A Complete Guide to Custom Keycaps


Jun 12 2023

In the world of mechanical keyboards, customization is key. This hobby not only revolves around what board you own, but also the aesthetics and personal touch you bring to your device. Custom keycaps, the individual covers placed on the keys of your keyboard, are a crucial part of this customization process. They can dramatically change the look, sound, and feel of your keyboard. With this comprehensive guide, we delve into everything you need to know about keycaps. Continue reading to embark on this exciting journey of personalizing your mechanical keyboard.

ABS vs. PBT Keycaps: What's the Difference?

While there are several types of keycaps available on the market, ABS and PBT keycaps are among the most widely used. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) keycaps are lightweight and more affordable than their counterparts, but they tend to shine over time due to oil from fingers. They also tend to produce a louder sound when typed on. On the other hand, PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) keycaps are more durable, resistant to shine, and provide a textured feel. However, they are more expensive than ABS keycaps and can sometimes develop a warped shape during the cooling process after production. Both ABS and PBT keycaps offer unique characteristics that cater to different preferences.

Learn more in detail the difference between ABS and PBT, and which is the best option for you. 

The Craftsmanship Behind Double-Shot Keycaps

Double-shot keycaps, as the name implies, are created using a double injection molding process. In this process, two separate plastics are injected into a mold, one for the keycap's base and the other for the character or legend. This process ensures that the legend will never fade or chip away, as it is not merely printed or engraved, but is an integral part of the keycap itself. The double-shot method often uses ABS plastic due to its flexibility and ease of molding, but some manufacturers are experimenting with PBT double-shot keycaps. These keycaps are highly durable and offer a premium feel to your keyboard.

To learn more about the science behind double-shot keycaps, check out our blog post on the subject.

Understanding Pudding Keycaps and RGB Intensity

Pudding keycaps have a significant place in the universe of mechanical keyboards. Renowned for their vibrant RGB illumination, they add a visually captivating touch to your keyboard. Pudding keycaps have a dual-layer design; the outer shell is translucent while the top remains opaque, which allows for a luminous glow to escape from the sides without being too overwhelming. In terms of RGB intensity, pudding keycaps strike a balance. They let a generous amount of light radiate out, yet, due to the opaque top layer, they ensure the glow remains vibrant without bordering on excessive. This comparison extends to translucent keycaps, which offer the most dazzling RGB display, and ABS and PBT keycaps, which offer a more muted RGB lighting experience.

Want to learn more about RGB illumination in pudding keycaps? Follow the link to keep reading.

A GMMK PRO keyboard with Aura RGB keycaps

The Uniqueness of GMK Custom Keycaps

GMK keycaps are often hailed as some of the best on the market, and for good reason. GMK is a German company that manufactures keycaps using original Cherry MX tooling and high-quality ABS plastic. These keycaps are renowned for their thickness, which adds to their durability and sound quality. GMK keycaps also stand out because of their double-shot molding process, which ensures the longevity of the legends. Moreover, GMK has been praised for their collaborations with the community, leading to the creation of many unique and aesthetically pleasing keycap sets.

For a more comprehensive guide to GMK keycaps, don’t miss our blog post which goes further in-depth. 

The Charm of Artisan Keycaps

Artisan custom keycaps are the pinnacle of mechanical keyboard customization, appealing to hobbyists who want to add a truly personal touch to their keyboards. These keycaps are usually handmade, with designs that can range from simple color variations to intricate sculptures. The process of making artisan keycaps often involves sculpting a design, creating a silicone mold, and casting the keycap with resin. Some artisans also paint or finish their keycaps by hand. These keycaps are perfect for enthusiasts who value originality and craftsmanship and are willing to pay a premium for these unique pieces of art.

A mechanical keyboard with an golden artisan keycap (Glorious Guild themed)

How to Clean Your Keycaps: A Complete Guide

Over time, your keycaps may collect dust, grime, and oil, which can impact both the look and feel of your keyboard. Regular cleaning can maintain the quality of your keycaps and prolong their lifespan. The two most common methods of cleaning involve removing the keycaps and either washing them by hand or using an ultrasonic cleaner. Handwashing is a simple method using warm water and mild soap, but it can be time-consuming. Ultrasonic cleaning, on the other hand, is faster and more thorough, but it requires an ultrasonic cleaning device. Regardless of the method, drying the keycaps thoroughly before reattaching them to the keyboard is crucial to prevent damage.

For the full article on how to clean keycaps, read our blog post on the topic and discover 2 ways to go about it. 

Removing Custom Keycaps and Switches: A DIY Guide

Properly removing keycaps and switches from your mechanical keyboard is a key skill for any keyboard enthusiast. It allows for cleaning, customization, and repairs. Keycaps can generally be removed using a keycap puller, while switches can be removed with a switch puller or tweezers. However, one should be careful to not pull too hard or at an angle, as this could damage the keycap or switch. In some cases, keycaps and switches can be removed by hand, but this is generally not recommended as it can lead to damage.

Visit our post on how to safely remove keycaps to learn more. 

The Bottom Line

Keycaps are an integral part of the mechanical keyboard experience, providing a platform for both functional and aesthetic customization. From ABS and PBT keycaps, through double-shot and pudding keycaps, to artisan and GMK keycaps, there's a diverse array of choices to explore. Understanding how to properly maintain, clean, and replace these keycaps is also crucial. Ultimately, choosing the right keycaps is a deeply personal decision that allows you to create a keyboard that's uniquely yours. As you navigate this fascinating hobby, remember: there's no 'best' choice, only the choice that best suits your individual needs and style.