Feeling indecisive about a color and plating combo for your custom coin? Or maybe you need help matching a coin plating to your organization’s color scheme? Custom challenge coin design is all about making choices fitting you and your organization. But we get it, the sheer number of color and plating combinations can be overwhelming. To help, AllAboutChallengeCoins has pulled together a list of color and plating options we think naturally complement each other based on our work with other clients.

Guidelines for Coin Color and Coin Plating

The most important determinator of what color and plating options are going to look good are going to be the needs of your design. Almost every color comes in different shades and hues that can highlight, emphasize or enhance the natural look of your plating options. Knowing which colors match isn’t rocket science, but a little knowledge of color theory doesn’t hurt.

Here are a few fast and hard tips for using color and coin plating to create a unique design with your custom coins.

  • Cool colors like pastel blue, violet and typically pair well with silver while richer warm colors like scarlet and orange naturally pair well with gold plating.
  • Replace white elements in a design with a coin’s natural silver plating to create a polished metal version with an eye-catching gleam. Likewise, you can replace yellow elements in a design with gold to maintain a design’s original warmth while adding that metallic shine.
  • Illustrated designs featuring drawn mascots or characters look best when plated in black metal to highlight the black line detail of a character. These designs can look off if the plating is gold, silver or copper as the brighter plating colors won’t match the original design.

Coin Plating and Color Combinations that Naturally Work

If you’re new to custom coin design or challenge coins, we’ve written an in-depth guide to our various plating options. However, the basics are pretty straightforward, the three most common platings for custom coins are gold, silver, copper, which are further divided between classic antique plating and gleaming high-polish.

Dark Red / Gold Plating

Tony Stark had the right idea with his armor. Reds pair well with both antique and high polish gold plating alike for a classic combination that’s the gold-standard (we’re funny) of most firefighter challenge coins. With antique gold, the darker and more subdued metal creates a warm appearance when paired with red. Meanwhile, pairing high polish gold with red really let the shining gold standout, especially for line detail on logos or text. The custom-cut challenge coin pictured above shows how gold and red can especially be used to complement the heavy-linework of a design. 

Grey / Gold Plating

Whether it’s in high-polish or antique, gold plating has a warm glow that pairs naturally with neutral colors like grey. The subdued tone of a light grey enhances the natural warmth of gold plating without creating a harsher cool contrast that a pure white would. The firefighter challenge coin pictured above uses grey for the blades of the fire axes in the design, which creates visual balance against both the white and black paint used to decorate the background and edge of the coin. 

Black / Gold

Another very classic color combination, combining black and gold is one of our favorites. Black creates an incredible contrast with a high-polish gold that definitely shows detail and highlights the warmth of the gold plating. If possible, we highly recommend double-plating in black and gold to create a crisper combination between the black and gold elements.

Blue  / Silver Plating

If your artwork or design is going to involve a lot of blue, then silver plating is our recommendation. Blues have a calming and cool aesthetic that’s enhanced by silver plating especially with a bold shade like the blue and silver used by the U.S. Air Force. Meanwhile, a more pastel blue really lets the natural shine of silver standout. If your design has a logo with blue and white elements, try replacing the white elements with a coin’s natural silver plating to add an eye-catching gleam to a familiar look.

Light Green / Silver

A bold and deeper toned green can pair well with either gold or silver plating but a lighter pastel green can help tone down some of the brighter elements of a high-polish silver without taking too much away from the polished aesthetic. For a specific shade, jade along with silver has been a color pairing of jewelers for years and works for a natural pairing for a custom coin.

Bright Red/Silver

Bright and bold reds complement a high-polish very well. Silver actually has a neutral tone to it so a bright red stands out in a coin design without clashing with the plating of your coin. Add in some black for lettering or text and you’ll have an eye-catching coin with clear details.

Black / Anything

A pure black does a stellar job of providing a contrast with virtually any metal plating. A pure black can offset the brighter elements of a high-polish coin and prevent a coin from gleaming too brightly to make out specific details. For antique coins, the matte finish blends in nicely with pure black and further emphasizes the metallic details of an intricate design.

Making it Yours

Remember, these combinations and tips are guidelines and advice, not ironclad rules on what looks good. Ultimately, the decision of what parts of a design you want to emphasize or what colors in a design you want to stand out is up to you. Your design is yours and All About Challenge Coins is dedicated to helping make your ideas a reality as your coin source. No matter what combination of colors or plating you want, our team of expert designers work one to one with you to help find the best shade and color combination to capture your exact vision.