When it comes to building or customizing keyboards, choosing the right keycaps is one of the most important steps. Between tons of different keycaps on the market, you will most likely encounter double-shot and dye-sub keycaps. However, what are double-shot and dye-sub keycaps and how do they compare? Read on to know the key differences between double-shot vs dye-sub keycaps and what makes each keycap special to figure out which one is perfect for you.
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 Do Double Shot Keycaps Mean?
Basically, the doubleshot keycaps are two molded pieces of plastic that fit perfectly together to form a fully functional keycap. On the outer side, the first layer is designed with a hollow legend (letter, sign, symbol). Then, the second layer is attached to the empty space. The two pieces fit perfectly and create a vivid legend on the keycap. Moreover, despite being made from two pieces of plastic instead of one, you will not feel the legend because the keycap surface remains uniformly smooth.
This process not only requires no external printing but also eliminates all typical issues like fading or limited color palette options. Besides that, you can easily find a set of double-shot keycaps fully made of PBT plastic, which is one of the best keycap materials in the mechanical keyboard world.
Meanwhile, ABS plastic is also one of the most commonly used materials for double-shot keycaps. But, it is cheaper and has a lower quality when compared to PBT. Therefore, the plastic will eventually wear out over time giving that shiny greasy look.
Additionally, the double shot keycaps are just perfect for bi-color keyboards. Your color options are unlimited for the outer and inner layers. So, feel free to customize your own unique keycaps!
What do Dye-Sublimated Keycaps Mean?
In a nutshell, the dye-sub or dye-sublimation method is the process of printing legends on special paper and then merging them onto keycaps using high heat. This technique improves dye-sub keycaps’ resistance to wear and tear and makes it nearly impossible to fade out over time.
On top of that, dye sublimation keycaps are also made of PBT plastic thanks to their durability and high melting point. However, we cannot promise that the legend will not fade or wear out over time. The ink quality of the keycaps will define how long it is going to last. Also, it is worth mentioning that the color of the legend needs to be darker when compared to the keycap for this method.
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!
Differences Between Dye-Sub & Double-Shot Keycaps
Despite being the most preferred keycaps on the market, dye-sub and double-shot keycaps behave differently from one another due to their unique manufacturing techniques. Below are some key differences between dye-sub and double-shot keycaps.
- Even though both keycaps are highly resistant to fading, dye-sub keycaps can eventually show some signs of wear. On the other hand, double-shot keycaps are technically impervious to it.
- Double-shot keycaps may look sharper than the legend of dye-sub keycaps because of their plastic design.
- You may see fuzzy-looking letters on low-quality dye-sub keycaps. Meanwhile, this is not an issue for double-shot keycaps.
- The color options are restricted for the dye-sub keycaps because of their printing limitations. On the contrary, there is no color limitation for double-shot keycaps.
- While Double-shot keycaps can be made out of different types of plastic like ABS and POM, PBT plastic is the only option for dye-sub keycaps.
Dye-Sub vs Double-Shot Keycaps
|Double-Shot Keycaps||Dye-Sub Keycaps|
|Double layered keycaps||Printed keycaps|
|Shaper legend||The legend quality depends on the material|
|Unlimited color options||Keycap color needs to be lighter than the legend color|
|Never wear out or chip||Very resilient but may wear a little after a long period of use|
|More material options (ABS, PBT, and POM)||Can only be made of PBT|
|Cannot feel while typing|
|Perfect for backlit||Only on non-backlit caps|
|Higher price||Reasonable price|
Look and Feel
As mentioned above, dye-sub keycaps can only be made of PBT plastic. So, there will be some small differences in feel compared to POM or ABS doubleshot keycaps. Not to mention that PBT has higher quality than ABS.
But, overall, there isn’t much of a difference between these keycaps in the feel department as both techniques offer a smooth-to-the-touch feel. In fact, you won’t feel the legend itself, unlike what you usually experience with the bumpy pad-printed keycaps.
While the legends on double-shot keycaps always look sharp thanks to the solid plastic, fuzzy-looking letters on low-quality dye-sub keycaps are quite common. However, if you decide to go for high-end or decent dye-sub keycaps, then there won’t be much of a difference when it comes to the look. So, we think that this category is a tie for the two keycaps.
Although the printing technique of dye-sub keycaps may make you think that its durability is not very good, it is still one of the most effective methods besides double-shot. In fact, the heat treatment process engraves the legend onto dye-sub keycaps permanently. Yes, dye-sub keycaps can still wear down. But, this only happens after a very long period of use.
In comparison, the double-shot’s plastic legend makes them impossible to wear out, fade, or chip. So, if you are looking for the most durable keycaps, then these double-shot keycaps are the way to go.
Overall, both dye-sublimated and double-shot keycaps offer great durability. So, for the most part, you won’t find any fading issues with these two. But, if you want the best durability, then double-shot keycaps are the way to go.
Due to the large number of resources and effort required to manufacture double-shot keycaps, their price tends to be higher than other keycaps on the market, including the dye-sub one. Even though you can find some high-end dye-sub keycaps with similar prices to some lower-end double-shot keycaps, the double-shot is usually more expensive.
All of these make the dye-sub keycaps the winner when it comes to price. And, that’s also why dye-sub keycaps are always on the list of best options for budget keycaps.
Thanks to better light transmission and excellent reliability, double shot keycaps are commonly used on RGB illuminated backlit keyboards. On top of that, they are also preferred for high-quality keyboards such as GMK.
Also, doubleshot keycaps can be found on aftermarket keycaps, high-end, or pre-made keyboards like Drop ALT and CTRL. And, thanks to its flexibility, this method is also used for some high-end ABS keycap sets.
On the other hand, dye sublimation keycaps are only good for non-backlit keyboards. Besides that, they are also common on Topre boards because of their great quality, looks, and very affordable price. Plus, vintage keyboards like the IBM Model M, also use dye-sub keycaps.
Dye-sub and Double-shot are both great quality and long-lasting keycaps. While double-shot keycaps are usually more expensive, they offer more color, and material options and never wear out. So, if you don’t mind spending a little bit extra for high-quality backlit keycaps, the double-shot keycaps are the best option here.
On the other hand, if you don’t need more color options or a backlight for your keyboards, it’s worth considering the dye-sub keycaps because of their great quality, feel, and reasonable price. Personally, we would recommend the dye-sub keycaps for any office environment or for those who prefer a more affordable option for keycaps.
Double-Shot vs Dye-Sub Keycaps – which one is your favorite? Let us know about it in the comments!