What are GMK keycaps?

Elite customization.

Photo by Jay Zhang

Keyboard customization is becoming more common as more users seek new ways to make their setups stand out and express themselves. While there are numerous ways to customize a keyboard, many enthusiasts choose GMK keycaps for their unique designs and high quality.

GMK keycaps are custom keycaps that often come in unique designs and patterns. They provide users with an alternative to regular keycaps and often have limited production runs to add some exclusivity. 

What are GMK keycaps made from?

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Keycaps made by GMK come in the Cherry profile that’s shorter than regular keycaps and slightly thicker. Instead of being made from polybutylene terephthalate (PBT), GMK uses acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic for its keycaps. ABS is a softer plastic that’s easy to manufacture, but it gets shiny and smooth over time when used for keycaps. 

Some of the advantages of ABS keycaps are that they are cheaper and easier to manufacture than PBT keycaps. While GMK keycaps are made from ABS, they have a premium design and higher quality than regular ABS keycaps. It’s also easier to make brightly-colored keycaps from ABS than it is to make them from PBT.

One of the best attributes of GMK keycaps is their doubleshot design. Doubleshot keycaps are made from two pieces of plastic joined together. The top layer is the keycap, and it has a cut-out on the top where the legend is located. The bottom layer joins the top layer and fills the cutout to form the legend. Having a doubleshot design means the legends on the keycaps can’t rub off or fade like the painted-on legends on regular keycaps.

Who makes GMK keycaps?

The maker of these beloved keycaps is the Germany-based company GMK. The name itself is an acronym that stands for the founders of the company Günter, Meinhardt, and Kredler. While the company was founded in 1992, it only started manufacturing keycaps in 2011. 

Keycaps are just a tiny part of the business. Apart from making keycaps, GMK makes a range of other products, including keyboards, printed circuit boards (PCB) boards, and components like mouse switches and keyboard video mouse (KVM) switches.

How to buy GMK keycaps

Image via Omnitype

Unlike most keycap companies, GMK usually makes limited production runs instead of steady product lines. This means that each color and design is made in limited quantities and only manufactured after a minimum order quantity (MOQ) has been fulfilled with GMK.

Since third parties design the keycaps instead of GMK, interest checks and group buys on certain websites determine whether there’s enough demand to fill the MOQ.

Interest checks: Websites like KBDfans have pages with interest checks. These pages usually have renderings or proposed designs and ask users for feedback. If a particular design gets enough interest, it can then go into production.

Group buys: Sites like Candykeys, Omnitype, and Mechgroupbuys have pages with group buy options. With a group buy, a company or artist has usually got a quote from GMK for a production run of a specific keycap set. They usually need to reach a minimum order quantity to make it viable for the keycaps to be made. Group buys usually list the keycaps available, together with the prices and any limitations on quantity. Once there are enough orders, GMK can make the keycaps for the buyers. If the MOQ isn’t reached, production is canceled. 

Pros

  • High quality
  • Vivid colors
  • Unique designs
  • Limited production creates exclusivity

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Limited quantities available
  • Long lead times to get the keycaps
  • Can be challenging to find

Whether GMK keycaps are worth it or not is up to the user. Some users like the idea of customized keycaps, and the limited quantity means they have a level of exclusivity. On the other hand, they are pricey and can be difficult to find. Apart from aesthetics, they don’t do much for the typing and gaming experience.