What are artisan keycaps?

The jewelry of keyboards.

Photo via Jellykey

Commonly found in online stores and marketplaces, artisan keycaps are a fun way to make a keyboard unique and express your personal style. 

Ranging from 3D-printed, solid-color caps to painstakingly hand-sculpted and hand-painted resin caps, artisan keycaps come in a vast variety of shapes, styles, colors, and textures. Themes like pop culture, video game culture, plant terrariums, food, anatomy, kitty cats, and more make artisan keycaps desirable for gamers looking to make their gaming setup individualized and special. 

Related: Best artisan keycaps

How artisan keycaps are made

Photo via Clackeys

While crafting keycaps is something different kinds of artists can probably do in numerous ways, the most common way to make artisan keycaps is to use casting resin and a mold. Resin is a type of plastic that is somewhat viscous and therefore good for casting in molds. Artists can mix dyes, and other materials, like glitter, with the casting resin to give the keycap its color before filling the mold. 

Many artisan keycap makers have their own molds they have designed and created themselves. One way they might make a mold is by first sculpting their desired shape out of clay, then pressing the clay sculpture into a mold, letting it dry, and then carefully removing it. Once the mold is prepared, the artist can then fill the mold with the casting resin for the keycap. Professionals use an array of tools in addition to the ones mentioned above including, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, droppers, syringes, and paintbrushes. 

Photo by Dwarf Factory x MK via Mechanical Keyboards

Artists often get creative with the materials they add to the process. Craft materials, such as beads and wood pieces, are some examples of other types of materials artists may use to enhance a design. However, making DIY artisan keycaps can also be enjoyed as a hobby by anyone with the most basic tools. 

How artisan keycaps are used

Photo via Jellykey

Typing regularly on artisan keycaps can be difficult and confusing, which is why most users affix their artisan keycaps upon the Fn row, Esc key, arrow keys, Shift key, or Enter key. Because of the diversity in shapes, sizes, and patterns, artisan keycaps are not typically used for alpha keys. Imagine attempting to type out an email and looking down at your fingers only to see rows of Among Us character heads. Talk about email anxiety. 

The deal with group buys

Photo via Drop

While some online markets, like Drop, feature a wide selection of ready-to-ship artisan keycaps, many artisan keycaps are sold through group buys. 

The upside of browsing artisan keycaps is that each one, or each collection, is handmade and unique, designed and crafted by one or a few artists. The downside is that because these special keycaps are not mass-produced, a specific keycap in the catalog must reach a minimum order quantity (MOQ) to sell at all. While it’s possible to find quality artisan keycaps on a site like Amazon, a large number of buyers shop for personally handcrafted keycaps. 

Group buys provide a limited period of time to order a keycap, and if the keycap achieves the MOQ, all orders during the group buy period will be fulfilled. If someone were to order a keycap as part of a group buy toward the beginning of the start date, that person would have to wait until the after end date before their order ships. This means that artisan keycaps are a time investment. If the keycap does not reach the MOQ, all orders are canceled, and customers are refunded. 

The fun of raffles

Photo via Jellykey

Some keycap manufacturers hold raffles for keycaps instead of doing group buys. Interested customers can join the manufacturer’s Discord channel, where more details for the raffled collection can be found. Once someone has joined the Discord and reviewed the information about the raffle, which may include specs, prices, and rules, they can fill out a form before the deadline to be entered into the raffle. If they are a winner, they are invoiced by the company for the cost of the keycap, including shipping and handling. 

Keycap collections as part of raffles are often special to a certain event or a charitable cause. For example, Jellykey recently held a raffle for a collection shown in the featured image at the top of the article. The keycaps display what looks like arcade video game cabinets, with the game inside being a shooter. The targets? COVID-19. All proceeds were given to support the fight against COVID-19 and encourage vaccinations in Vietnam, Jellykey’s home. 

As if artisan keycaps weren’t unique and exclusive enough, manufacturers like Jellykey use raffles to make the buying experience even more special and personal.

Choosing artisan keycaps for your setup

Photo via Drop

Like any accessory, choosing an option comes down to your own personal preferences for color, size, and design. Personalizing your computer setup can be fun and creative, but oftentimes, functionality is a large part of the decision-making process. For example, when picking out a mouse, the one that appeals to your eye may not be the one that functions the way you want during gameplay. With artisan keycaps, there is very little worry about functionality. They aren’t meant to be more functional than simply staying connected to the switch on your keyboard. 

That being said, there are all sorts of styles available online. Finding an artisan keycap for any aesthetic should be simple, but going in with too specific of a concept could lead to some disappointment. It’s important to remember that the creators are artists with their own styles and visions. Open-mindedness when searching through a catalog can be helpful. 

How to affix an artisan keycap

To affix an artisan keycap, no matter the variation in shape or size, you’ll need a keycap puller. Otherwise, the process is very simple and oddly satisfying. 

Related: How to remove keycaps

  • Unplug your keyboard. 
    • If you have a wireless keyboard, turn the keyboard off.
  • Use the keycap puller to remove the original key from your keyboard. 
    • The switch connected to the board will now be visible. You will be able to see a cross-shaped stem protruding. 
  • Align the cross-shaped indent on the bottom of the keycap with the stem on your keyboard.
  • Gently press down all the way.
    • Apply equal pressure all at once to secure the keycap. 
  • Tap the key a few times to ensure it is stable. 

Artisan keycaps are meticulously crafted little works of art that can help personalize a gaming setup. Crafted by individual artists or small groups of creators, artisan keycaps are special, novelty accessories. By purchasing artisan keycaps, users are also supporting small businesses and independent artists.