Find the perfect artist keyboard to help bring your visions to digital life
Whether you’re a professional artist building the perfect work setup or an aspiring amateur looking to elevate your output, you deserve the best tools for the job. That doesn’t just mean a quality display with true colors or a sensitive graphics tablet, though. One tool that’s no less essential, but perhaps more likely to be overlooked, is a digital artist keyboard.
After all, when you have a stylus in one hand, you’re likely using the other hand to pick tools, save your work, or execute other time-saving shortcuts. You deserve a keyboard built with your workflow, efficiency, and comfort in mind. Keyboard companies have taken several approaches to this core mandate — but before we get to the specifics, let’s lay out what can make one model a better keyboard for digital artists than others.
Jump to a section:
- Essential features for a digital artist keyboard
- The 5 best keyboards for digital artists
- Our recommendation: HHKB Studio
Just about any keyboard can be used to compose emails, name your files, or execute shortcuts, but certain features make some especially well suited for work as an artist keyboard. These considerations range from how they fit and look on your desk to how easy they are to fit your particular workflow.
Here are five essential features to keep in mind as you begin your search for the best digital artist keyboard.
- Compatibility: Your keyboard should work with all the devices you use to do your art. The same keyboard should be compatible with your Macbook at home, your PC workstation at the office, and even your iPad when you’re traveling — ideally over a standard Bluetooth wireless connection.
- Compactness: An artist may need a display, a graphics tablet, a mouse, reference material, and any number of other essential items on their desk. An ideal keyboard for digital artists should have a minimal footprint so it fits in well and allows for more ergonomic positioning.
- Software customization: Specialized macros and optimized key placement can save you time and effort. Look for a keyboard that works with software for easy customization of key functions — all the better if it’s open source so the community can pick it up and run with it.
- Hardware customization: Once your settings are dialed in perfectly, your favorite art program just feels right to use. Pick up a keyboard that supports hot-swappable mechanical key switches so you can enjoy the same perfectly customized experience under your fingertips.
- Aesthetics: No two artists have the same aesthetic, and yours may even evolve over time. If you want a keyboard that will feel great as part of your setup for years to come, your best bet is to go for a board that’s minimalist by default while still allowing for the customization we’ve described above.
Did You Know?:The Verge’s official review found the HHKB Studio to be “a really nice keyboard with a trackpoint and the perfect layout.” Read the full review here.
The 5 best keyboards for digital artists
Now that we have our shopping list of features to keep in mind, it’s time to explore some of the best artist keyboard options out there. We’ve headlined each keyboard with its ideal application, and though each of these options will serve you well, we’ve reserved our strongest recommendation for the end.
The best for learning Photoshop: Astra 2 for Photoshop CC
Photoshop can be intimidating for newcomers, but the Astra 2 for Photoshop CC keyboard makes it easy to grasp even for newcomers. Logickeyboard offers customized versions of its full-sized Astra 2 keyboard for both Mac and PC users, all of which feature labeled and color-coded keycaps that make it easy to remember what each key does. Even seasoned Photoshop users may be able to optimize their workflows with some functions they may have otherwise left unused.
The keyboard also functions normally with other programs, so you don’t have to worry about limited functionality outside of Photoshop — just don’t try to lasso select your desktop icons.
The best for portable affordability: Logitech K480
The Logitech K480 is built to be a portable, multi-device keyboard, complete with a physical dial that makes switching from one connection to another via Bluetooth fast and easy. Its space-saving design even includes a receptacle for propping up your tablet so you don’t have to pack a separate stand.
Just as important, its standard price of $35 means you won’t need to be too heartbroken if you accidentally lose it at the airport or a hotel room. Just pick another up at your next destination and get back to work.
Did You Know?:The HHKB Studio look book features a special collaboration with artisan keycap extraordinaire Tinymakesthings. See this creative crossover here.
The best for flexibility: ZSA Moonlander
If you tend to reorient your workstation to fit the task at hand, you’ve probably found yourself frustrated by keyboards that are just too big and clunky — especially when used in concert with a desktop-dominating device such as a graphics tablet. If only you could detach part of the keyboard and plug it back in later when you need it. With the ZSA Moonlander, you can.
The two halves of a Moonlander are connected by a standard 3.5mm cable. When unplugged, the left half can still function on its own. While you may need to do a little customization to make sure all your shortcuts live on the left half of the board, the Moonlander makes a great graphics tablet companion.
The best for Mac simplicity: Apple Magic Keyboard
If you’re a Mac user, there’s something to be said for sticking with the official model. Apple’s Magic Keyboard is an elegantly designed device that falls somewhere between the common 60% keyboard and 75% keyboard sizes.
That size means it’s easy to fit just about anywhere you need it on your desk, and its compatibility with Mac computers, iPads, and even iPhones is great for those who prefer to minimize setup or configuration. Given Apple’s long history of courting digital creatives, it’s hardly surprising that the company makes a great artist keyboard.
HHKB Studio is the latest keyboard from a brand that’s been committed to elevating how people use their computers for more than 25 years. Starting with the same space-saving and intelligently refined keyboard layout that made it a favorite among hackers and coders, HHKB Studio adds in a suite of features that make it, in our opinion, the ideal keyboard for digital artists.
Customizable gesture pads allow you to quickly toggle windows, move sources, or create handy shortcuts for faster operation. A small footprint and wireless design make it easy to use alongside a graphics tablet or a host of other accessories. Its easy Bluetooth wireless setup process allows it to connect to up to four devices, including PCs, Macs, iPads, and Android tablets. And its high-quality switches and keycaps are swappable for those who want to craft a fully personalized experience. Find your new artist keyboard at HHKB.
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