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Dye-Sublimation vs. Doubleshot Keycaps: How They're Printed

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Dye-Sublimation vs. Double-shot Keycaps: How They're Printed

Chances are, you have already browsed through many different websites looking for your favorite keycap designs, but may be confused by the terms "Dye-Sub" or "Double-shot" mentioned under every keycap set. If you're still very new to keycaps, this comprehensive guide will help kick-start your keycap journey!

In a nutshell, Dye-Sublimation and Double-Shot refer to the printing methods used for keycaps. Dye-Sublimation involves using heat to evaporate the dye and allow it to soak into the plastic material, while Double-Shot means injecting plastic into two different molds and pressing them together.

Dye-Sublimation vs. Doubleshot Keycaps: How They're Printed
Starlight Anya keycap is made from Dye-Sub method

Both methods can produce high-quality keycaps with awesome designs, but they have their own pros and cons. We will go through them in this article today.

 

Double-shot vs Dye-sublimation

Features Double-shot keycaps Dye-sublimation keycaps
Manufacturing Process Plastic injection into two molds. Uses extreme heat to transfer the dye into the plastic
Durability Legends never fade away Last as long as double-shot keycap does
Design Detail Sharper looking Smoother edges
Legends Injected plastic forming the legends Directly printed onto the keycaps
Typing Experience No awkward bump No awkward bump
Cost Generally more expensive Generally less expensive
RGB Legends shine through just fine Legends is opaque
Compatibility Uses on ABS & PBT keycaps Only on PBT keycaps

Key features of Double-shot and Dye-sub compared

 

Legends

Both double-shot and dye-sub keycaps can produce extremely high-quality legends that look crisp and clear. The only difference is the room for error with dye-sub keycaps. Since dye-sub keycaps are printed, they may be slightly misaligned if produced by an inexperienced manufacturer. On the other hand, double-shot keycaps are almost always consistent in production because they are made of plastic injected into a pre-made mold.

Double-shot keycaps have an advantage over dye-sub keycaps because they can produce any color with precision by mixing the colors into the raw material before manufacturing the keycaps. In contrast, dye-sub keycaps have their design printed onto a ready-made raw PBT keycap (usually a white raw PBT keycap) and may not present some colors perfectly, notably the color black, which may turn slightly dark blue.

Dye-Sublimation vs. Doubleshot Keycaps: How They're Printed
Black color printed on Jotaro Keycaps using Dye-sub method.

If you prefer darker color keycaps, it is best to get double-shot keycaps. If you want an awesome design and vibrant color keycap set, opt for dye-sub keycaps.

 

Durability

Both dye-sublimated and double-shot keycaps are known for their great reliability, making them popular options among keyboard enthusiasts.

Despite being printed onto the keycaps, dye-sublimation is actually one of the most durable methods of keycap production, second only to double-shot. A heat treatment process engraves the legend onto the keycap, creating a permanent mark. While the legend may eventually wear down over long periods of use, the entire top surface of the keycap would need to wear down first.

Looking for Dye-sub keycaps? We have it here in The KapCo. 

 

Dye-Sublimation vs. Doubleshot Keycaps: How They're Printed
Gradient Keycaps printed using Dye-sub, colors looks amazing!

Double-shot keycaps take durability to the next level by injecting a different piece of plastic into the keycap to create the legend. This means that the legend is fully integrated into the keycap and can never be removed. As a result, double-shot keycaps are considered the most durable option on the market.

Both dye-sublimation and double-shot keycaps are sturdy workhorses that offer great durability and reliability, making them excellent choices for mechanical keyboards. However, if you want to ensure that your keyboard is equipped with everlasting prints of keycaps, then double-shot keycaps are the way to go.

 

RGB Compatibility

Dye-sublimation may be a reliable keycap production method, but it lacks the ability to create a shine-through surface due to its heat transfer process that requires the design to cover the entire keycap. On the other hand, double-shot keycaps utilize semi-transparent plastic to form the legends, allowing light to shine through and creating a stunning visual effect. It's no wonder that most of the keycaps with shine-through legends in the market are double-shot.

While dye-sublimated keycaps may not offer backlit compatibility, they make up for it with their ability to display vibrant colors and complex designs on PBT keycaps with ease.

When it comes to your keycap preference, the choice between light shine-through and complex design is up to you. Most keyboard enthusiasts don't give much thought to RGB compatibility, but if you're looking for an impressive light display, double-shot keycaps are the way to go.

 

Cost

Double-shot keycaps usually cost more than dye-sub keycaps because the manufacturing process is more difficult and requires more resources. Making each keycap needs a specific mold, which makes the process more time-consuming and expensive.

Dye-sub keycaps, although cheaper, are still a good choice for non-backlit keyboards and can have more designs available.

If you want your keyboard's RGB backlit to shine through the keycaps, it may be worth investing in a double-shot keycap set. However, there are fewer designs available for double-shot keycaps.

 

Other methods

While double-shot and dye-sublimation are the most popular methods, there are also some lesser-known techniques for creating truly exceptional keycaps. Keep in mind, however, that these methods often come with a hefty price tag!

 

Double-shot + Dye-sub keycaps

his is a revolutionary method of combining two of the best manufacturing methods for keycaps. The process involves using PC (polycarbonate plastic) double-shot with PBT plastic, resulting in keycaps with a crystal pudding-like appearance. Afterward, the top part (usually PBT plastic) is printed using a dye-sub machine to create highly detailed artwork while maintaining a crystal-clear base on the bottom.

Pixel World keycaps is made from the Double-shot + Dye-sub method

If you are interested in learning more, we have a complete article covering this amazing technology!

 

Laser etched keycaps

Laser engraving is a process of etching designs onto the surface of keycaps using high-powered laser beams. The process removes a portion of the keycap material to create the design. One advantage of laser engraving is that the design is permanent and won't fade or wear off over time. However, the engraved areas of the keycap are not transparent, which means that they may not be compatible with backlit keyboards.

 

Pad printed keycaps

Pad printing is a way to put a design onto a keycap. A special pad is used to pick up the ink and then it is stamped onto the keycap. This is a cheaper way to make keycaps, but the design can wear off over time.

Additionally, pad printed keycaps are not compatible with backlit keyboards because the ink blocks the light from shining through the legends. However, they can be a good option for budget-friendly or novelty keycap sets where durability is not a top priority.

 

Resin Casting

 

Dye-Sublimation vs. Doubleshot Keycaps: How They're Printed
Party Drink Artisan is made from Resin Casting!

Resin casting is a technique where liquid resin is poured into a special keycap mold and left to harden. This allows for keycaps with unique designs as the resin can be mixed with colors, glitter, or even small objects. However, resin casting can be a costly and time-consuming process that requires specialized equipment and expertise to produce a high-quality final product. As a result, it is usually only seen in hand-made artisan keycaps.

 

3D printing

3D printing is a method of creating keycaps by printing them layer by layer using a special printer. It allows for complex designs and customization, but can result in a less durable product compared to other methods. It's also more commonly used for creating artisan keycaps rather than for mass production.

 

Key takeaway

  • Double-shot keycaps can produce any color with precision, while dye-sub keycaps have their design printed onto a ready-made raw PBT keycap and may not present some colors perfectly.
  • Double-shot keycaps have the advantage of creating a shine-through surface for RGB compatibility, while dye-sub keycaps utilize opaque legends.
  • Choose¬†double-shot keycaps for better RGB effect, choose dye-sub keycaps for better printing design.
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