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When Metal Plating Eclipses Coin Design: Key Tips

Posted by: Jack Thompson
Date: September 23, 2022
When Metal Eclipses Coin Design

Did you know that humans are naturally attracted to shiny things, according to research?

If you're designing challenge coins, it can be tempting to choose the shiniest metal plating. However, if you do, you might run into issues where the metal plating outshines the rest of the coin design.

Is high polish plating eclipsing your carefully thought-out design? High polish metal plating can make small details hard to see and writing difficult to read.

Fortunately, there are a number of easy fixes for this. Read on for some key tips for ensuring that high polish plating doesn't outshine the details of your coin.

Don’t Overuse High Polish Plating

When designing custom challenge coins, you naturally want them to be as eye-catching and attractive as possible. A common mistake people make when designing challenge coins is opting for metal plating with a high shine with nothing to provide contrast.

High polish metal plating can definitely elevate custom challenge coins. However, if you have an intricate design, the light-reflective properties of high polish plating can make it hard to see the details.

Instead of being able to easily see the writing and other design elements, you might end up having to squint to see these finer points.

Initially, a high polish plating on custom challenge coins can look impressive. But it can also easily wash out important elements of your design. This doesn't mean that you can't use high polish plating at all. But you should use it wisely.

Incorporate Matte Plating

If high polish metal plating is adding too much shine and glare to your custom coin design, one way you can add contrast and reduce shine is by incorporating matte plating.

Matte plating gives some relief from the reflectiveness of high polish plating. It reduces glare, and can give just enough contrast to make your design more visible.

Opt for an Antique Finish

An even more effective way to stop high shine metal plating from eclipsing your design is to opt for an antique finish.

Antique finish challenge coins still have shine on raised areas. However, antique finishing throws your design into high relief because it also adds darkness to hard-to-reach areas.

Imagine you were polishing an old, tarnished copper ornament. The higher areas that are easier to rub would become shinier. The harder-to-reach areas would still retain some of the darkness of the original tarnish.

On a challenge coin, this throws the design elements in high relief. The "shadows" around any lettering, emblems, or other raised areas make them stand out.

metal plating,coin design
Using color enamel on your challenge coin

Add Color With Enamel

Another easy way to make sure shiny metal plating on challenge coins doesn't outshine your design details is by adding colored enamel. Colored enamel can bring life and body to your design. Not only can it make challenge coins more colorful and eyecatching, but it can also make your designs more legible.

By adding color, you can also leverage color psychology and symbolism to add meaning to your design.

If you incorporate colored enamel into your challenge coins, this will cover some of the shiny areas. Even if you use enamel in most of the coin's design, the edges, rim, and ridges that protrude will still be shiny.

If you want more high polish plating to show, you can also choose to use colored enamel in just a portion of your design, such as a center emblem, or a border ring.

Pick a Contrasting Metal

If you really want your coin to pop, and don't want high polish plating to eclipse the design, you can also opt for a metal that contrasts well with the enamel colors you choose.

For instance, if you're going with a bright gold high polish plating, then cool-toned colors such as blue and green will really stand. Yellows, oranges, and pinks will be more likely to blend with the color of the metal and stand out less.

Plating options on your challenge coin

Create a 3D Design

If you want your design to feature mostly shiny metal plating, a great way to make your design stand out (literally) is by opting for a 3D design.

3D challenge coins look and feel very high-quality. You can add ultra-realistic details that can really bring your design to life.

3D custom challenge coins are particularly good if you want to include a building, mascot, emblem, or face in your design.

Work With a Custom Challenge Coin Company That Offers Revisions

Another important tip for making sure bright metal plating doesn't outshine your design's details is to work with a custom challenge coin company that will allow you to make revisions to your design.

This way you can modify certain elements if you feel like the details of your design are becoming lost or don't stand out enough.

Here at, we want our customers to be 100% happy with their designs before production starts. This is why we offer free design revisions. We will work with you until you are completely satisfied with your design.

How Important Is Legibility to You?

The last thing to think about is how important is legibility to you? Do you want the writing and design to jump out at people?

Or would you rather have the high polish plating be the main attraction? If you like the look of a coin with just high polish metal plating, and you're not worried about the details standing out or being easy to decipher, then that is also fine. However, if legibility is important to you, then you can utilize the above tips to make the details of your design stand out.

Need Help Choosing the Best Metal Plating Option for Your Design?

If you're worried about high polish plating outshining your design's details, consider adding color, doing a 3D design, or choosing a different metal. Are you unsure which metal plating option is right for your custom challenge coins? We can help. has been designing and producing challenge coins for almost 20 years, and we are committed to making our customers happy. Whether you need to design law enforcement challenge coins, military challenge coins, or any other type of challenge coin, we are the people to speak to.

Complete a free, no-obligation quote. We will help you refine your design until it is just right.

Jack Thompson

Jack Thompson was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After retiring from the military, Jack moved to Austin, Texas, to start a new chapter in his life. He has always been passionate about storytelling and decided to become a writer and podcaster. He runs a successful podcast where he discusses military history, shares personal anecdotes, and interviews other veterans. Jack also writes often about military traditions and history.

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