The battle betwen Double-Shot vs Dye-Sub keycaps never seems to end. Two methods bring keycaps to life, each with its own enchanting powers. In this thorough comparison, we leave no detail unexplored as we delve into the nuances of these two common keycap printing methods, guiding you toward the perfect choice. Whether your focus lies […]
Double-Shot vs Dye-Sub Keycaps: How Different Are They?
The battle betwen Double-Shot vs Dye-Sub keycaps never seems to end. Two methods bring keycaps to life, each with its own enchanting powers. In this thorough comparison, we leave no detail unexplored as we delve into the nuances of these two common keycap printing methods, guiding you toward the perfect choice. Whether your focus lies on long-lasting performance or captivating visuals, we have all your needs covered.
Double-Shot and Dye-Sublimation are the two manufacturing methods used to make keycaps, especially for the high-end versions. While dye-sub is the process of printing by using heat, double-shot uses injection molding to insert the legend. And, when compared to other types of keycaps on the market, both of these methods offer great durability with a smooth-to-the-touch feel.
Before jumping into the differences between the two, let’s take a closer look at each keycap to see which one is more suitable for you!
What are Dye-Sublimated Keycaps?
Dye sublimation, dating back to the 80s and 90s, is a fascinating printing method where legends are applied directly onto keycap surfaces using heat, dye, and laser technology. Legends are printed onto specialized transfer paper using dye-based inks and then applied to keycaps through a heat-pressing procedure.
The high heat causes the dye-sub ink to become a gas, infusing into the keycap’s surface, making it durable and resistant to wear and fading, typically on PBT or high-quality ABS materials. This technique allows for vivid, intricate legends in full color, making it a popular choice for custom keycap sets and creative designs.
For a more detailed understanding of Dye Sublimation Keycaps, feel free to explore our comprehensive guide.
What are Double Shot Keycaps?
The double-shot involves injecting two distinct types of plastic materials into a mold in two separate shots to produce fully functioning keycaps. In a nutshell, legends and symbols of double-shot keycaps are created through a two-step molding process.
Specifically, the first shot is molded from a single color of plastic to shape the base. A second shot molds a different colored plastic to make the legends on the top of the keycap. As a result, the legends are physically embedded within the keycap, become an integral part of it.
This double-shot process creates crisp legends with remarkable longevity (even after prolonged use) and visual appeal but it is time-consuming and more expensive than other keycaps.
While the double-shot process is an older method than dye-sublimation or pad printing, it does not require any external printing, hence eliminating all of the drawbacks associated with standard printing such as fading, wearing or limited color palettes.
Although double-shot injection emerged in the 1970s, double-shot keycaps are objectively the best keycaps available now, and are frequently seen on enthusiast-grade keyboards.
If you’re interested in diving deeper into an in-depth explanation, then don’t miss our detailed guide to What are Double Shot keycaps?.
Let’s dive into the pros and cons of double-shot keycaps to recap why they’re commendable.
Just like with the double shots, customization has never been easier with dye-sub keycaps. You can simply go for keycaps that have cool colors on the legends. Or, if you want to shake things up a little bit, just jump into the whole new world of art keycaps! We are talking about a full set of landscape, anime keycaps, or any themed keycaps you like. The possibilities are endless!
Double-Shot vs Dye-sub Keycap
|Dye Sub Keycaps||Double Shot Keycaps|
|Keycap Materials||PBT or high-quality ABS plastic||PBT or ABS plastic|
|Manufacturing||Legends printed using dye sublimation||Two-step molding process|
|Legend Quality||Legends won’t fade or wear off||Excellent durability and longevity|
|Texture||Smooth and matte||Textured and more solid feel|
|Backlighting||Limited backlighting capabilities||Translucent legends for backlighting|
|Sound||Softer and more muted typing sound||Slightly more pronounced sound|
|Color Options||Wide range available||Various color combinations|
|Aesthetics||Classic and understated||Vibrant and eye-catching|
|Durability||Good resistance to wear and tear||Excellent resistance to fading|
|Pricing||Varies depending on brand and quality||Varies depending on brand and quality|
|Availability||Widely available||Widely available|
Double-shot is a go-to method for backlit keyboards with RGB illumination while the dye-sublimation is only possible on non-backlit keycaps.
Double-shot keycaps feature a well-defined separation between the legend and the keycap body. This lets light flow between the legends with vibrant and uniform backlighting effects.
On the other hand, dye-sub keycaps have limited backlighting capabilities. The backlighting may not be as sharp or uniform. The light diffusion could occur around the darker-printed legend edges.
You see, while dye-sub keycaps can still enable dazzling illumination, the level of clarity and sharpness might not match the captivating allure of their double-shot counterparts.
Keycap material differences
Double-shot keycaps are available in PBT and ABS plastic material. Very early on, these keycaps were solely made from ABS plastic with a lower melting point and was thus easier to mold. However, as demand for durability grew, many manufacturers began using PBT plastic for double-shot keycaps, as it offers a higher level of resilience and longevity.
Whereas, dye-sub keycaps mostly use PBT which can endure high melting point during the printing process. Dye sub keycaps can also made of ABS (rarely), but with higher quality than standard one, of course.
Double-shot keycaps open the door to a greater range of color customization options with nearly any combination of colors. This way, you can buy keycap sets with great contrast and vibrant colors.
Whereas, dye-sub keycaps require the legend part to be a darker color than the keycap color. This cuts out the choice for a dark-colored keycap set.
But wait! There is a swap here!
Dye-sub keycaps can add full-fledged works of art to your keyboard, such as Marvel Avengers on your space bar or a cute Pikachu that double-shot keycaps cannot do. They may be limited to complex designs which demand a more labor-intensive molding process.
Double-Shot keycaps are known for their distinctiveness, thanks to a manufacturing process that involves molding two layers of plastic together. This results in sharp, well-defined legends that stand out prominently against the keycap’s background.
While Dye-Sub legends can be clear and legible, they may appear softer or less pronounced compared to their Double-Shot counterparts due to the lack of contrast.
However, although the legends of a double-shot keycap always look crisp, cheap flirmsy dye-sub keycaps may have fuzzy-looking legends due to the nature of how they are printed.
Even so, we would say that this category is more likely to draw than win for double-shot keycaps.
Texture and Feel
Dye sub keycaps typically have a smooth and matte texture, while double shot keycaps often have a textured surface and a more solid feel.
In fact, there is little to distinguish the feel of both keycap types since both printing techniques result in a smooth surface without any noticeable rough edges found in standard printing. Unlike pad-printed legends, which are obviously rough, you won’t feel the legend itself when using these two keycaps.
However, there could be a little variation in feel between dye-sub keycaps made of PBT plastic and double-shot keycaps made of ABS plastic owing to the restriction on utilizing only PBT plastic for dye-sub.
Double-shot keycaps strike a lively and bright tune, emitting a higher-pitched and crisper sound during typing. The sound is often described as more “clicky” and pronounced, often likened to a satisfying click, accompanies every keypress, adding to the typing experience.
Dye-sub keycaps tend to have a deeper and more muted sound compared to double-shot keycaps. This gentle harmony, known as “thockier,” produces a softer auditory sensation that offers a more relaxed and soothing typing experience.
Double-Shot keycaps are renowned for their durability. With legends molded into the keycap itself, they resist wear and fading, ensuring that the legends remain clear and intact even after extensive use. Their two-layer construction makes them a reliable choice for long-lasting keycaps.
In contrast, Dye-Sub keycaps are less durable. Legends are printed onto the keycap’s surface, making them susceptible to wear and fading, especially with heavy use. Exposure to UV light can further deteriorate the legends over time. While they can still offer reasonable longevity, Dye-Sub keycaps may require replacement or refurbishment as legends wear off.
Double-shot keycaps are often more expensive than dye-sub keycaps since the manufacturing process is more complex, laborious and costly. Depending on the brand, material quality, and design complexity, they can range from around $30 to $100 or more for a full keycap set.
Many sets of premium dye-sub keycaps continue to cost around the same as regular double-shot ones. Nevertheless, if you want to save a few bucks, dye-sub keycaps are the way to go.
Don’t panic; dye-sub keycaps that are priced in the range of $20 to $60 for a full set don’t always get worse. They frequently come in a variety of suitable options for non-backlit keyboards and come in more styles.
Alternatively, if you value everlasting durability or RGB backlit, it may be worth investing in a double-shot keycap set. But be aware of their constrained design options.
Both double shot and dye sub keycaps are widely available in various online stores or websites. Some popular brands that offer these keycaps are Tai-Hao, Ducky, Varmilo, Keychron, Drop, etc.
Along with mass-produced standard keycaps out there, there are a number of limited editions for both keycaps that are hard to find and you will need more efforts and dollars to hunt them.
No need to fret! We’ll provide you with a compilation of trustworthy online platforms offering a diverse selection of keycap designs, facilitating your purchase of the finest keycaps available.
Double-shot keycaps are the preferred choice for premium keyboards, such as GMK, and are also found on aftermarket keycap sets like Drop ALT and CTRL. This makes them highly sought-after by users who value both great quality and a premium appearance for their setups.
On the other hand, the dye-sublimation method is frequently employed on high-quality keycaps as well as more affordable options, serving as an alternative to the top-tier sets offered by the brands mentioned earlier.
Dye-sublimated keycaps are commonly used on Topre keyboards from brands like Realforce. Additionally, they also have a notable presence in vintage keyboards like the IBM Model M, best suits for those who appreciate a combination of quality and classic look without being overly expensive.
The battle between double-shot and dye-sub keycaps rages on as both methods offer enchanting features.
Dye-sub keycaps impress with their vivid full-color legends, great durability, and customization options, earning acclaim for custom sets and captivating designs.
But behold! Double-shot keycaps are not inferior either! They boast exceptional longevity, resistance to fading, and a wider range of color choices, making them a top choice for users seeking durability and vibrant backlighting capabilities.
Each type has its strengths, promising a perfect union of aesthetics and performance for every questing soul.
What are similarities between Dye-Sub & Double-Shot Keycaps?
The similarities between dye-sub and double-shot keycaps are that they both offer outstanding legend durability, guaranteeing that the legends won’t fade or wear off even with extended use.
What are the differences between Dye-Sub & Double-Shot Keycaps?
Dye-sub keycaps have legends printed directly onto the keycap surface through heat and dye. In contrast, Double-shot keycaps involve a two-step molding process, where legends are physically molded into the keycap through the injection of various colored plastics.
Dye sub keycaps vs Double shot keycaps: Which is cheaper?
Dye sub keycaps are cheaper than double-shot ones. Nevertheless, a few of high-end dye sub keycaps are still available for the same cost as regular double-shot keycaps.
Are Double-Shot or Dye-Sub keycaps more durable?
Yes. Double-shot keycaps provide maximum durability over time. The legends of double-shot keycaps never fade away while dye-sub keycaps can still have a chance to wear out after long rigorous use.
Where can I buy Double-Shot and Dye-Sub keycaps?
You can buy double-shot and dye-sub keycaps from various online retailers and specialty mechanical keyboard stores such as Amazon, MechanicalKeyboards.com, KBDfans, Drop, Etsy, and more.
Which keycap type is more popular: Double-Shot or Dye-Sub?
Both keycap printing methods are widely available on the market. They produce higher-quality prints compared to other techniques such as pad printing or laser etching, making them a favorite among enthusiasts.
What should I consider when choosing between Double-Shot and Dye-Sub keycaps?
Before deciding which keycaps to go for, you should first consider the following factors: Durability, material, feel and look, price, and your intended use.