Keycaps are the first thing you see on a keyboard (custom USB cables second). They define the board and, most often, your entire desk. And along with that, they also are the first impression that anyone has when typing on your keyboard. Before you even start to experience a keyboards’ switches, the texture and look of the keycaps on top of them have already made an impression. So why not make a good impression?
There are countless keycaps that exist, ranging from Cherry, DSA profile, ABS, PBT, ceramic, metal, and from single-color blanks to sets with more than a handful of colors at once. Looking at all of them can be overwhelming, especially when countless sites claim to have similar products at wildly differing price points.
To help sort through all of this, we’ve rounded up the eight best keycap sets for your mechanical keyboard, starting as low as $42.
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Best of the best
According to countless keyboard enthusiasts, the best keycap sets you can get are all produced by German manufacturer GMK. These double-shot keycaps have crisp legends, thick ABS plastic, and some of the best colors available today. The only downside of ABS keycaps is that they can begin to shine from use after less than a year. While most GMK sets involve expensive group buys and lengthy wait times (sometimes even taking almost two years to ship), Drop has multiple sets — like Sparta, Laser, Hennessey, and WoB — that are in stock and ready to ship. Also, sites like Novelkeys will regularly list extras from GMK group buys for sale after the main sets have been shipped out to buyers.
If GMK keycap sets are out of your price range, or if they don’t have the colors you’re looking for, EnjoyPBT has a comparable range of doubleshot ABS keycaps. While these keycaps are slightly thinner, this only affects the typing sound, and the change can be good if you want a higher-pitched keyboard. ePBT has colorways like Miami Nights, Dolch, and their own Orange Creamsicle readily available for around half the price of comparable GMK sets, and all of them can be found in stock fairly regularly through at least one of their vendors.
If you love the ABS, Cherry-profile style of GMK and ePBT, but want a bit more color, Domikey’s offerings can do just that. These keycaps offer similar fonts, legends, and general quality to GMK and ePBT, but also offer something unique: Triple-shot keycaps. Because of this, these keycaps can have separate colors for their English and Japanese characters without having to use UV printing (like GMK does with sets like Cyrillic). While Domikey doesn’t offer the widest selection possible, sets like Semiconductor and Vintage, along with their own versions of Miami Nights and GMK Laser (called Pumper Cyber Punk), provide a similar range to ePBT and GMK’s own sets.
While all of the entries so far have focused on Cherry-profile keycaps, there are countless other profiles that have a lot of popularity. One of the better-known alternative profiles is SA, which boasts a much taller, rounded keycap profile and a deeper typing sound. While ABS SA kits can be hard to find in stock, there are some readily available like Maxkey’s Black and White and Berserk sets, and Drop’s SA Handarbeit and SA Godspeed.
For a durable, crisp keycap that doesn’t shine over time, dye-sublimated PBT is your best option. PBT the main alternative to ABS, providing a deeper sound signature and a much more durable finish, but not taking well to double-shot legends. Instead, PBT uses dye sublimation, which infuses the dye into the plastic. The legends are almost just as durable as double-shot (for example, the IBM Model M uses dye sublimation and can last for 30+ years), but the main downside is the fact that the printing can only be darker than the main plastic.
Of course, if you want to test your typing abilities or go for the ultimate clean setup, blank keycaps are always an option. While countless companies manufacture blanks, the most reliable are usually going to be from manufacturers already known for their non-blank options. For example, EnjoyPBT offers their thick PBT keycaps as blanks for around half the price of their printed counterparts, and they look fantastic when put on the right keyboard. However, if these sets are still a bit out of your price range, there are options as low as $20 on Amazon. However, these will be compatible with fewer keyboards and are often less durable than higher-end offerings.
While the legends might not be quite as crisp as ePBT’s keycaps, Drop’s Bloom line of PBT keycaps are a great alternative with multiple colorways. The keycaps have a similar thickness, and are also a bit smoother than ePBT’s — a difference that is ultimately down to choice. While I prefer a bit rougher surface on my keycaps, these can be good for anyone who doesn’t have a preference or who prefers a bit smoother texture under their fingertips.
Finding good parts for Topre switches can be difficult. Most of the time, enthusiasts with Topre boards will resort to buying replacement MX-style stems (like the ones featured in every other item on this list) and adapting their keyboards to the more common option. However, Topre sometimes ends up getting the better side of things. Case in point, this keyset. KBDfans’ Extended-2048 is a set of keycaps styled after the Apple Extended Keyboard II which are compatible only with Topre-style electro-capacitive switches. In addition to that, they use thick PBT plastic with dye sublimation, which means they’ll last a long time and sound fantastic on a well-tuned keyboard.
More mechanical keyboard guides
- Mac users: These are the best keyboards, keycaps, and switches
- The 10 best mechanical keyboard switches you’ve never heard of
- 7 ways to make your mechanical keyboard quieter
- How to clean your disgustingly filthy keyboard
- The 8 best USB cables to elevate your custom mechanical keyboard
- Are ceramic keycaps the next big keyboard trend?
- How to lube mechanical keyboard switches and stabilizers
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