing it’s the only option available are long gone.

Feel the Difference With Hard Enamel

Hard enamel, or cloisonne, is a process that’s more regularly used on lapel pins than challenge coins. With this process, paint is still added to the recessed areas of the coin, but unlike with soft enamel, the color is added in layers until it reaches the top of the metal lines intended to keep the colors in place.


In practice, that means that color is added to the coins all the way up to the top of the recessed area, and then the coins are put through the same heat treatment they would be with soft enamel to get the paint to dry. At this point, the coins are put through the plating process (unlike with soft enamel coins in which the plating is done before the colorfill), and polished to a high shine. With the colorfill coming right up to the surface of the coin, this polishing gives not just the plated metal but also the colorfill areas a unique shine.

With soft enamel, what you feel when you run your finger over the coin are the raised metal lines of the design which keep the colors in their designated sections. Hard enamel coins do not feel as smooth as a coin coated with epoxy, but because the enamel comes right up to the top of the metal lines, they feel smoother than the soft enamel coins.


Making the Choice

In the end, the choice between hard and soft enamel, like so many of our other customization options, is a choice between equally beautiful options. Whichever you choose will be down to your personal aesthetics and how you want your coins to feel in hand.

Some customers think the hard enamel offers a little more protection, but once the enamels harden in the heat, they’re both resistant to scratches. So the good news is you can’t go wrong with either choice.

Hard enamel has a strong footing in the lapel pin game, but it hasn’t been adopted as strongly by challenge coins. If the differences that hard enamel can create in your challenge coins appeals to you, request it when placing your order and start the process of turning the tides. If nothing else, you’re sure to get a very unique challenge coin out of the experience.

Adrian Alexander Blog Author

Adrian Alexander

Adrian Alexander is a Central Florida native and has been working in Marketing and Content Creation since he graduated from Rollins College. His two great loves are writing and the beach, and he can’t imagine living anywhere that’s more than an hour away from the ocean. When he’s not writing blogs for Signature Promotional Group, he can be found playing video games, floating in a pool, reading or writing a new novel. If you think your Signature order deserves to be featured in a blog, give us a call or contact us explaining why at https://signaturecoins.com/contact