All You Need to Know About Keycaps
All You Need to Know About Keycaps

Imagine typing on your keyboard and feeling each keypress as a unique experience. Well, that's where keycaps come into play! These small, often overlooked components are essential for your typing or gaming adventures. In this blog, we'll delve into the world of keycaps, exploring what they are, their types, customization options, and why they matter.

 

What Are Keycaps?

Let's start with the basics. Keycaps are removable covers that sit on top of a keyboard's switches. Each key on your keyboard has its keycap. They are usually made of plastic, though they can also be made from metal or rubber. Keycaps are designed to be pressed by your fingers when you type, which sends a signal to your computer or device.

 

Types of Keycaps

Keycaps come in various materials, each influencing the overall feel and durability of the keyboard. The most common materials include ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate), and POM (Polyoxymethylene).

 

1. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS keycaps are like the trusty workhorse of the keyboard world. They're everywhere, found on most mainstream keyboards you'll come across. One big reason for their popularity is that they're more affordable to produce, which makes them a common choice for manufacturers looking to keep costs down.

ABS keycaps

Features of ABS Keycaps:

  • Lightweight: ABS keycaps are lightweight, so they don't add much extra weight to your keyboard.
  • Smooth: They have a smooth texture, allowing them to glide effortlessly under your fingertips as you type.
  • Inexpensive: Compared to other keycap materials, ABS keycaps are relatively cheap to produce, which helps keep the overall cost of the keyboard down.

 

Drawbacks of ABS Keycaps:

  • Prone to Shine: One downside of ABS keycaps is that they're prone to developing shine over time. Shine refers to a glossy appearance that can develop on the surface of the keycap with prolonged use. Some people find this shine unpleasant, and it can affect the overall look of the keyboard.
  • Feels Cheap: Because ABS keycaps are lightweight and can develop shine, some users believe they are cheaper than other materials like PBT.


2. PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate)

PBT keycaps are the sturdy cousin of ABS keycaps. They're known for their durability and resistance to shine, making them a favorite among enthusiasts who want their keyboards to stand the test of time.


PBT keycaps

Features of PBT keycaps:

  • Durability: PBT keycaps are highly durable and resistant to wear and tear. They're less likely to develop shine than ABS keycaps, so they'll maintain their matte finish for longer.
  • Texture: PBT keycaps have a slightly rougher texture than ABS, which some users prefer for better grip. The texture can vary depending on the specific manufacturer and production process.
  • Higher-End: Higher-end mechanical keyboards usually come with PBT keycaps because of their premium feel and durability.

 

Drawbacks of PBT keycaps:

  • Cost: PBT keycaps are generally more expensive to produce compared to ABS, which can make keyboards with PBT keycaps pricier.
  • Less Common: While PBT keycaps are gaining popularity, they're still less common than ABS keycaps, which means there might be fewer options for customizing your keyboard.

 

3. Double-shot Injection Molding

Double-shot injection molding is a manufacturing process that takes keycap durability to the next level. By molding the legend and the keycap in two separate layers, double-shot keycaps are highly resistant to wear and fade, ensuring that the legends remain clear and legible for years.

double-shot keycaps

Features of Double-Shot Keycaps:

  • Two Layers: Double-shot molding produces a keycap in two layers. The first layer forms the main body of the keycap, while the second layer forms the legend (the letters, numbers, or symbols on the keycap).
  • Resistant to Wear: Since the legend is separate, it stays safe from regular wear and tear. It means double-shot keycaps are much less likely to experience fading or degradation over time than printed legends.
  • High-Quality: Double-shot keycaps are considered top-tier in durability and legibility, so they're popular among enthusiasts who want the best for their keyboards.
  • Tactile Feel: Double-shot keycaps offer a satisfying tactile feel when typing. The legend layer adds a subtle texture to the keycap surface, enhancing the grip and providing a tactile sensation that numerous enthusiasts appreciate during typing sessions.

Double-Shot Keycap

4. Laser Etched Keycaps:

Laser etching involves using a laser to burn the legends onto the keycap's surface. While durable, this method is more commonly used for backlit keycaps, as the legends are less visible in regular lighting. This precise method allows for intricate designs, characters, or symbols to be permanently engraved onto the keycap, creating a durable and visually appealing result.

Features of Laser Etched Keycaps:

  • Durable Legends: Laser etching creates long-lasting keycap legends that do not fade or wear away even after repeated use.
  • High-Quality Detail: This method offers precise and intricate detailing, ensuring clear and legible legends on each keycap.
  • Backlit Compatibility: Laser-etched legends are ideal for backlit keyboards, providing visibility even in low-light environments.
  • Customization Potential: Laser etching allows for personalized designs and symbols, making it a popular choice for unique and custom keycap sets.

 

5. Dye-Sublimation Keycaps

Dye-sublimation keycaps are popular among keyboard enthusiasts due to their vibrant and long-lasting legends. This printing method involves transferring dye into the keycap material, resulting in impressive customization possibilities.

Features of Dye-Sublimation Keycaps:

  • Durability: Dye-sublimation involves transferring dye into the keycap material, resulting in legends that are highly resistant to fading and wear. It ensures that your keycaps maintain their vibrant colors and sharp legends even after prolonged use.
  • Customization: Dye-sublimation allows intricate and detailed designs to be printed onto keycaps, offering a wide range of customization options. Dye-sublimation keycaps can be customized to fit your personal style, whether you prefer minimalist or bold graphics.
  • Smooth Texture: Unlike other printing methods that may result in raised or uneven legends, dye-sublimation produces keycaps with a smooth texture. It enhances the typing experience by providing a consistent and comfortable feel under your fingertips.
  • Compatibility: Dye-sublimation keycaps are compatible with a wide range of keyboard layouts and switches, making them a versatile choice for keyboard enthusiasts. Whether you have a standard ANSI layout or a more specialized configuration, dye-sublimation keycaps can seamlessly integrate with your keyboard setup.

Dye-Sublimation Keycaps

6. Custom Keycaps

Custom keycaps are ideal for those looking to add a personal touch to their keyboards. From unique materials like resin or wood to intricate designs and artisanal craftsmanship, custom keycaps offer endless possibilities for customization and personalization. Here are some customization options:

  • Artisan Keycaps: These are individually crafted keycaps, often in unique shapes and designs. Artisan keycaps add a touch of personality to your keyboard and are highly desirable among collectors.

 

Artisan Keycaps

  • Keycap Profiles and Colors: Choose keycaps that match your preferred aesthetic. Whether you prefer a minimalistic, colorful, or retro look, keycap sets are available to suit your style.
  • Custom Printing: Some enthusiasts opt for custom-printed keycaps with specific symbols, characters, or images that reflect their individuality. 
  • Keycap Sets: Many manufacturers offer keycap sets with various colors, designs, and profiles. You can choose a set that matches your aesthetic or mix and match for a unique look.
  • Backlit Keycaps: If your keyboard has backlighting, you might want keycaps that allow light to shine through. Transparent or semi-transparent keycaps are ideal for this purpose, enhancing the visual appeal of your keyboard in low-light conditions.

 

Features of Custom Keycaps:

  • Unique Materials: Making custom keycaps is possible with materials such as resin, wood, metal, and more. These materials can add a unique look and feel to your keyboard that sets it apart.
  • Intricate Designs: Custom keycaps often feature intricate designs and artwork that artisans meticulously craft. These designs can range from simple patterns to elaborate illustrations, allowing you to express your personality and style through your keyboard.
  • Artisanal Craftsmanship: Many custom keycaps are handcrafted by artisans who pour their passion and skill into creating unique pieces of functional art. These keycaps are frequently produced in limited quantities, making them highly desirable among collectors and enthusiasts.

 

custom keycaps

Drawbacks of Custom Keycaps:

  • Cost: Custom keycaps can be more expensive, especially if made of high-quality materials or feature intricate designs. Additionally, because they're often produced in limited quantities, they can be hard to come by and may require joining waitlists or participating in group buys.

 

7. POM (Polyoxymethylene) Keycaps: Durable and Friction-Resistant:

Polyoxymethylene, or POM, is a super-strong plastic that loves a good challenge. POM keycaps are like superheroes for those who type frequently and hit their keys hard. They fight against friction and wear, making them tough and long-lasting. So, if you're a heavy typist, these keycaps are your trusty sidekick, ensuring your keyboard stands strong through all those typing battles.

Features of POM Keycaps:

  • Durable: POM keycaps are known for their durability, making them resistant to wear and tear even after extended use.
  • Smooth Texture: POM keycaps have a smooth texture that provides a comfortable typing experience, with each keystroke feeling consistent and effortless.
  • High-Quality Printing: The legends (letters, numbers, or symbols) on POM keycaps are typically printed using high-quality methods, ensuring clear and long-lasting visibility.
  • Resistance to Shine: Unlike some other materials, POM keycaps do not develop shine over time, maintaining their original appearance for longer.
  • Stable and Reliable: POM keycaps are stable and reliable, providing consistent typing feedback without wobbling or flexing, enhancing overall typing accuracy and precision.

 

8. Metal Keycaps: Adding Weight and Luxury to Your Keyboard

Imagine your keyboard would feel if it were a luxury item rather than a tool. That's where metal keycaps come in! It is made of stylish materials such as aluminum or zinc alloy. These keycaps bring the bling to your typing experience. They're heavy, they're premium, and they scream luxury. So, if you want your keyboard to feel like a million bucks, these metal keycaps are your VIP pass to a classy typing world.

Metal Keycaps

What are Keycap Profiles?

Keycap profiles describe the shape and height of a keyboard's keycaps. The profile of a keycap plays a crucial role in how comfortable and efficient typing feels. Different keycap profiles can impact the ergonomics of typing and the overall aesthetics of a keyboard. Let's explore some popular keycap profiles:

 

1. OEM Profile

The OEM keycap profile, short for Original Equipment Manufacturer, is like the friendly face of keyboards. With a slightly curved shape, these keycaps provide a comfy and familiar feel that many users love. They're the everyday heroes on standard keyboards, making typing a breeze for everyone.


2. Cherry Profile

Meet the Cherry profile, named after the cool Cherry MX switches. These keycaps are like the sleek athletes of the keyboard world. Lower in height compared to OEM, Cherry profile keycaps offer a stylish design that's a hit among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. They bring a touch of elegance to your typing game.

Cherry Profile Keycaps

3. SA Profile

Enter the world of SA or Sculpted SA (Signature Plastics) profile keycaps. Imagine the vintage charm of typewriters, and you've got SA keycaps. With their high and sculpted shape, these keycaps take us on a nostalgic journey. Collectors and enthusiasts adore them for a unique typing experience that feels like a blast from the past.


4. DSA Profile

DSA, or Distributed Structure of Amplitude, brings us the uniform beauty of keycaps. Imagine a flat and consistent landscape across all keys to represent the DSA profile. Loved for its easy customization, these keycaps are the go-to for those who appreciate a consistent and smooth typing experience. Customize away and enjoy the simplicity of DSA.

 

Keyboards come in different sizes, such as full size, tenkeyless (TKL), 60%, and 40%. Each size has a unique layout, affecting the number and arrangement of keys. Select a size that meets your needs and preferences.

 

Choosing the Right Keycaps

 

1. Material

Choosing keycaps involves deciding on the material. PBT keycaps are durable and resist wear, while ABS keycaps feel smooth but might wear out faster. Consider which one suits your typing style and how long you want your keycaps to last.


2. Profile

Keycap profile matters for comfort. Options like OEM, Cherry, or SA have different shapes and heights. Pick a profile that feels good for your hands during typing. Experiment to find the one that suits your ergonomic preferences.


3. Legends

Decide on the legends of your keycaps. Legends are the letters, numbers, or symbols on the keycaps. You can choose printed, laser-etched, or double-shot legends. Consider how important it is for the labels on your keys to stay visible and readable over time.


4. Aesthetics

Consider the appearance of your keycaps. Think about colors, designs, and the overall look to match your setup or personal taste. Whether you prefer a sleek and professional look or something more vibrant and customized, the aesthetics of your keycaps can enhance your overall typing experience.

 

Which keycaps offer the optimal performance for both gaming and typing?

Choosing the best keycaps for gaming and typing depends on what you prefer. The Cherry MX low-profile keycaps are a popular choice for many gamers. These keycaps are like the unsung heroes of gaming setups. Why? Well, they have a low-profile design that many gamers love. The keys are shorter, which makes them quicker to press during intense gaming moments. The Cherry MX low-profile keycaps offer a smooth and fast experience, giving gamers the necessary advantage.

But if you want comfort while typing, pick OEM keycaps. They give a comfy typing experience for keyboard enthusiasts. Everything is up to your personal preferences! Other popular keycap profiles that many people find comfortable include the DSA, XDA, and Cherry MX. The OEM profile offers a standard and comfortable shape, while the DSA profile is known for its flat design, providing a uniform feel across all keys. On the other hand, the XDA profile features a flat and wide surface, allowing for easy finger movement. So, whether it's DSA, XDA, Cherry, or OEM, find the keycaps that make your gaming and typing experience awesome.

 

Which material is better, PBT or ABS?

There are two primary materials used to make keycaps: ABS and PBT. ABS is more widely used and affordable, but PBT is durable. PBT keycaps last longer and don't wear out. They stay matte and won't get shiny or greasy. PBT keycaps also make a richer typing sound because they're thicker. PBT is an excellent choice for durability and feel. But if you're on a budget, ABS can still be okay. So, consider your needs and what you can afford when picking keycaps for your keyboard.

PBT vs ABS Keycaps

Where to Buy Keycaps for Your Keyboards?

If you're looking to buy Keychron keycaps, you can check out Keychron. They offer a variety of keycaps like Artisan Keycaps, Cherry Profile Double-Shot PBT, Double Shot ABS, and OEM Dye-Sub PBT. Keychron is an excellent option to find these keycaps because they have a wide selection and good quality. You can browse the choices on their website and select the most appropriate for your keyboard.

In conclusion, keycaps may be small, but they have a big impact on your overall typing experience and the visual appeal of your keyboard. Whether you're a casual user or a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, understanding the different types of keycaps, materials, profiles, and customization options can help you make informed choices. 

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