Keyboards for Graphic Designers: What To Know Before You Buy

Find the features that define the best keyboard for graphic design

A painter has their palette and brushes. A sculptor their hammer and chisel. A graphic designer is no less of an artist, but they don’t have the same iconic tool set to represent their work (a desktop tray full of icons for design and editing programs doesn’t have quite the same impact). It’s time to change that perception with a classic tool that was crafted to serve the needs of digital creatives: the best keyboard for graphic design.

It’s natural to wonder whether one keyboard for designers is as good as the next — after all, they have similar formats and send the same signals to your computer. But don’t write off the potential benefits of using a tool specifically built to make the life of a graphic designer easier. Let’s start by laying out some characteristics that separate the best keyboards for designers from the rest.

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5 features to prioritize in a keyboard for graphic designers

Graphic designers put a unique set of demands on their keyboards. Like programmers, they use an ample assortment of keyboard shortcuts across a range of applications. Yet while a seasoned programmer may go for extended periods of time without lifting their hands from their keyboard, a graphic designer will frequently jump between their board, their mouse, and potentially even a graphics tablet to add new elements to a composition or tweak assets that are already in place.

 

Did You Know?:The HHKB layout repositions the control key to make it easier to execute more time-saving commands without leaving the home row. Learn more about the history of HHKB here.

With those considerations in mind, here are five features that separate keyboards suitable for general use from those truly built to be the best keyboards for graphic design.

  1. Compact design: Graphic designers need room on their desk for frequent and precise operation of a mouse or stylus and any other accessories they may use in their daily work. A large, desktop-dominating unit that leaves little room for the comfortable operation of other accessories may not be a suitable keyboard for graphic designers.
  2. Flexible operation: The best keyboard for designers won’t just be used to type characters. It should also support an uninterrupted and flexible workflow with input options that minimize repetitive movements. It should be easy to use with just one hand while the other is busy setting curves and juggling layers.
  3. Customizability: You may be able to get the perfect tool off the shelf — but you shouldn’t have to keep it that way if you think of some tweaks down the line. A keyboard for graphic designers should be customizable on both the hardware and software side, making it easy to swap out switches and change key functionality for a truly personalized experience.
  4. Minimalist aesthetic: Flashy RGB lighting and over-the-top case designs have their place in the world. For most designers, a minimalist aesthetic will help make your workspace feel like a creative studio instead of an esports arena. That goes not just for looks but for sound too — even if your keyboard features satisfying mechanical keys, that doesn’t mean it has to make a racket. Ultimately, you should pick a keyboard that can match your aesthetic, whether via customization or straight out of the box.
  5. Quality craftsmanship: A tool built to serve a professional should be made with quality parts and dependable assembly. The best keyboard for graphic design should be an investment in your professional practice that will serve you well for years.

3 of the best keyboards for graphic design

Now that we’ve established some of the most important features to remember as you search for the best keyboard for designers, here are three candidates that receive high marks on many or all of the above criteria. While you couldn’t go wrong with any of these choices, we’ve decided to save the best (in our opinion) for the last.

Did You Know?:The HHKB Snow Collection is another excellent choice for minimalist tastes, with Topre key switches that provide a uniquely satisfying sound and feel. Click here to learn more.

ZSA Moonlander

The ZSA Moonlander’s distinctive feature is its split design: two separate paddles linked only by a 3.5mm cable. Each paddle holds 36 keys in a columnar layout, and the paddles’ legs and thumb clusters can be individually adjusted to “tent” the keyboard’s shape according to your preferred ergonomics. That customizability extends to the key functions themselves, which can be modified to support a range of different macros and keyboard layouts. Since Moonlander’s halves can move individually, they’re an easy fit for just about any graphic design setup — in fact, ZSA even sells the left half by itself for use as a dedicated macro pad.

Logitech Craft

Logitech designed its Craft keyboard with creative professionals in mind. While that approach shaped several of its design elements, the most prominent is the large input dial in its upper left corner. This dial responds to rotation, touch, and tap commands in Adobe creative software, making it easy to granularly adjust a number of different values such as color temperature, tint, and exposure all from the dial without reaching back and forth. Logitech Craft is fully wireless, with backlit keys that automatically adjust to suit different lighting conditions.

Our recommendation: HHKB Studio

The HHKB Studio keyboard was built to support minimal movement and endless creativity. It wears its HHKB lineage with pride, featuring an intelligently revised QWERTY layout that makes common shortcuts easier and more comfortable to execute. At the same time, its own advancements on that tried-and-tested structure help make it one of the best keyboards for graphic designers available.

HHKB Studio features a pointing stick and mouse buttons for flexible operation and gesture touch pads that can input various customizable commands. HHKB Studio’s commitment to keeping graphic designers focused on their best work even extends to the keys' mechanics: Its quiet yet tactile Kailh mechanical switches are hot-swappable if you want to personalize your keyboard’s sound and feel. Find the perfect tool for your creative pursuits in the full range of high-end keyboards from HHKB.

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