Start making artisan keycaps that bring your board’s unique personality to life.
Many people think of computer keycaps, and keyboards overall, as purely utilitarian things. Mechanical keyboard enthusiasts know they can also be an extension and expression of their user’s personality, thanks to the near-infinite customization options afforded by the range of boards, key switches, and custom keycaps available for purchase today. If you want to go even further in making your board a visual delight all your own, it’s time to learn how to make artisan keycaps.
Whatever your level of DIY experience, this guide will show you the best places to learn the essential skills for creating artisan keycaps, as well as how to find (or become) a keycap designer to bring a unique look to all of your keys. But first, let’s define what we mean by the term “artisan keycaps.”
Find the perfect keycaps for every board in your collection with our Essential Guide to Keycaps.
Jump to a section:
- What are artisan keycaps?
- 4 places to learn how to make artisan keycaps
- How to find a keycap designer or become your own
- Add an artfully designed keyboard to your collection
Artisan keycaps are special keycaps made to serve as high-impact accents, either standing as their own artistic centerpieces or pushing a board’s cohesive theme to the next level. They’re often placed on less frequently used keys so their unusual shapes and compositions can be appreciated without reducing the function of the board. That said, there’s nothing keeping you from turning an entire keyboard into a miniature buffet with all food-themed artisan keycaps if you really want.
Artisan keycaps can either be formed on top of existing keycaps for ease of use, or made from scratch. Either way, as long as it can still fit on top of a standard key switch’s cross-shaped stem — and as long as its shape doesn’t impede the usage of surrounding keys — you could make just about anything.
Did You Know?:You can find even more helpful communities in our guide to the best mechanical keyboard YouTube channels, forums, and subreddits.
You could take any number of approaches to building the perfect caps, but those looking to learn how to make artisan keycaps would do well to start with lessons from high-profile creators and the support of dedicated communities. Here are some of our favorites.
Tinymakesthings is a creator dedicated to the craft of artisan keycaps, who shares her work across TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. Tiny’s medium of choice is clay, shaped by hand (and by tool) around existing PBT keycaps then baked to permanent perfection in a standard home oven — it’s very important that you use PBT plastic, not ABS, so you don’t have to worry about your base melting. There’s no question that Tiny is an accomplished artist, but her accessible choice of medium, love of cute and silly designs, and step-by-step instructions also make her a great example to follow for budding keycap artisans.
The other main school of artisan keycap creation is about making eye-catching pieces of art, sometimes even entire miniature dioramas, all within the space of a standard keycap. This is typically accomplished through the judicious use of transparent epoxy resin, laying down a protective and preserving layer on top of everything from dried flowers to model ships and beyond. As resin artist jedrek29t demonstrates, this kind of keycap requires significantly more specialized materials and equipment than working primarily with clay. However, the resulting creations are worth the effort — and they can be even more dazzling when combined with the right RGB lighting.
If you learn better by reading, or if you’re new to this corner of the DIY world and want to make sure you do each step right, you’ll likely find what you need in Mihi Mini Studio’s written tutorial series. It covers how to make artisan keycaps with clay, how to paint keycaps, and an extensive guide to the materials and equipment required for safely casting resin keycaps. You’ll be just as glad to have all that info in the back of your mind when you set to work on your first artisan keycap as you will on your fiftieth.
Whether you’re looking for beautiful new designs to inspire your next creation, feedback on your own work from fellow keycap artisans, or even to make a few purchases yourself, you’ll find it all on Reddit’s dedicated keycaps subreddit. r/Keycaps’ front page is usually filled with images of stunningly detailed caps fashioned by a range of creators, both of original concepts and familiar favorites. One word of advice: Don’t let other people’s mastery of the form discourage you in your early efforts. Instead, ask lots of questions to find out how you can bolster your own skills!
Want to imbue the standard keycaps on your keyboard with some extra personality, too? Keycap designer tools will help you balance form and function.
If you’d like to stick with the DIY ethos of the artisan keycaps section, this video from LinusTechTips on YouTube will show you how to use a modified inkjet printer to create your own keycap legends. It isn’t a complicated process, but it is fairly labor intensive — and you will need a heat press of some kind to transfer the ink from the sublimation paper into your keycap (a lot like applying an iron-on decal to a shirt). Still, once you get your setup rolling, you’ll be able to make any keycap legend you can put to paper.
Did You Know?: The Happy Hacking Keyboard 4 Color Keycap Set includes everything you need to make your new favorite board’s colors pop.
Don’t want to get your hands all inky? WASD Keyboards has you covered with a range of keycaps that can be customized right from your browser. Pick your preferred keyset, select your favorite colors for the main keys and modifiers, and then the real magic starts: Either choose from a selection of pre-made legends, or upload your own designs with an easy-to-use template and vector graphics editor (Inkscape is free if you’re not sure where to start). It’s the ideal keycap designer suite for creative folks who prefer to leave the printing process to professionals.
There’s more than one way to make a truly unique keyboard. If you want to try a mechanical board that carves its own path toward a more refined typing experience, you should check out the full range of high-end keyboards from HHKB. The combination of an intelligently revised key layout with best-in-class Topre keyswitches creates an experience unlike anything else on the market. Order one today and see why HHKB has been a favorite for keyboard enthusiasts around the world for decades.