Customizing Mechanical Keyboards with High Profile Keycaps

March 18, 2024

High-profile keycaps alter the feel of gaming and typing. Their high profile makes them comfortable and familiar to work on. The height and shape of the keycaps allow more precise keystrokes.

High-profile keycaps are just one of the many ways you can make your keyboard truly your own. Why not give them a try and see what difference they can make to your gaming and typing experience? 

What Are the Different Keycap Profiles

Keycap profiles refer to the shape and contour of individual keycaps on a keyboard. Different profiles can affect the overall feel and typing experience. 

  1. High Profile: These keycaps have a taller height.  They offer a more traditional and substantial feel during typing.
  2. Low Profile: These keycaps have a shorter overall height. They are common in slim and compact keyboards, which provide a more minimalist and modern aesthetic.
  3. DSA (Deep Space Cadet): DSA keycaps have a uniform flat surface with a spherical top, making them the same height regardless of the key's position on the keyboard. This profile is popular among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts for its simplicity and compatibility.
  4. SA (Spherical All): SA keycaps are known for their spherical shape and tall height. They offer a unique and retro aesthetic, reminiscent of older typewriters. However, SA keycaps are less common in modern keyboards due to their height.
  5. DCS (Dolch Space Cadet): Similar to DSA, this profile has a uniform flat surface but with a concave top, providing a comfortable typing experience. DCS keycaps are often found on vintage keyboards.
  6. Cherry: Cherry keycaps are the standard keycap profile for many mechanical keyboards. They have a slightly curved surface and a cylindrical shape, with varying heights for different rows on the keyboard.
  7. OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer): OEM keycaps are another common profile found on many pre-built keyboards. They have a slightly curved surface, similar to Cherry, but with a lower profile. OEM keycaps are widely used and come with many commercial keyboards.
  8. DSA (Diamond Space Cadet): DSA keycaps with a diamond shape on the top surface, providing a unique and visually interesting design. Like other DSA profiles, they are uniform in height.
  9. XDA: XDA keycaps are similar to DSA but have a wider surface area. They offer a flat profile with a spherical top and are known for their compatibility with various keyboard layouts.
  10. SA (Chocolatier): A variation of SA keycaps, Chocolatier SA keycaps have a flatter and less tall profile compared to traditional SA keycaps. They often feature a vintage-inspired color scheme.

What are High-profile Keycaps?

a comparative image of a high-profile vs low-profile keycaps

Are you looking to upgrade your keyboard experience? High-profile keycaps might be the perfect fit for you. 

High-profile keycaps are keycaps that have a taller design compared to standard or low-profile keycaps; the term "high-profile" refers to the vertical height of the keycaps. Keyboards with high-profile keycaps typically have a more traditional aesthetic. These keycaps typically extend further above the keyboard's surface, providing a more substantial and ergonomic feel during typing.

Here are some characteristics of high-profile keycaps:

  1. Tall Design: High-profile keycaps have a greater vertical height. This feature makes gaming and typing a comfortable and ergonomic experience.
  2. Sculpted Contours: Many high-profile keycap sets have different shapes to accommodate varying finger lengths and natural resting positions to enhance typing comfort.
  3. Classic Aesthetic: Keyboards with high-profile keycaps often evoke a classic and familiar aesthetic. 
  4. Typing Experience: People who prefer a tactile and well-defined typing experience may find high-profile keycaps more satisfying. The increased height provides a sense of keycap solidity and improves keypress feedback.
  5. Keycap Material: High-profile keycaps can be made from various materials including ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate), or POM (Polyoxymethylene). The material used affects the keycaps' durability, texture, and overall feel.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using High-profile Keycaps

Using high-profile keycaps on a keyboard comes with its own set of pros and cons. 

Advantages

  1. Comfortable Typing Experience: High-profile keycaps often provide a more comfortable and ergonomic typing experience. The increased height and sculpted contours cater to the natural shape of fingers, reducing strain during prolonged typing sessions.
  2. Tactile Feedback: The taller design of high-profile keycaps can contribute to a more pronounced tactile feel. Users who prefer a distinct feedback sensation when pressing keys may find high-profile keycaps satisfying.
  3. Classic Aesthetic: High-profile keycaps are associated with a classic and traditional keyboard design. This aesthetic appeals to users who appreciate a retro or vintage look in their mechanical keyboards.
  4. Enhanced Visibility: The increased height of the keycaps may contribute to better visibility of the key legends (characters or symbols) on the keycaps. This can be beneficial for users who want a clear and easily readable keyboard layout.

Disadvantages

  1. Less Sleek Appearance: High-profile keycaps can make a keyboard look bulkier and less modern compared to low-profile alternatives. If a sleek and minimalist design is desired, high-profile keycaps may not be the ideal choice.
  2. Potential for Fatigue: While some users find high-profile keycaps comfortable, others may experience finger fatigue during extended typing sessions. The additional height could lead to increased finger movement, which may be less suitable for certain typing styles.
  3. Less Customization: High-profile keycaps may offer fewer customization options compared to some low-profile or flat keycap profiles. Users who enjoy experimenting with unique keycap sets might find more variety in other profiles.
  4. Possibly Higher Cost: Keycap sets with high-profile designs, especially those made from premium materials, may be more expensive than other keycap profiles. Cost can be a consideration for users on a budget.

Steps to Customize Your Mechanical Keyboard with High-profile Keycaps

Do you want to have a custom mechanical keyboard? Start with high-profile keycaps. Changing keycaps isn't difficult. Here are steps to guide you:

  1. Choose Your High-Profile Keycap Set: Consider factors such as material, color, and profile. Select a set that aligns with your aesthetic preferences and typing needs.
  2. Check Compatibility: Keycap sizes and fits can vary, so make sure the set includes the correct key sizes for your keyboard layout.
  3. Remove Existing Keycaps: Carefully use a keycap puller (or even your hands) to remove the existing keycaps from your mechanical keyboard. Start with the outer keys and work your way towards the center. Apply even pressure to avoid damaging the switches.
  4. Clean Your Keyboard: Take this opportunity to clean your keyboard thoroughly. Use a can of compressed air to remove dust and debris from the switches and the keyboard's surface.
  5. Install High-Profile Keycaps: Begin installing the new high-profile keycaps by placing them over the switches. Press down evenly on each keycap until it clicks into place. Ensure that each keycap is properly seated on the switch.
  6. Pay Attention to Keycap Orientation: Some keycaps may have specific orientations, especially those with sculpted profiles. Check the keycap set's documentation or markings to ensure correct orientation.
  7. Arrange Specialized Keycaps: Some keycap sets include specialized keycaps for functions like Enter, Shift, and Spacebar. Take your time to arrange these keycaps according to the set's design.
  8. Test the Keys: After installing the keycaps, test each key to ensure they register correctly. Verify that the keys are stable and don't wobble excessively.

Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning High-profile Keycaps

an image of a bowl of soapy water with keycaps on the side

Maintaining and cleaning high-profile keycaps is important to keep your mechanical keyboard looking and functioning at its best. 

1. Regular Dusting: Use a can of compressed air or a small, soft brush to gently remove dust and debris from the surface of the keycaps. Regular dusting helps prevent buildup and keeps the keyboard looking clean.

2. Keycap Removal: Regularly remove your keycaps for a more thorough cleaning. Wipe each keycap thoroughly.

3. Soapy Water Bath: For a deeper clean, remove the keycaps and soak them in a bowl of warm, soapy water. Use a mild soap and let the keycaps soak for a few hours. 

4. Soft Brush or Toothbrush: Use a soft brush or an old toothbrush to gently scrub the keycaps. Pay attention to crevices and areas with accumulated dirt. Avoid using abrasive brushes that may scratch the keycaps.

5. Rinse and Dry: Rinse the keycaps thoroughly with clean water to remove any soap residue. Allow the keycaps to air dry completely before reattaching them to the keyboard. 

6. Microfiber Cloth: Wipe down the keyboard and keycaps with a microfiber cloth regularly to maintain a clean surface. Microfiber is gentle and won't scratch the keycaps or the keyboard's body.

7. Avoid Harsh Chemicals: Avoid using harsh cleaning chemicals, especially on keycaps with printed legends. Harsh chemicals may damage the keycap material or printed labels.

8. Keep Food and Drinks Away:  Accidental spills can be challenging to clean and may lead to long-term damage. Avoid putting food and drinks near the keyboard.

9. Check Stabilizers: If your keyboard has stabilizers for larger keys, periodically check and lubricate them if necessary. Well-lubricated stabilizers contribute to a smoother and quieter typing experience.

10. Cover the Keyboard: When not in use, use a keyboard cover to shield the keycaps from dust and debris.

Conclusion

Ready to give your mechanical keyboard a makeover with high-profile keycaps? Great! Use this article to do your research on the various profiles, materials, and printing methods to find the ideal set that suits your flair.

With regular upkeep, your keycaps, switches, and the entire keyboard will always be in top shape. You will definitely enjoy a more personalized, enjoyable, and efficient typing experience.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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