For mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, customizing and personalizing their keyboards with unique keycaps is a big part of the hobby. There are two main types of specialty keycaps that allow for customization – custom keycaps and artisan keycaps. While both allow users to express themselves through their keyboard designs, there are some key differences between the two.
Custom keycaps refer to full keycap sets that are custom made, often to the buyer’s specifications. This allows complete control over the color schemes, materials, legends, profiles, and more. Custom keycap sets typically consist of caps for all the keys on a standard keyboard.
Some of the key benefits of custom keycap sets include:
- Complete Customization – Every aspect of the keycaps can be customized, from the colors and material to the font and legends on each cap. This allows for totally unique designs.
- Cohesive Aesthetic – A full custom set enables an overall cohesive look across the entire keyboard, as opposed to mixing and matching individual artisan caps.
- Availability – While custom sets can be more expensive than typical mass-produced sets, the ability to get keycaps made in any colorway or material means availability of specific looks is greatly increased.
- Profile and Sculpting Consistency – A custom set will have consistent profiling across the whole keyboard, compared to mixing sculpted artisan caps alongside OEM or Cherry profile rows.
- Legends – Custom legends including foreign languages, custom icons, and more can be created to suit the user’s preferences.
On the downside, full custom sets tend to be more expensive than typical keycap sets, given the costs of custom manufacturing. The process of designing and finalizing a custom set can also take weeks or months depending on manufacturer workload and production capabilities.
Artisan keycaps refer to individually crafted specialty keycaps. They are typically handmade in small batches or as one-off creations. Each artisan cap is unique and aims to be a mini work of art for your keyboard.
Some benefits of artisan keycaps:
- Unique Looks – Given the handcrafted nature and creativity behind artisan caps, they offer truly unique designs from makers within the community. No two are ever exactly alike.
- Collectability – There is an allure and prestige around collecting rare or limited artisan caps, especially collaborations or colorways from renowned makers. The aftermarket for desired caps can be significant.
- Artistic Value – Beyond just customization, artisan caps allow makers to express their creativity and develop signature designs or sculpting styles, making keycaps an artistic medium.
- Lower Cost – Individual artisan caps can often be purchased for $50 or less, making them a more affordable way to customize versus a full custom keyset which can cost over $100.
- Mix and Match – Artisan caps allow mixing and matching between different rows and parts of the keyboard like gmk67 to create eclectic, colorful designs.
Potential drawbacks include:
- Availability – With artisans produced in small batches, the caps you want can be hard to come by or sell out quickly.
- Cohesion – Mixing and matching artisan caps from different makers can sometimes lack an overall cohesive aesthetic compared to a full custom set.
- Sculpting and Profile Mismatch – Many artisan caps use unique sculpting that might not match the OEM or Cherry sculpting of other key rows.
While both custom and artisan keycaps cater to those looking to personalize their keyboards, they offer different benefits and fill different needs. Custom keysets allow for cohesive, tailored design across an entire keyboard, while artisans offer artists a canvas to produce unique keycap works of art for collectors and keyboard enthusiasts. So whether you want a keyboard color scheme that’s uniquely yours, or captivating, one-of-a-kind keycaps, there are options to take your keyboard to the next level.