Enamel keyrings make a classic promotional product for brands to share their logo and messaging. When designing custom enamel keyrings, businesses have two main enamel filling options: soft enamel or hard enamel. But what exactly is the difference between these two enamel types and their resulting finish? In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down soft enamel vs hard enamel keyrings including production methods, characteristics, use cases and design considerations to help you determine the best choice for your brand.
Overview of Enamel Keyring Production
The base starts as metal, usually brass, copper or iron that is die struck into the intended shape. This metal piece is known as the ‘metal blank’. The metal blank is then recessed to create cavities matching the enamel fill.
Liquid enamel (a glass composite) is poured into the recesses and kiln fired around 800-900°F to harden it. The enamel chemically fuses with the metal substrate below. Multiple layers of enamel can create color depth.
The differences arise based on the enamel finishing process after kiln firing:
What is Soft Enamel?
With soft enamel keyrings, the enamel’s surface remains slightly recessed within the metal cavities, leaving a textured look and feel. The steps are:
1. Kiln Firing
The enamel is kiln fired to fuse it to the metal blank, leaving a slightly concave surface.
2. Surface Grinding
The exposed metal blank surface is then gently ground to smooth the metal and make the enamel fill flush with the edges.
Finally, the metal is polished via buffing and the enamel surface is lightly sanded to prepare it for coloring and sealants. A soft sheen results.
Soft enamel’s sunken enamel fill creates noticeable texture and dimension. The protective top coat allows colorful designs.
What is Hard Enamel?
In contrast, hard enamel keyrings feature a smooth, glossy enamel surface that sits flush with the metal edges. The steps are:
1. Overfilling Enamel
The liquid enamel is intentionally overfilled above the metal cavities.
2. Grinding and Polishing
Once fired, the excess enamel is ground down until a flat, smooth surface is achieved with the metal.
A translucent epoxy dome is applied over the enamel to create a clear, glass-like coated finish.
The resulting hard enamel surface has a continuous, flat appearance from metal to enamel. The epoxy makes it glossy and smooth.
Soft Enamel Keyring Characteristics
Soft enamel keyrings have some distinctive characteristics:
- Slightly textured surface finish
- Enamel appears recessed
- Matte to low sheen
- Can show metal around edges
- Noticeable enamel indentations
- Metal has brushed polish
- Matte finish has subtle grip
- Prone to chipping at enamel edges
- Enamel can crack or pop out if compressed
- More scratch resistant enamel
- Wide range of colorful designs
- Can combine matte enamel with shiny polished metal
- Typically lower cost production
- Lower minimum order quantities
Hard Enamel Keyring Characteristics
In contrast, hard enamel keyrings have their own unique traits:
- Smooth, even surface
- Enamel sits flush with metal
- High glossy finish
- No visible metal borders
- Consistent smooth texture
- Slick glossy surface
- Cold to the touch
- Very durable smooth surface
- Damage resistant epoxy coating
- Brittle with direct blows or bending
- Limited to basic solid color blocks
- Glossy finish provides pop
- Higher production costs
- Higher minimum order quantities
When to Choose Soft Enamel Keyrings
Soft enamel tends to be ideal in these scenarios:
Affordability and Small Orders
The lower cost and smaller minimums suit startups or budget-conscious brands.
Intricate Multicolor Designs
Soft enamel allows nuanced designs and color schemes that flow across the shape.
Combining Textures and Finishes
Mix glossy polished metal with matte enamel for visual interest in detailing.
The textured finish has a handmade artisanal feel that conveys care and quality.
When to Choose Hard Enamel Keyrings
Hard enamel is often the better choice when:
Premium Brand Image
The smooth lustrous finish projects luxury, exclusivity and perfection.
Sleek glossy enamel conveys professionalism for business branding and promotion.
Hard enamel‘s tough finish resists scratches, scuffs and fingerprints from daily use.
High Perceived Value
The flawless surface and bold color depth look like jewelry-quality craftsmanship.
For many brands, the ideal solution is offering both soft and hard enamel finishes to provide options. Mix and match on two-sided keyrings to get the benefits of each style. With a breadth of enamel offerings, you can tailor keyrings for any occasion or recipient demographic.
The Next Step?
If you are still unsure why you should be considering custom soft enamel pin badges for your next big marketing push, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today! We love to discuss creativity and business. It’s in our DNA. If enamel keyrings are not for you, why not consider our soft enamel pins, hard enamel badges, die struck pin badges or enamel coins?
Get in touch today, CONTACT US HERE.