How to Make a Pinback Button Without a Button Machine

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Pinback buttons, also called pin badges and pin-ons, are often made without a button machine. Resourceful individuals and groups do so for campaigns, fundraisers and marketing, as well as for artistic brooches, gifts, to express beliefs and just for creative fun. Make the buttons with recycled materials, such as cardboard, fabric, old pins and bottle caps, along with craft store items, such as such as as safety pins and decoupage glue. The materials you select depend on availability and your time frame; for example, you want to make a pinback button right away using what you have in your home while your group wants to mass produce after collecting materials.

Gather Pinback Button Faces

Bottle Caps: The metal caps are useful for small pin badges, as they measure about 1-inch across on the inside. If they have retained unpleasant odors, soak in warm water with dish soap overnight, and then air dry. You may want to spray paint the bottle caps with silver, even though you will be decorating the front. Some like to spray paint them so that when they dangle from a vest or backpack, silver shows instead of the old design. If you're giving them as gifts or selling them, it's best to spray paint them first. If you do, spray the inside so the rims that surround the part you're decorating match the backs.

Unwanted Pin Badges: Collect ones to upcycle that have working pins on the backs.

Corrugated Cardboard: Make a template disc the size you want your pins, and then use it to trace however many you want to make. Cut out with scissors.

Wood: Craft stores sell thin, wooden geometric shapes such as discs and hearts.

Design the Pinback Buttons

Create on a Computer

  1. Use photo editing software to create the design for your pin.
  2. Select photographs and other images you want to use. Save them to your computer, and resize copies to fit your button design.
  3. Create a background that is the shape and size of the part of the pin where you will attach your picture.
  4. Add elements such as text, a photograph, art designs, etc. Arrange in a way that makes sense.
  5. If you create your pin in collage fashion, rather than a simple photo with text, you may enjoy using the collage tool, if your photo editor has one.
  6. Load your printer with standard printer paper -- photo paper is not necessary for this usage. Print and allow ink to dry before touching or stacking.

Tip

  • If you are making pins of different sizes with the same design, save the largest version as your original, and create copies from it, resizing the copies as needed. This way you won't have to recreate your design. To save paper, print as many pin faces as you can fit on one sheet.

Design with Recycled Materials

Things You'll Need

  • Old magazines or greeting cards
  • Fabric scraps (optional)
  • Decorations like glitter and stickers (optional)

To feature one picture or word on your pin badge:

  1. Cut a picture from a magazine or greeting card to feature on your pin. For example, use a snowman for a winter holiday button or a wolf's face for a wildlife conservation button.
  2. Instead of cutting around the outlines of the subject, such as the snowman, use a template to draw the shape of your pin's face around the subject and some of its background. That way your picture covers the entire button.
  3. Alternatively, find a pleasing background that complements your subject, and cut it out separately.

Tip

  • Since the inside of a bottle cap is small, limit your design to simple pictures or stickers.

Adhere Pictures to Your Pin

For Wood, Cardboard and Upcycled Pinback Buttons

Things You'll Need

  • Decoupage Glue
  • Sponge Brush

Turn all your cutouts for one button upside down. Brush decoupage glue on each. Then turn them over, one at a time, and place them on the pin. Gently rub out any air bubbles. Once your design is complete and has dried, brush over the entire face of the pin with three or four layers of decoupage glue, allowing dry time between each layer.

For Bottle Caps

Things You'll Need

  • Craft Glue
  • Clear Casting Resin

Use craft glue to adhere the circular picture to the inside of the bottle cap. Remember, the picture should cover the entire inside. Allow it to dry. Fill the bottle cap with clear casting resin, following the label's directions, and let it dry overnight.

Attach the Pin

Attach Safety Pins to Cardboard or Wood Buttons

Things You'll Need

  • Felt or other sturdy fabric (for cardboard)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Needle and thread (optional)

It will be easier to insert the safety pin into the fabric before you glue it to the back of the cardboard pin. To do so, cut two small slits with about the same length between them as the length of the pin, not counting the safety latch. Push the pin through so the front of the pin with safety latch is on the front side of the fabric. Reinforce by sewing the ends of the pin to the felt. Use a hot glue gun to adhere the fabric to the back of the cardboard.

Warning

Attach Safety Pins to Metal Bottle Caps

Things You'll Need

  • Contact Cement or a hammer and a small nail 
  • Safety pins slightly smaller than the button diameter

Use contact cement to adhere the back of the safety pin to the back of the bottle cap, following the directions on the package.

Alternatively, hammer two holes on either sides of the bottle cap rim. Insert the pin through the holes. You will need to do this before adding the resin.

Attach Bar Pins to Buttons

Things You'll Need

  • Adhesive-backed bar pins or non-adhesive bar pins (craft stores sell these)
  • Hot glue gun (optional) 
  • Contact cement (optional)

Bar pins and adhesive-backed bar pins are among the traditional fasteners for pinbuttons and badges, and are sold in craft stores. Use a hot glue gun or contact cement, following the manufacturer's instructions, to attach the non-adhesive type.

Make Your Own Button Kit

Save materials that you found the easiest, most enjoyable, and most efficient to work with. Add them to your collection, and organize it into boxes, such as one for bottle caps and another for corrugated cardboard. When you know the sizes you want, cut the materials as needed and them move into smaller boxes or one big button kit box with several good-sized compartments so you can keep all your ready-to-use pinback button materials from glue to discs in one place.

References

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