Common Mistakes of Designing Custom Challenge Coins

Avoid these errors if you want your custom coins to look their best

Creating custom challenge coins is easy. We have examined what makes a well-designed challenge coin and why they are effective at grabbing people's attention. Today we discuss the most common mistakes made when creating custom challenge coins.

The best part about creating a custom coin is the range of customizable details. There are hundreds of options to choose from, and with nearly 20 years of experience, we know what works and what doesn't. Let's dive deeper into the details and look at a few mistakes you can avoid.

Coin Design Basics

First, let's talk about the basics. A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion often adorned with insignia or emblems. Some signify membership into an organization and others are presented to recognize noteworthy accomplishments and achievements. Challenge coins are rooted in military tradition, expanding into the business world.

Military challenge coins are still an essential part of military life, and are also used by businesses, brands, companies, and organizations of all sorts. Challenge coins are typically round, though they can come in virtually any imaginable shape. Generally, the front and back of the coin feature two different layouts, much like the coins we carry for currency.

You can add texture borders and edges to add more texture and depth to its aesthetic. Get creative and be thoughtful. The level of detail in the design will add to the coin's appeal and meaning.

Customizable Options

Now that you understand the basics of a challenge coin, let's talk more about the options. Nearly every aspect of a challenge coin can be customized. The coin's purpose and recipients will determine the elements you include.

Challenge coins generally feature images, logos, and insignia representing the coin's purpose. For example, military challenge coins incorporate unit logos, while business challenge coins feature the company logo and color scheme.

Text adds an informative component to challenge coins, from important dates and names to locations. Add text in any font, but remember, keeping the layout concise and clear is essential.

Adding color is another way to make a custom challenge coin stand out. Color will make the text and imagery stand out, contrasting with the coin's metal.

The shape of your coin will play a role in the look and feel of your coin. As we mentioned, the typical challenge coin is round, though they can be made in shapes of states, logo outlines, animals, and other distinctive shapes. Don't forget about the edge of your coin, either. Edge options can add more texture and a unique look to any coin. The standard flat edge is always clean, but a rope edge or a reeded edge has a remarkable elegance that adds to the look of the entire coin.

There are many options to choose from when creating your custom challenge coin. If you know what you want, the process is simple. If you are unsure, we are here to help.

Your Custom Challenge Coin

When creating your design for a custom challenge coin, there are a few things to remember and many mistakes to avoid. The purpose of the challenge coin is the most important part of the process.

Will this be a commemorative coin? Are you creating a custom coin for a special event? Is the coin for a business? People present challenge coins for various reasons. Do you want to reward your employees? Are you creating limited edition merchandise? 

The details and elements of any challenge coin are what make it unique. The artwork expresses the purpose of the coin. The artwork is the first thing to catch people's attention, from existing logos to custom-drawn arrangements. 

The front of a challenge coin typically includes a primary logo or emblem, while the rear consists of art highlighting the coin's objective. Text is also a crucial aspect of any custom coin. Consider adding notable dates, location details, mottos, and more for a personal touch.

The plating is a significant aspect often overlooked. Silver and gold are the most popular options. Gold has a high-quality appearance that stands out and looks great when paired with warmer colors. Silver shimmers and shines, playing perfectly with cooler colors like blue. You can also opt for antique or high polished plating options to enhance the coin even more. Other plating options include copper, brass, black nickel and duo-tone coins.

Be sure to think about the size of the coin as well. Larger coins are good if you have a lot of text or intricate details. Smaller coins are good to consider for simple designs or if you are working within a tight budget.

Four Common Mistakes

With an array of options, there are a handful of common mistakes when designing custom challenge coins. Here are the five most common mistakes and simple ways to avoid them.

  • The size of your coin will play a significant role in how your art and text work, so choose wisely. Larger sizes are great for coins with more information and complex artwork. Smaller coins work well with basic artwork and simple fonts. Consider what you want your coin to display and choose accordingly. The average challenge coin size is just under 2” in diameter. This provides plenty of surface space for most artwork and text.
  • The legibility of your coin is crucial. This pertains to the text and the composition of the entire layout. Give each design element space to make its point. Cluttered challenge coins are busy and overwhelming, with details getting lost. If your design does look cluttered, consider increasing the size of your coin. A larger coin boasts more surface space and allows the details to stand out. Be sure that the text is precise and that the spelling is correct on both sides of the coin.
  • Adding color can make a coin stand out, but it can also draw away from the intention of the coin. Choose colors that have significance, whether they are brand colors for businesses or represent the coin's purpose. Contrasting colors will make the artwork and text stand out, though too many colors can make the art and text muddy and hard to read. Choose your colors thoughtfully and consider using the plating option for contrast.
  • Double check the entire design before production. We can’t say this enough. Ensure that all of the art and text are in the proper place. Check the spelling and the dates, and be sure every detail you choose is incorporated.

The production time for challenge coins depends on the coin. The more content you can provide about your idea, the quicker the turnaround on the coin. We will work hard to get your challenge coins to you as quickly as possible. Be sure to let us know upfront what your deadlines are, and any concerns you might have.

Designing a custom challenge coin for any occasion is simple. Now that you understand the basics of a challenge coin and the range of options, you can make something meaningful and outstanding. We can help you avoid those common mistakes and create the perfect custom challenge coin. Learn more about designing custom challenge coins, and let’s get started.

Jesse Daugherty

Jesse Daugherty


Hello, I'm Jesse Daugherty, a music enthusiast, sports aficionado, and an avid supporter of the arts. I'm a writer and content creator. For the past 5 years, I've shared my knowledge of custom challenge coins and other promotional products, exploring their designs, meaning, and purpose.