Find the best sets to try across a range of materials of profiles
Whether you’ve got a mass market mechanical keyboard or built your own from scratch, one of the best ways to take your board to the next level of customized heights is by perusing new keycap sets. Don’t let anybody tell you that key switches are all that matters when it comes to keyboards — after all, that beloved thwock or click just doesn’t sound right without the perfect layer of plastic (or metal, or ceramic, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves) over it.
While the explosion of popularity in mechanical keyboards has resulted in a similarly massive boost to keycaps, this guide will introduce you to some contenders for the best keycap set that you can buy right now. Before we begin breaking down the individual keycaps set by set, we should lay out the fundamental principles that help distinguish one from the next.
Find the perfect keycaps for every board in your collection with our Essential Guide to Keycaps.
If you’re new to the hobby, a phrase such as “ANSI PBT SA keycap set with transparent legends” probably doesn’t mean much to you. Just getting all of the jargon down can be a barrier to understanding which keycap sets are right for your purposes. Fortunately, you can break down the differences between keycaps across four main categories:
We should also note that, when people talk about mechanical keycap sets, they almost always mean Cherry MX keycaps — that is, keycaps that are compatible with the common Cherry MX style format of switches. We’ll only present those kinds of keycaps in this article, but it’s worth remembering that not all types of keyboards use them.
Did You Know?:If you’re still on the fence about whether to go all in, check out our guide that aims to answer the central question: “Are mechanical keyboards better?”
Now that you know what sets keycaps apart from one another, it’s time to break down some of the best options you can find on the market today.
Even if the cyberpunk future looks grim at times, these cyberpunk-styled PBT keycaps from Drop look nothing but stylish. The main set of alphanumeric keys are a bright purple with teal legends while the modifiers and function keys lurk on the sides with a more menacing dark purple and neon pink. They offer a ton of unique options for thematic labels, and their distinct choice of profile makes for one of the sleekest and most high-impact SA keycap sets we’ve ever seen.
Want a little more color on your board that still fits with a minimalist approach? The beloved SA Chalk keycaps set, often available from KBDfans, presents a beautiful option to consider. Its alphanumeric keys are white while its modifiers and function keys bring a range of vibrant shades, and each features large and easy-to-read black legends. It presents a very different aesthetic from the previous option, but this PBT set is still a strong contender for the greatest SA keycap set available on the market today.
Ready to wander further afield from classical materials for keycap sets without leaving the comfort and convenience of plastics behind? This set of POM Jelly keycaps from Escape Keyboard features a distinct, satiny finish atop a rainbow of pastels. Though the colors are eye-catching, blank keycaps keep the spectacle from going over the top — you can also opt for side-etched keys to keep track of which is which if you prefer. Just don’t be surprised if you get hungry for Jordan almonds every time you start typing.
Did You Know?:You can find even more temping new sets of keycaps (and more) in our guide to the best places to buy mechanical keyboards.
Ceramics aren’t just for fancy vases. Cerakey offers what it calls the first full set of ceramic keycaps, with a range of colors all in the tall-and-sculpted Cherry profile. Cerakey says ceramics allow for a more refined feel, unique sound, and stronger lighting transmittance over plastics, all of which make them an appealing choice for keyboard lovers who are looking to explore new options for their next set of keys.
If you want to go heavy duty for your keycaps, accept no substitute. The metal keycaps full set offered by Metal Keyboards comes in several different colors and formats, each one with exactingly machined caps that produce a typing feel unlike any other (as for profile, MK says they’re “somewhat OEM like” but with a bolder top). Their prices match their uniqueness and durability, but you can be sure that these keycaps will keep clicking and clacking for a lifetime.
While each of those keycaps has its own unique appeal, they all belong to the MX-style family. If you want to give another type of keycap and switch a try, start with the refined typing experience provided by an HHKB keyboard. The HHKB format has been perfected over decades to provide a more ergonomic and efficient approach to typing, while its legendary Topre keys and keycaps provide the most precise actuation possible (not to mention that beloved “thwock” sound). We’re proud to support the mechanical keyboard hobby here at HHKB, and hope you’ll consider adding a high-end HHKB keyboard to your fleet.