If you're a keyboard enthusiast, you know that it's all about the details, from the way your keys feel under your fingertips to the look of your trusty companion.
Keycaps steal the show on any keyboard. Whether you're just getting started or have a collection of boards, choosing the right keycaps is an art, a science, and a personal statement rolled into one.
In this article, we'll help you pick the ones that are a perfect match for your style, layout, and how you like to type. Let's get ready to spice up your keyboard game because your keycaps are about to take center stage!
How Keycaps Are Measured
Before purchasing your new keycaps for your mechanical keyboard, let's understand how these keycaps are measured. Keycaps are measured in units, with each alphanumeric key being 1u in size. This includes the width, length, and height. For example, a keycap size of 2u means double that of a 1u key.
Keycap sizes such as 6.25u refer to the length of the keycaps. This means that a 6.25u keycap consists of six regular-sized keys and an additional quarter of a key.
Different types of keyboards such as full-sized, tenkeyless, or 60% mechanical keyboards have specific key sizes. For instance, the keys in the bottom row are typically 1.25u in size, while the spacebar is commonly 6.25u.
Different Keycap Profiles for Mechanical Keyboards
Let's check out this guide to keycap profiles. Keycap profiles refer to the shape and design of the keycaps themselves. There are four main types of keycap profiles: curved, stepped, flat, and chiclet. It's important to select the profile that best suits your preferences and typing style. Here are some of the most common keycap profiles.
The curved keycap profile features a slight curve on the top surface of the keycaps. This design allows for a more ergonomic typing experience, conforming to the natural curvature of your fingers. It provides a comfortable and smooth typing feel, reducing strain on your wrists and fingers.
In stepped keycaps, the top surface of the keycaps is divided into multiple levels or steps. This design provides a distinct feel when typing as your fingers move from one level to another. Stepped keycaps are popular among gamers and typists who prefer a more tactile sensory experience.
Flat keycaps have a straight and flat top surface. They provide a sleek and minimalist look to your keyboard. While they may not offer as much tactile feedback as other profiles, individuals who prefer a more uniform and modern aesthetic love them.
Chiclet keycaps are known for their square or rectangular shape, similar to the shapes of a Chiclet gum. They have a low profile and a scissor-switch mechanism. This scissor "spring" allows for a shorter travel distance when typing. Chiclet keycaps are known for their quiet and responsive typing experience.
Mechanical Keyboard Layouts
Keycaps come in different sizes and shapes. Obviously, keyboard and keycap compatibility is important. When choosing keycaps, one of the most important things to determine is your keyboard's layout. Before you buy keycaps on the market, let's first discuss some of the most common layouts.
Is your Keyboard Standard Layout
In a standard keyboard layout, such as the widely used QWERTY layout, keycap sizes are consistent for most of the keys. Here are some key aspects to consider:
Alphanumeric Keys: Keys like letters and numbers (A, B, 1, 2) typically have a standard size, known as 1u (1 unit), which means they are approximately the same width.
Modifiers: Modifier keys like Shift, Ctrl, and Alt are often larger to facilitate easy access. These are usually 1.25u or 1.5u in size.
Spacebar: The spacebar is one of the largest keys on the keyboard. It can vary in size, with the most common sizes being 6.25u and 6.5u for standard layouts.
When selecting keycaps for your keyboard, ensure that they are compatible with the standard keycap sizes of your layout. Keycap sets are often labeled with their compatibility, such as "104-key" or "87-key," which indicates the number of keys in the set of keycaps. For a standard full-sized keyboard, a 104-key set is typically suitable.
Also known as the "American National Standards Institute" layout, the ANSI layout is one of the most common keyboard layouts used in the United States and some other English-speaking countries. It's a standardized layout for computer keyboards and is characterized by the arrangement of keys and their physical dimensions.
QWERTY Layout: The ANSI layout uses the QWERTY arrangement for the main letter and symbol keys, which is the same layout as the standard typewriter layout. It includes keys like A, B, C, 1, 2, etc., arranged in the familiar order.
Enter Key: The Enter key is typically in an "L" shape with a single vertical bar. It's situated on the right side of the keyboard.
Left Shift Key: The left Shift key is large and occupies two rows, making it easy to access with the pinky finger. It's on the left side of the keyboard.
Backslash Key: The backslash key is located above the Enter key, between the Enter key and the opening bracket key.
Alphanumeric Keys: The size and placement of alphanumeric keys are standard, making it easier to find replacement keycaps and compatible keycap sets.
Function Row: The function row (F1, F2, F3, etc.) is at the top of the keyboard.
Modifier Keys: Modifier keys like Ctrl, Alt, and the Windows key are located on the bottom row. Ctrl and Alt are usually adjacent to the spacebar.
Spacebar: The spacebar on an ANSI layout keyboard is typically longer (around 6.25 units) compared to some other layouts.
The ISO layout, also known as the "International Organization for Standardization" layout, is a keyboard layout primarily used in many European countries. It includes various key arrangements to accommodate different languages and special characters used in European languages.
Key Arrangement: The ISO layout uses the QWERTZ, AZERTY, or other variations of the QWERTY layout to accommodate languages such as German, French, and others. The key arrangement varies depending on the language and the specific country's keyboard standards.
Enter Key: One of the most distinctive features of the ISO layout is the "L"-shaped Enter key, which is taller and narrower than the ANSI Enter key. It also contains additional characters such as @, €, and #, depending on the specific variant of the ISO layout.
Shift Keys: The left Shift key is smaller compared to the ANSI layout, as it accommodates an additional key next to it. The right Shift key is usually larger.
Backslash Key: The backslash key is often placed between the left Shift key and the Enter key.
Alphanumeric Keys: The placement and size of alphanumeric keys are relatively consistent with the ANSI layout to accommodate standard Latin characters used across European languages.
Function Row: The function row is located at the top of the keyboard, similar to the ANSI layout.
Modifier Keys: Modifier keys like Ctrl and Alt are often placed next to the spacebar, with the additional Alt Gr key on the right side for accessing special characters.
Special Characters: Depending on the language and specific ISO layout variant, additional special characters and accents are accessible through various combinations of keys.
A non-standard keyboard layout refers to any keyboard configuration that deviates from the widely recognized and commonly used QWERTY layout. Non-standard layouts can vary significantly and are often designed to cater to specific purposes, such as ergonomic needs, compact form factors, or language-specific requirements.
Ergonomic Layouts: Ergonomic keyboards, like split keyboards, often have unique keycap sizes and angles to promote a more natural hand position during typing. For example, split keyboards such as Alice-style layouts and ErgoDox, require specific keycap sizes for their split spacebar modules.
Compact Layouts: Compact keyboards, such as 60% or 40% layouts, have fewer keys and may require smaller or non-standard keycaps to fit the reduced space. Examples of keyboards in this category include the Keychron K2, K4, K6, Drop ALT, Akko 3068, and more.
Language-Specific Layouts: Keyboards designed for specific languages, like AZERTY for French or JIS for Japanese, have different key arrangements and may require keycaps with unique legends.
Gaming Keyboards: Some gaming keyboards have specialized layouts with macro keys and unusual keycap sizes to enhance gaming functionality.
Non-standard keycap sizes can vary widely, making it crucial to understand the unique requirements of your keyboard. Some considerations include:
Keycap Profiles: Non-standard keyboards often come with custom keycap profiles designed to accommodate their layout, resulting in unique shapes and sizes.
Spacebar Variations: The size and shape of the spacebar can vary significantly in non-standard layouts, and users may need to find specialized spacebar keycaps.
Modifier Keys: Modifier keys like Shift, Ctrl, and Alt may be different sizes or shapes to match the layout's specific design.
Function Keys: Some non-standard layouts eliminate function keys or move them to unconventional positions, requiring custom keycap sizes.
To make it easier for keyboard enthusiasts and users to select keycaps, many keyboard communities and vendors provide keycap size charts and templates. These resources help you verify the compatibility of keycaps with your keyboard.
Factors that Affect Your Choice of Keycaps
To find keycaps that fit your keyboard, consider several factors to ensure they meet your needs and preferences.
Keyboard Layout Compatibility: Ensuring that the keycaps are compatible with your specific keyboard layout is crucial. Different layouts, such as ANSI, ISO, or non-standard layouts, may have varying keycap sizes and profiles. Check to see if the keycap set is designed for your layout.
Keycap Material: Keycaps are made with different materials, with ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) being the most common. ABS keycaps are smooth and can wear over time, while PBT keycaps are more durable and have a textured feel. The choice between these materials can affect durability and tactile feel.
Profile: Keycap profiles refer to the shape and height of the keycaps. Common profiles include OEM, Cherry, SA, DSA, and more. The profile can significantly impact the comfort and typing experience, so choose one that suits your preference.
Legends and Keycap Style: Legends are the characters or symbols printed on keycaps. You can opt for various styles, from traditional fonts to custom designs or even blank keycaps for a minimalist look.
Keycap Thickness: The thickness of keycaps can influence the sound and feel of typing. Thicker keycaps tend to produce a more solid and satisfying typing experience, while thinner keycaps might feel lighter.
Keycap Color and Aesthetics: Keycap sets come in a wide array of colors and designs. Personalize your keyboard with a keycap set that matches your aesthetic preferences, whether it's a classic, vibrant, or unique look.
Backlit vs. Non-Backlit: If your keyboard has RGB or backlighting features, you'll want keycaps that allow the light to shine through. Consider choosing keycaps with translucent legends or specific compatibility with backlighting.
Durability: Some keycap sets are designed to be more durable than others. Double-shot keycaps, for example, have legends that are unlikely to wear off over time. Consider the longevity of the keycaps, especially if you're a heavy typist.
Ergonomics and Comfort: The shape and profile of keycaps can influence the comfort of typing. Choose keycaps that provide a comfortable and ergonomic typing experience, especially if you spend a lot of time at your keyboard.
How to Find Keycaps That Fit Your Keyboard
Do you want to make sure your keycaps will fit your keyboard? Here are some tips for choosing the right keycaps.
1. Identify your keyboard layout
Determine your keyboard's layout such as ANSI (common in the United States) or ISO (common in Europe). Layout differences can affect the size and shape of certain keycaps.
2. Check your keyboard size.
Measure your keyboard to determine its size. Common sizes include full-sized (104-108 keys), tenkeyless (TKL, 87-88 keys), and compact (60%-75% keys). Compact keyboards may have non-standard layouts.
3. Determine the keycap profile.
Identify the keycap profile used in your keyboard. The keycap profile impacts the shape and height of the keycaps. Remember there are different keycaps.
4. Check the keycap stem.
Examine the type of keycap stem used by your keyboard's switches. Common stem types include Cherry MX, ALPS, or Topre. Keycaps must have compatible stems to fit your keyboard's switch type.
5. Measure non-standard keycaps.
If you have a non-standard or custom layout keyboard, measure the size of the keycaps for specific keys like the spacebar, modifiers, or function row to ensure compatibility.
6. Determine the mount type.
Check the mount type of your keyboard, which indicates how keycaps attach to switches. Most mechanical keyboards use MX mount, but some non-standard keyboards may use ALPS or other mounts.
7. Browse compatible keycap sets.
Search for keycap sets that are explicitly labeled as compatible with your keyboard layout, size, and mount type.
8. Explore customization options:
Consider customization options if you have unique preferences. Many vendors offer custom keycap sets that allow you to select individual keycaps in different sizes and styles.
10. Pay attention to materials.
Consider the material of the keycaps. Keycaps are often available in two different plastic materials. ABS keycaps tend to wear faster but may be more affordable, while PBT keycaps are more durable and have a textured feel.
11. Verify backlight compatibility.
If your keyboard has backlighting, choose keycaps with translucent legends or legends that are backlit compatible to allow the light to shine through.
12. Double-check dimensions.
Before you purchase a keycap set for your keyboard, double check the keycap sizes. Make sure the keycaps' dimensions, profiles, and compatibility align with your keyboard. Check if there are any non-standard keys.
Where to Buy Quality Keycaps to Fit Your Mechanical Keyboard
Keycaps are available from several reputable sources, both online and offline. Here are some popular options for purchasing high-quality keycaps:
Mechanical Keyboard Specialty Stores
Stores that specialize in mechanical keyboards often offer a wide selection of high-quality keycap sets. Some well-known online retailers include:
Drop (formerly Massdrop)
Custom Artisan Keycap Makers
Artisan keycap makers create unique, handcrafted custom keycaps with intricate designs and high-quality materials. These artisan keycaps are ideal for customization and aesthetics.
Group Buys and Group Interest Checks
Many keyboard enthusiast communities and forums organize group buys and group interest checks for custom keycap sets. Participating in these group buys can help you acquire exclusive and high-quality keycaps. They can also help you in choosing the right keycaps.
Websites like GeekHack and Deskthority often host group buy information.
You can find a world of keycaps that fit your keyboard in online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, including some from reputable manufacturers. Be sure to read reviews and check seller ratings.
Some keycap manufacturers sell their products directly to consumers through their websites or official online stores. Well-known keycap manufacturers include:
GMK (Group Buy on sites like Drop)
Signature Plastics (Pimp My Keyboard)
Local Computer or Electronics Stores
Some local computer or electronics stores may carry keycap sets, especially if they specialize in gaming peripherals. Visit or contact stores in your area to check for availability.
Keyboard Enthusiast Forums and Communities
Joining keyboard enthusiast forums and communities can provide valuable insights and recommendations for purchasing high-quality keycaps. Members often share their experiences and reviews of different keycap sets.
Keycap Retailers in Your Region
Depending on your location, there may be keycap retailers that cater specifically to your region. These local retailers can be a convenient option for acquiring keycaps.
Consider browsing second-hand markets like r/mechmarket on Reddit or keyboard forums for individuals selling high-quality keycap sets. You may find unique or rare keycaps at a lower cost.
So there you have it, the lowdown on picking the right keycaps for your keyboard. Knowing the best keycaps for your keyboard not only beautifies your keyboard but also boosts your typing or gaming experience to the next level.
It might seem like a wild jungle of choices out there, but trust us. Finding a new set of keycaps for your keyboard can be an exciting adventure. Dive into community forums, chat with keyboard enthusiasts, and don't shy away from customization options. Make your keyboard a work of art and an avenue of excellent functionality.
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.
Pinstack is a dedicated online media platform focusing on selling and reviewing mechanical keyboards. Our commitment is to provide comprehensive reviews, in-depth guides, and much more. With our active presence on YouTube and our website, we strive to deliver top-quality content across multiple platforms, aiming to bring the best to our audience.
Subscribe to our newsletter
We care about the protection of your data. We’ll never share your details.
Pinstack is an Amazon Affiliate. All earnings from this website are from qualified purchases. Learn more about our affiliate disclosure terms.