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Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material - The Kapco

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Are you looking to give your keyboard a fresh new look without splurging on another enthusiast keeb? Upgrading from your thin and poorly made ABS keycaps to a new set of aftermarket PBT keycaps might be just what you need!

With keycaps readily available all over the internet, it's important to keep in mind the keycap's material, profile, thickness, and ability to allow RGB lighting to shine through when choosing the most suitable set. Generally, gamers prefer PBT material, Cherry profile, and don't mind the opacity, while typists prefer PBT material, SA profile, and transparent legends for aesthetic reasons.

Choosing the right set of keycaps doesn't have to be rocket science. Let's dive into the main factors you should consider, such as material, profile, thickness, and design. Let's get started!


Do you really need a new set of keycaps?

Chances are, your first budget mechanical keyboard came with mass-produced, cheap ABS keycaps, and after just three months of use, you're already experiencing oily smudges and fingerprints. Let's face it, they look bland and boring.

Keycaps are like the clothes & hoodie of a mechanical keyboard, so they definitely deserve to look good. After all, why settle for a bland white tee? One of the biggest benefits of personalized keycaps is that they can make your budget keyboard feel like a $250 enthusiast keyboard instantly!

Not only is the aesthetic aspect important, but aftermarket keycaps are also more resistant to wear and tear. The legends never fade away, even after heavy use. Additionally, choosing a keycap profile that suits you can drastically improve the comfort and efficiency of your fingertips. The keycap market is huge, and we're here to guide you through it!


What keycaps material to look for?

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Anime spacebar designs by The KapCo.

ABS and PBT are two common plastics used for keycaps. ABS is a cheaper option that is mass-produced through injection molding, while PBT is less common but typically of higher quality. ABS keycaps have a smooth feel but can develop a greasy shine over time. PBT keycaps have a textured feel and are generally more durable, making them superior to ABS. However, there are still high-quality ABS keycap sets available, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Some prefer the smooth feel of ABS while others prefer the textured feel of PBT. If you would like to learn more, we have a whole article covering ABS vs PBT!

Besides ABS and PBT, there are several other materials used for keycaps, including PC (Polycarbonate Plastic). PC keycaps are becoming increasingly popular among enthusiasts due to their crystal-clear nature, which makes them perfect for keyboards with RGB lighting. Although PC keycaps are slightly more expensive than PBT keycaps, many enthusiasts consider them a worthy investment because of their unique visuals. Learn more about PC keycaps in this article!

Keycap Material
Smooth and shiny
Textured and matte
Smooth and shiny
Widely compatible
Compatible with some keyboards
Widely compatible


 Deeper down the rabbit hole, you'll find exotic keycap materials such as aluminum, titanium, wood, resin, and glass that are typically sold by individuals and collectors in form of group-buy. If you're interested in obtaining one of these exotic keycaps, you may want to learn more from the seller first


Keycaps suitable for Mechanical Keyboard with RGB Backlit

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

The KapCo X KeyTok Pixel Galaxy World Keycaps features PCPBT style

Assuming that you have an RGB keyboard, you might want to consider upgrading to double-shot, pudding, or PCPBT keycaps to fully utilize the backlighting feature. These keycaps allow the backlight to shine through. On the other hand, if your keyboard doesn't have RGB backlighting, you might want to go for dye-sublimation or single-shot keycaps, as they usually come with fancier designs that cater to hobbyists who don't really need RGB backlighting.

Dye-sublimation is a printing technique commonly used for keycaps, we have this topic covered in this article about keycap printing technique!


Doubleshot Keycaps

  • Double shot keycaps are manufactured by injecting two separate plastics.
  • This allows backlighting to shine through the legends for easier reading.
  • Double shot keycaps are used on keyboards with lighting for each individual key.
  • Available in both PBT and ABS plastics.


Pudding Keycaps

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

The KapCo. Pudding Keycaps Series - Excellent choice for RGB keyboards

  • Pudding keycaps allow lighting to shine through the base of the keycaps, not just the legends.
  • They are also double shot and made from two separate plastics.
  • This creates a unique and eye-catching lighting effect on your keyboard.


PCPBT Keycaps

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Crystal Pudding keycaps featuring PCPBT material.

  • They are too, made from double-shot technology.
  • The top and front facing surface is PBT, while the sides and rear facing is PC, creating a unique "L" shaped layer or a top cap layer for designs.
  • This creates a unique aesthetic and premium feeling on your keyboard.
  • This style of keycaps is relatively new in the market, so we have a whole article covering PCPBT Keycaps!


Find out which keycap profile suits you

Choosing a keycap profile is like giving your keyboard a new wardrobe. Just like how different clothes can change your overall look and style, different keycap profiles can transform the appearance and feel of your keyboard. Keycaps generally comes in two shapes, flat and sculpted.

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Keycaps profile demonstrated in drawings.

According to the image above, the left column representing the rows of keycaps on your keyboard, while the top row refers to the names of the keycap profiles. Manufacturers tend to experiment with a lot of uncommon shapes for aesthetic reasons, so some shapes may be harder to obtain. But don't worry, we will go through all of the common profiles and guide you to the most suitable keycap profile.


Flat vs Sculpted

Flat keycaps, such as XDA and DSA, have a minimum angle on their surface, making them visually pleasing with designs printed on them. Sculpted keycaps, such as Cherry, OEM, and SA, are designed with an ergonomic angle for more comfortable typing, and are therefore preferred by efficiency-minded users.

If you're looking to enhance your typing experience, opt for sculpted keycaps. For an aesthetic upgrade, consider flat keycaps.


Best gaming keycaps profile

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Chainsaw-man Keycaps in sculpted OEM profile

Every split-second is precious for gamers, so choosing a natural and ergonomic keycap shape is definitely the go-to choice. In this case, Cherry keycaps are the best for gaming as they are sculpted to maximize efficiency and comfort on your fingertips, making them feel most familiar.

In general, the keycap profile has much less impact on gaming compared to mechanical switches. If you want to enhance your competitive edge, it would be more beneficial to explore different type of switch.


Best aesthetic keycaps profile

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Rick & Morty keycaps in flat XDA profile

As mentioned earlier, flat-surfaced keycaps like XDA and DSA are the best choice for aesthetic purposes. The consistent surface of these keycap styles can turn your mechanical keyboard into a work of art. Additionally, designs printed on these keycaps tend to appear more visually appealing and complete because the artwork does not conform to curves. It's like how a painting on a flat surface always looks better than on a curved surface!

Another honorable mention is the PCPBT style keycap, also known as "Crystal Pudding" in The KapCo. These keycaps offer a visually stunning experience as they combine two different plastics molded on top of each other, and are definitely worth checking out!

Overall, the best aesthetic keycap profile is subjective, so you can choose whichever profile and design that speaks to your heart!


Check Compatibility: Can Your Keyboard Handle New Keycaps?

Congratulation, you've learn the basic of keycaps! But don't go rushing checkouts on your shopping cart, always check if the keycap set fits on your keyboard layout!


Identify your keyboard size

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Full-sized keycap sets usually come with a number pad, which can make them more expensive due to the additional keys. On the other hand, smaller keyboards like the 65% may require unique-sized right control and right shift keys, which not all vendors may provide. It's important to check with the vendor whether their keycaps are compatible with your keyboard to avoid purchasing the wrong ones. If you're unsure about keyboard sizes, you can refer to our keyboard size guide.


The variance of keycaps size (u / units)

Learn your keycaps: a guide to keycaps profile and material

Keycaps size chart by u/RatratanX

As mentioned above, some keyboards require special sizes of keycaps for certain function keys such as Enter, Control, Command/Windows, and Shift keys. The size of 1u in keycaps refers to the width of the keycap, which is typically around 19mm or 0.75 inches. For example, spacebars are usually 6.25u in size, which can be determined by comparing them to the keys above your space bar; it will be 6.25 keycaps long. If you're eager to learn more about keycap sizes, we have a whole article covering the technical aspects of keycap sizes!



In a nutshell, the ANSI and ISO layouts can be easily distinguished by the shape of the Enter key. ANSI layouts are commonly seen in the USA, Australia, Canada, and many Middle Eastern and Asian countries, while ISO layouts are usually used in European countries.


Standard layout vs Custom layout

Most major keyboard brands in the market, such as Razer, Steelseries, and Corsair, have non-standard layouts. This means that some of the keys may not fit well on their keyboards. If you're looking to change your keycaps, make sure to check with your vendor before checking out!

Always be careful with the size of the spacebar row, as some keycaps may differ only by 0.25u or 0.5u. We've already experienced the disappointment of receiving wrongly sized keycaps, so make sure it doesn't happen to you!


Custom Printed Keycaps

Learn your keycaps: A guide to keycap profile and material

Custom printed keycaps by Goblintechkeys.

Just like print-on-demand T-shirts, keycaps can be customized too! There are plenty of websites online that offer this service, such as Goblintechkeys. You simply upload an image of your choice and you'll receive it in a couple of weeks. These custom keycaps are usually one-of-a-kind, but the only drawback is that they can be more expensive compared to pre-designed keycaps.

If you're only looking to get an exotic escape key or any single piece of keycap, opt for Artisan keycaps. These keycaps are usually hand-made by craftsmen and can be very personalized in shape and size. Enthusiasts usually order custom-made Artisan keycaps for their escape key and combine them with a pre-made keycap set. The drawback of Artisan Keycaps is that they can get pretty expensive, so be mindful of your budget.


Key Takeaway

Incase it is too much for you to read, here's a TL;DR:

  • It is worthy for a new set of keycaps, with much cheaper price you can get a "brand new" feeling on your mechanical keyboard.

  • Choose ABS if you're on budget. Choose PBT for superior quality.

  • Opt for doubleshot keycaps if you wan backlit to shine through, or you can explore PC+PBT keycaps.

  • Cherry profile is good for gamers. DSA / XDA profile is good for aesthetic.

  • Always ask the vendor if your keyboard fits their keycap set.

Ready to dive into the world of keycaps? Explore our trending collection, maybe you'll find your favorite keycap design!

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