The Ultimate Guide to 3d Printed Keycaps, Helpful Examples

Do you want to spice up the look of your mechanical keyboard? Then getting some custom keycaps is the way to go. You can surely get different kinds of keycaps out there, but you can have 3D printed keycaps for your keyboard to make it more appealing.

If you have a 3D printer, I don’t see why you shouldn’t try making some custom keycaps for your mechanical keyboard. It’s a very simple way to get a unique look on your keyboard and make it much more enjoyable.

If you wonder how good they will be or how they are better than other keycaps, I can help you with that. I will go through an overview of these keycaps so you can get the idea and decide whether you want to go for them or not.

3D printed keycaps overview

There are several things you can look at when it comes to 3D printing your mechanical keyboard keycaps. Also, it’s not all good. There are some limitations or drawbacks to consider as well. So, you have to go through all that to decide on printing your keycaps or buying them pre-made.

Let’s get going with the considerations.

Why use 3D-printed keycaps?

Well, the apparent reason for 3D printed keycaps is enhancing the look of your keyboard. There is no typical benefit in terms of performance or functionality when you use printed keycaps. It’s solely made for the looks of your keyboard.

Let’s say you are planning to build a custom keyboard or want to customize the look of your keyboard. You can use some 3D printable designs for keycaps and print them out to style up your keyboard. This way, you end up with a unique-looking keyboard that might not be available as a pre-built version.

Adding to that comes the factor of likeability. For example, if you are a fan of Star Wars, you can get some custom printed keys based on the Star Wars theme. This will make your keyboard look much more exciting to you as well as others.

It’s also a great way to customize the keyboard if you play a particular game professionally or just for fun. You can print out the in-game functions as logos on your 3D keycaps. This makes the keyboard look unique and makes it easy for you to recognize the key bindings of a game.

For example, if you play a lot of Valiant, you can use custom-made keys based on your agent abilities. This way, you won’t have to worry about pressing the wrong button and using the wrong ability in the middle of the game.

Related: 3D print Legos

When and where should you use these keycaps?

Now, there are several things that you should keep in mind when you choose to go for these types of keycaps. While it adds a unique touch and makes your keyboard look interesting, don’t replace all the buttons on your keyboard with these keycaps. Only use these kinds of keycaps for specific purposes.

It would help if you didn’t replace the A-to-Z letter keycaps with any 3D print keycaps because those are functional. You have to make sure those keycaps are your normal keycaps. Because with 3D printed keycaps, you won’t be able to type as fast as you would do with regular keycaps.

So, the best method is going for a blend of keycaps. You can use the regular keycaps for all the letters and numbers. And you can get 3D printed keycaps for unique buttons.

For example, many people use 3D printed keycaps in their “Esc” key on the keyboard. You can also do this for other functional buttons like the backspace, enter, shift, ctrl, etc. And if you have macro buttons on your keyboard, you can replace them with these keycaps.

In one particular instance, you can use printed keycaps for the letter keys for specific games. If you don’t do too much official work or have any typing-related work, then you can replace some letters with the key bindings of your favorite game. Other than that, it would help if you only used replacement keys for letters and numbers.

Related: CNC vs 3D Printing: How to Decide the Best Way to Make the Part

Drawbacks and limitations of 3D printed keycaps

There are some limitations to 3D printable keycaps, which are also the limitations of 3D printing as a whole. The first thing is coming up with the filament material or the material for printing those keycaps.

There are two popular choices here; you can either go for FDM or go for DLP resin. So, if you have a filament printer, you will have to go with FDM, and if you have a resin printer, you can go with DLP resin. The limitation here is that you can’t go with FDM with a resin printer and vice versa.

Among these two choices, resin is a better material than FDM. There are two reasons for that. The first one is that you get cleaner and smoother keycaps right out of print with resin. Whereas for FDM, you have to do some cleaning and sanding to make them better.

Secondly, if you are printing multiple keycaps, then resin works much faster than FDM. With resin, you can print various keycaps at the same time. While with FDM, the more keycaps you print, the more time it will take.

The final drawback is that you will be doing a whole lot to get your hands on some 3D-printed keycaps.

First of all, you have to look for the 3D printable files or design them yourself. Then going through all the printer settings and filament material management can be pretty troublesome. After that, you may need to do some clean-up work on the printed keycaps, which adds up to work.

It feels too much work for some keycaps on your mechanical keyboards. Because you can easily find various themed keycaps out there to enhance the look. However, to make it unique and customized cost-effectively, 3D printing probably is the best bet.

Recommended 3D printed keycaps models.

There are so many designs, themes, and models that you can get on the internet. It’s very easy to get confused amongst all the choices. Even though the one you choose will always come down to your taste and preferences, I have lined up some recommendations for you.

These are some widely popular keycap models, and if you don’t know where to begin, these can be a good start. So, let’s check them out one by one.

PUBG cherry MX keycaps

If you are a gamer, then you probably already know about PUBG or Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds. These are a great addition to your keyboard if you are a PUBG player. These come with some unique designs and shapes printed on the keycaps. These not only make your keyboard memorable but also make your gameplay much more accessible.

Using these keycaps while playing, you won’t have to struggle between choosing the grenade and your primary weapon in-game. You will see the icon itself on the keycaps. Also, since it’s 3D printed, you can even feel the key you are pressing with your fingers.

Cherry MX Cthulhu or Lambda keycaps

Well, if you are looking to add some spice to the look of your keyboard, then this is an excellent keycap to go for. It’s a model for the standard row keycaps, which has a Cthulhu head alongside a lambda symbol.

Usually, you can get this for the use of hotkeys that are meant for various shortcuts. Or you can use them for particular symbols as well. The structure of this key fits very well for the corner keys rather than something in the middle.

Adafruit’s cherry MX keycaps

Do you want some keys that can elevate the RGB lighting on your mechanical keyboard? Then these keycaps are the perfect addition to your keyboard. Because these tend to have a transparent key design which makes the lights pop out even better.

Also, you can edit out the designs that are on the keycaps to make them much more unique. Typically, they come in two designs which are either a skull or an Adafruit. Altogether, these keycaps are great as mods for your keyboard.

Video Game keycaps

When you are a gamer and play various games, you can use these keys to ease up your life. You can find the critical designs on Thingiverse with all the necessary files for printing.

You can use these as shortcut keys or hotkeys for particular games that you play. There are 11 popular games logos printed on these keycaps. You can get other designs as well, so there is nothing you will be missing out on.

Aside from that, you can go for themes based on particular games that are pretty popular. You can get them on Thingiverse or other 3D printable file sites out there.

The boom enter keycap

A great addition to get rid of boredom from your keyboard is the Boom enter keycap. This is a replacement for the enter key that adds an exciting twist to your keyboard. Instead of entering, the keycap says, “Boom.”

The reason for this is usually the enter key will mostly work like “Boom” whenever you press it. The functionality of the critical suits the word boom. That’s why it’s an exciting and unique addition to your keyboard, and it makes sense.

Classic movie/ tv show-themed keycaps.

By classic movie or tv show, I mean movies that have a theme and are considered classic. For example, Star Wars is a popular classic movie among people who still have fan favorites. And if you are a fan of Star Wars movies, adding a Baby Yoda keycap for your ESC is the perfect way to express it.

Aside from that, you can surely go for various designs based on different shows or movies. Many people prefer to go with anime logos or designs; some also like TV shows. It’s all about personal taste and preferences.

Now, the real question is where you can find these files. Well, there are lots of different websites on the internet that will get you high-quality STL files for 3D printing.

One of the most common and popular websites is Thingiverse. Here, you can find all the keycap models I discussed and even more. There are many designs and varieties available on the website with all the necessary details, so you shouldn’t face any issues with anything.

FAQ

Here are some common questions you may have regarding 3D printing keycaps-

  • What is the best material for 3D printing keycaps?

Usually, you can 3D print keycaps for your mechanical keyboard with FDA or Resin. Among these two, the resin is a better choice for printing 3D keycaps for their smooth finish and quicker printing time. However, you will need a resin printer for that purpose.

  • What printer does the best job of printing 3D keycaps?

Since keycaps aren’t that large, you can use any 3D printer for miniatures. Between an FDA printer and Resin printer, resin printer does a better job and gives you better quality keycaps. However, resin printers are usually much more expensive than FDA printers, which you have to make.

Wrap up

In short, to get the most unique-looking keyboard for your setup, there is no alternative to 3D printed keycaps. It’s the best way to get the desired look you want on your keyboard. Also, it’s much cheaper than buying pre-made replacement keycaps.

It’s best to go with the shortcut or function keys when you opt for 3D keycaps. You usually don’t want to go with 3D keycaps on your keyboard’s letter and number keys. It’s your keyboard. You can mod it however you like; it’s always about what you prefer and want.

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