Top 10 Things To Consider With Custom Badge Design

Top 10 Things To Consider With Custom Badge Design

​You may be a new Chief looking to change your badge style, or maybe it’s your department’s anniversary and you would like a commemorative anniversary badge.  Whatever your need, when you are looking to purchase a new badge there are some very important items to consider that will affect price, time-frame, and badge quality.

We have listed the top ten items you should consider when looking to purchase a new law enforcement, fire, military, or security custom metal badge.


With your budget in mind you should determine how much you want to spend before you jump into designing it. As you will see reading through our listing just like a car certain add-on’s or features add additional cost to a badge.
There are three levels of customization to consider.

The most economical is ordering what we call a catalog badge (a badge design that already exists and is sold to the masses). You can personalize this badge with a custom center seal, at Blackinton® if you order more than 25 badges the seal die would be FREE.
A semi-custom badge is a mid-tier badge as it would utilize existing dies – you could have one custom applied panel created (die would cost ~$150.00 waived if >50 badges ordered at Blackinton®)
Unique custom shape and design, which would require a new steel die which has a one-time cost between $900 – $3,000


At Blackinton® we manufacture to order, and much of what we do is done by hand. So, it is important to consider when you will need your badge in hand and then work backwards.  A custom badge can take upwards of 8 to 12 weeks from receipt of a purchase order.  This includes the production and approval of your new custom mold, a preproduction sample, and then production of the full order.  It is important to factor in the time it will take to work through the design process as well to achieve consensus on the look of your new badge prior to placing an order.    Once your initial order has been delivered, reorders can be shipped in a reasonable 4-6 weeks. Check out our #badgebuild series of videos to get a full look at what goes into making a custom metal badge.


What will the badge be used for? Duty wear, dress, commemorative etc.  For duty you want a badge or symbol that is easily recognizable for proof of authority.  You may want to consider size and weight of that badge, durability.  If you are Undercover or Swat you may want a more subdued finish like black or gunmetal, etc.  If you are looking for the badge to go into a wallet you will want a flat badge (not dapped – arched), and size will be very important.


Most badge manufacturers have 1,000’s of badge styles available to choose from. Browse through a website, make note of badge style numbers you like (on our site you can email yourself the images).   If you are going the custom route be sure to get a high-resolution picture of the image/design element you want to include in your badge design.  For instance, if it is a building or landmark take a picture at the angle you would like it to appear on your badge, with as few obstructions as possible.  If it is your patch or logo and you can get a file, a vector file would be most useful to the artist as they could edit the image / text (.eps, .ai, .svg).  A high-resolution (300 dpi) picture would be the next best thing (.jpg, .psd, .pdf, .png, .bmp, etc).  The more prepared you are to work with the artists the faster the design process will progress.


How many badges do you need 10-20, 50-100, 1,000’s?  For very large quantity orders many manufacturers will add a week or so to the manufacturing time.  Also, many manufacturers offer quantity discounts.  At Blackinton®, starting at quantities of 13 you can get a discount on your order.  Ask your local distributor if there are quantity discounts with the manufacturer.  It may help you decide how many badges to initially order.  Usually the discounts only apply to the same style badge ordered on the same purchase order, there may be restrictions when it comes to different names, etc.


Finish is more than just the color of your badge it helps to determine cost, durability, and authority.  In some departments the higher ranks get a “gold” finish color and lower ranks “silver” finish color.  Just like jewelry, the finish helps to determine the cost of your badge.  Also, different finishes have different levels of durability, so again what are you using the badge for?  If your badge is to just go on a dress Class A uniform durability doesn’t need to factor in as much as it would with active duty wear.   A plated badge, although it is durable, will not be as durable as a badge made with a base metal like Blackinton®’s Rho-Glo® or Hi-Glo®.  These finishes are not plated, instead the base material, being a solid silver or gold color throughout, is polished and lacquered.  Take a look at our finishes  and their descriptions to get a better understanding.


Yes there are a myriad of different ways a badge can be made.  Do you want a one-piece badge or a badge with applied panels?  Applying panels allows for a bit more customization, but it will add to the weight of the badge and its thickness.  A badge can have a solid back (smooth solid back when flipped over) or shell back which weighs less, but when you look at the back of it you can see a reverse depiction of the badge.  A badge can be made flat or dapped (arched) – if you are looking to wear a badge on your uniform a dapped badge may work best with the safety catch, if you are putting your badge in a wallet you may want a flat badge.
These are small items but things to consider.


How much color do you want on your badge?  You will notice some lines of lettering will have color in the letters (incised) this type of lettering is very flexible as we can engrave whatever you would like in this line.  Other lines of lettering match the finish of the badge and have a background color.  These letters are raised and are the color of the metal.  (reverse panel).  This means the letters are in the die and cannot be changed, so if you were going to have many different names or ranks you might want to consider an incised or engraveable panel, as it would be more economical.

The biggest thing to consider is if you want a hard enamel or regular enamel.   Hard enamel, while a more durable and crisper look, will add cost and time to your badge as this process adds a week onto the badge production.  With hard enamel, the letters are flush with the metal.  Regular is the process of paint flowed into an area then wiped out, letters are not flush with the metal you can feel an indentation.  This process is much faster and typically included at no extra charge.


If your department is ordering a custom seal for a breast badge it is important to let the designers know if you plan to also put this seal on a cap or wallet badge, because these badges generally take a smaller seal.  Knowing this up front will help influence the design, so it will work with all seal sizes.  Also, at Blackinton® if you order a custom seal we will waive the seal die charge if you order 25 or more badges.

There are four types of seals to consider.  A plain seal (no color) at Blackinton® this is free with all badge finishes.  A modeled plain seal is a three-dimensional seal also free.  A one color or rim seal has either a background color or color around the rim, at Blackinton® this type of seal is free with high-end finishes and all other finishes incur an add on charge.  Lastly a full color seal contains 2 or more colors, at Blackinton® this is free with high-end finishes and all others incur an add charge.


When considering a badge style you should also consider what is going to be lettered on each of the panels/lines.  If you will be having ranks listed on one of the lines try to determine what the longest rank is, this will help influence the panel size.  How many different ranks do you have?  Also, how many lines of lettering will you need?  All are very important considerations.

A good designer and sales person will ask you the right questions to help guide your badge design down a successful path.  We hope this listing was helpful and thought provoking.  Should you need assistance with a new badge design contact your regional sales manager or one of our Authorized Blackinton® Dealers.

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