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Keycaps: The Essential Guide for Keyboard Enthusiasts

Whether you’re an expert or just starting out, this guide will help you achieve the keyboard of your dreams.

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Keycap Types

OEM keycaps

OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) denotes a size and shape of a key cap common to many keyboards. They are typically of medium height and have an angled top. OEM keycaps are usually slightly sculpted.

Cherry keycaps

Cherry keycaps are similar to OEM keycaps. They are also medium height, have similarly sculpted designs, and their tops are usually angled. However, Cherries have less aggressive sculpting than their OEM counterparts.

SA keycaps

SA keycaps are some of the tallest on the market, which makes them more sculptable. Their tops are both angled and concave, with the “S” meaning “spherical.” The indent leaves space for one’s fingers to rest on.

Flat keycaps

Flat keycaps don’t fit a single profile but are an overarching category representing a common design choice. They feature a flat surface without any angled or convex shapes.

"Chiclet" keycaps

The “Chiclet” keycap was nicknamed as such due to its resemblance to the brand of chewing gum. They feature a uniform look that seems to barely rise from the keyboard’s surface.

Mechanical Keycap Features


Using thicker or thinner keycaps will change the sensation you feel while typing. Additionally, some materials, like ABS plastic, are smooth. Others, like PBT plastic, have a grippier, textured surface.

Custom keycaps

Some keyboard enthusiasts opt to make their own custom keycaps to get the perfect look and feel for their needs. Custom keycaps also allow the user to show off their personality. YouTuber tinymakesthings is a prime example of how far enthusiasts can go when designing custom keycap art. 

For more information, read our full blog post “What Are Mechanical Keycaps?”

Sources for Information on Custom Keycaps


Some online retailers have emerged as reliable ways to find exciting new keycaps. Drop, Kinetic Labs, and TaroDepato are all excellent places to start looking.


There are plenty of communities online where keyboard enthusiasts swap designs and share ideas. The MechanicalKeyboards subreddit is a beginner-friendly way to get started.


While it’s certainly not for the impatient, you can DIY custom keycaps. Video tutorials can teach you the basics of the process.

Did You Know? The HHKB layout repositions the Control key to make frequently used shortcuts faster and more ergonomic. Learn More.

Check out our full blog post “What Are Custom Keycaps?” for more information.

How are PBT Keycaps Marked?

Pad printing

Letters are pressed directly onto keys with ink. This method is rarely found among PBT keycaps.

Laser etching

A laser beam burns away the top layer of plastic to either color or engrave the legend onto keycaps. The resulting grooves can then be filled with additional coloring to make the legend stand out more.


Dye-sublimation looks similar to pad printing, but it uses heat to inject ink directly into the plastic, so lettering doesn’t wear away over time.

Double-shot injection

One color of plastic is injected into the legend mold, and another dye is injected around the legend to form the rest of the keycap. It’s the most expensive method, but it produces the highest quality keys.

Read our blog post “PBT Keycaps: Everything There Is to Know” for more information.

Distinctions of Cherry MX Keycaps

Keycap material

Cherry MX keycaps are typically made from ABS or PBT. The latter is more durable, but also more expensive. Other types, such as the “jelly”-like POM keycaps, are gaining popularity.

Keycap profile

Cherry profile keycaps have angled tops and are sculpted across each row to better meet your fingers.

Keycap appearance

New aesthetics enter the market every day, so there are plenty of options when choosing the appearance of a Cherry MX keycap.

Check out our full blog “Cherry MX Keycaps: Everything You Need To Know” for more info.

Best keycaps for mechanical keyboards

Drop + Redsuns GMK Red Samurai

Red Samurai keycaps are part of a beautiful Cherry-profile kit. Their red and black color scheme is inspired by some of Japan’s most famed pieces of samurai armor, though they also come in blue.

Boba Fett keycaps

NovelKeys’ official Star Wars keycaps feature the iconic color scheme of Star Wars’ most infamous bounty hunter. They’re perfect for anyone that wants to pay homage to the franchise in a subtle way.

HK Gaming 9009 keycaps

The 9009s from HK Gaming are a classic set of keycaps with a comforting color scheme of beiges and greys, though there are some satisfying splashes of color in there as well. The keys are made with durable PBT plastic and feature a low-riding Cherry profile.

Did You Know? Handy HHKB accessories such as a keyboard lid and adjustable stand help make the most of your board. Click here to learn more.

For more mechanical keyboard keycap recommendations, read “The 5 Best Keycaps For Mechanical Keyboard Enthusiasts” or “5 of the Best Keycap Sets You Can Buy Right Now.

Wild Keycap Options

PBTfans Basin keycap set

The PBTfans Basin keycap set features gorgeous aqua accents and bright surface values with navy blue keycaps in the middle. The legends are easy to read, and their Cherry profile provides a satisfying feel.

POM Jelly Keycaps Rainbow kit

Want to be reminded of spring all year round? The POM Jelly Keycaps Rainbow kit features pastel pinks, blues, greens, and yellows that will evoke images of blooming flowers. The keycaps have a weighty keypress sound and a silky feel.

OSA Simple White PBT keycaps

If you’d rather your keyboard have a whiteout look, the OSA Simple White PBT keycaps  are a great option. They have an unusual profile, but one that gives them a delightful look and feel. The keycaps are medium height with semi-spherical tops.

Want more striking keycap styles? Read our blog post “7 Wild Keycap Styles For Your Next Custom Build.

Keycap Options for WASD Keys

Drop + MiTo GMK Pixel

The Drop + MiTo GMK Pixel are both minimalist and colorful, with an assortment of accent keys to lend your board a unique aesthetic. If you want your keyboard to look uniform, there’s also a full keycap set.

Rubberized gaming keycaps

Rubberized gaming keycaps can give your keyboard some textural variety, making it easier to find the WASD keys just based on feel.

Walnut keycaps

Walnut keycaps have a soft touch and an elegant, rustic look to them, making them a magnificent option.

Check out “WASD Keycaps: 6 Stylish Options For Your Gaming Setup” or for more options to spice up your gaming keyboard.

RGB Keycap Options

POM Jelly Sugarcube keycaps

If you want a sort of dreamy bloom for your keyboard, the POM Jelly Sugarcube keycaps from Escape Keyboard are a good fit. The design allows for a diffused, but bright, lighting setup.

G.SKILL Crystal Crown keycaps

The G.SKILL Crystal Crown keycaps combine simple elegance and otherworldly pudding keys into a coherent design. They feature transparent sides that allow you to admire your switches, with a translucent legend and “crown” around their perimeter to provoke visual interest.

LavaCaps Pudding Keycaps

LavaCaps Pudding Keycaps  cause each keycap to emit a beautifully diffused glow, with opaque tops that create a silhouette effect.

Find the best keycaps for every type of keyboard with our guide, “RGB Keycaps: 5 Sets That Let Your Light Shine Through.” 

3 Places to Find Replacement Keycaps


Drop works with community-favorite creators to bring unique new designs to market. It’s essentially a hub for curated community favorites. However, it doesn’t have an endless selection like some of its competitors, and its boutique nature means it isn’t the cheapest option.


If you're looking for a range of prices and styles, Kbdfans has you covered. Kbdfans is a one-stop shop for keyboard enthusiasts, with an ample selection of keycaps to peruse.


Beginners will want to turn their attention to KeebsForAll. The site is built to be welcoming to newcomers, with accessible prices and a 14-day return policy.

Want to find even more great keycaps for your mechanical keyboard? Check out our guide, “The 5 Best Places to Get Replacement Keycaps For Your Mechanical Keyboard.”

Resources to Make Your Own Keycaps


If you want to make cute clay caps, tinymakesthings  is the channel for you. Tinymakesthings will show you how to shape and bake clay keycaps using existing PBT caps, turning the hobby into a more accessible medium.

Mihi Mini Studio

Those that would rather read guides than watch them should turn to Mihi Mini Studio, which features a written tutorial series for creating artisan keycaps. It will cover shaping clay, painting keycaps, and all the materials you’ll need along the way.


Need inspiration? The fine folks over at r/Keycaps, a subreddit dedicated to the hobby, have plenty to offer. The forum sees regular posts from keycap artisans, each with their own creative designs.

Find the perfect keycaps for every board in your collection with our guide, “4 Places to Learn How to Make Artisan Keycaps.”

Shop Happy Hacking Keyboard Now

Designed for those who type to live.

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