Would you like to give your mechanical keyboard a new look? Having some custom keycaps is really the way to go in such cases. 

There are many various types of keycaps available, but 3D print keycaps may make your keyboard more appealing. So, what exactly are they?

This blog post is just what you need. We will also tell you how to make your 3D print keycaps at home and help you to find out which is better between artisan custom keycaps or 3D printed custom keycaps.

3D printed keycaps overview

Mechanical keyboards are now ready for customization, and there are unlimited creations for all tastes to truly design your keyboard. 3D printed keycaps come in various styles to help you remember keyboard shortcuts and show off your personal hobbies. 

But first, let’s get going with what a 3D printed keycap is!

What is a 3D printed keycap?

3D printed keycaps have become a relatively new player in the custom keycap market recently. Their designs are mostly computer-generated by professional designers. Then such keycaps will be printed without touching any real materials thanks to 3D printer technology.

The end product can be sophisticated and precise keycap patterns that may be hard to replicate with clay. However, regarding the smoothness, 3D printing technology is not really flawless.

3d printed keycaps
3d printed keycaps

Now that you’ve learned a bit more about 3D print keycaps, let’s look through their pros and cons.

Why should you use 3D printed keycaps?

Customized light show

When you spent big bucks on a gaming keyboard equipped with RGB lights, but only to discover that the caps weren’t translucent?

You can now create a keycap with lights in whatever shape you like using a 3D printer.

Unlimited shapes

It might be rather costly to get a set of caps in the desired shapes. However, printing your personalized caps will cost less than you think, and you can choose whatever shape you wish.

Colors

You can pick whatever colors you desire using 3D printing. This will come in handy whenever you need to replace a keycap on a Razer gaming keyboard that has a certain color.

A replacement keycap from Razer will set you back $30, but printing one will only set you back half that amount.

Unlimited materials

Do you get tired of typing on plastic keys that don’t make a pleasant clicking sound? This can solve by printing a keycap out of metal or ceramic.

When it comes to price, most metal caps on the market will set you back at approximately $50. However, if you print one, your printed caps will be not that expensive because you may have to pay for materials only. 

You won’t be spending more on taxes or marketing, and the total quality will still be an 8/10 overall.

The quality, however, will be limited to your printer, blueprint, and skills. This indicates you’ll need to practice more in order to get a better result.

Limitations of 3D printed keycaps

The majority of the downsides of 3D printed keycaps are simply a different way of looking at their benefits.

The quality

A printable keycap would not, in most cases, be of the same quality as a produced one.

Even if the printed version is excellent, it will fall short when compared to the handmade version. No matter which materials you choose, it will not be of an overall higher grade than one made by an artist.

Some keycap suppliers use proper techniques to forge the caps, whereas we just print and sand them. As a result, you basically know how the story ends.

Lower collectible value

As 3D printed artisan keycaps are no longer as rare as they once were, their value will fall.  As a result, there will be no “limited edition feeling”.

Unless you can find really rare materials and convert them into printable materials, the sensation will return.

Less artistic

If you get an artisan cap, it will be covered in artwork from top to bottom. You’ll see the exact pattern and color that the artist used, and it’s all done by hand.

Let’s look at a Pokemon artisan keycap from Hirosart to see how artistic it is!

Custom spacebar pokemon
Pokemon spacebar keycap

Check out more Hirosart artisan keycaps here!

Furthermore, they can print several colors on a single surface, which is hard with 3D printers.

How to 3D Print your own keycaps at Home?

How does 3D printing work?

The 3D printing technique divides an item into thousands of tiny pieces, which are then assembled slice by slice from the bottom up. Those little layers adhere to one another to form a solid structure.

3D printers can create moving pieces like wheels and hinges as part of the same product since each layer can be very intricate.

Step-by-step guide

Everything is grabbed in this video. See how to make your own 3D keycaps at home.

YouTube video

And here is a step-by-step guide for you!
Step 1: Measurement

As previously said, every keyboard has its own set of caps, thus you’ll need to accurately measure the caps. 

Measure the caps before printing
Measure the caps with an electronic caliper

If you don’t want to end the printing process just to discover the fit is inaccurate, be sure the measurement is exact by millimeters.

Step 2: Create a design

People on the “3D printed keycaps download” subreddit suggested that you adjust the blueprints you got online.

Of course, you can create one for your unique keys if you want to make things easier.

Create a design for your keycap | Source: Geekhack
Create a design for your keycap | Source: Geekhack

Step 3: Choosing materials

This seems to be one of the most exciting parts. Your final results whether success or failure will most likely depend on which material you pick.

Therefore, when choosing materials, remember to ensure that the material does not conduct electricity and will not cause you to get shocked while in use. Materials like iron and copper are not good ideas and should be an absolute no-use.

Step 4: The printing process

At this stage, you should make sure your printing bed remains clean. With that in mind, your caps will not come loose as well as the nozzle to begin splitting when printing.

Moreover, you need to prepare sufficient materials to avoid trouble with a sudden lack of materials throughout the printing process. If your printer features sensors that cease extruding once the materials run out, you can pass this stage.

Print your keycaps with a printer
Print your keycaps with a printer

Step 5: Completing

If you want your printed keycaps to be smooth, you can sand their surfaces for a comfortable feeling while in use. Or if not, just leave them rough, it’ll all be up to you.

One thing to note is that you need to dip your finished caps into alcoholic liquids such as acetones if your material is ABS or PLA. Acetones will make your caps smooth and bring you a comfortable touch.

A finished 3D printed keycap  | Source: Reddit
A finished 3D printed keycap  | Source: Reddit

That’s all; creating your own set of custom keycaps is that easy.

If you want to learn more sophisticated techniques, you need to conduct additional research and experiment depending on your passion for personalized keycaps, and as they say, the options are unlimited.

What is the best material for 3D printing keycaps?

FDA or Resin are often used to 3D print keycaps for mechanical keyboards. Because of the smooth surface and faster printing time, the resin is the preferable choice for making 3D keycaps. You will, however, require a resin printer for this.

Resin - a better material for printed 3d keycaps
Resin is a better material for printed 3D keycaps | Source: Library innovation lab

Where to find 3d print templates for keycaps?

There are several websites where you can get free 3D print templates.

Going through the 3D printing community, many folks use the sites such as yeggi.com and thingiverse.com

You may also search it up on Reddit.com, which has a large community and very kind folks. Everything you have to do is ask, and those friendly folks will respond whether or not they know the answers!

3d print templates for keycaps
3D print templates for keycaps | Source: Myminifactory

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

Since keycaps are not too big, you can make them with any 3D printer. When comparing an FDA printer to a resin printer, the resin printer performs better and produces higher-quality keycaps.

Resin printers, on the other hand, are typically far more pricey than FDA printers, which you must create yourself.

Recommended 3D printed keycaps models

If you are not sure where to start, here are the two most common keycap models that will be a good warm-up. Let’s have a look at them one by one.

#1 Keycaps for video games

You may utilize these keys to make your game easier if you are a gamer who plays a variety of video games. The key designs, as well as all the needed files for printing, can be found on Thingiverse.

These can be used as hotkeys or shortcut keys for certain games you play. These keycaps have 11 popular game logos printed on them. You may also acquire various designs, so you won’t be missing out on anything.

Moreover, you can also choose themes based on well-known games such as Minecraft, PUBG, Pokemon, and so on. They’re also available on Thingiverse and other 3D printable download sites.

#2 Keycaps for classic movie and television show

The term “classic movie” or “classic television show” refers to films that have a subject and are deemed classic. For example, If you’re a big fan of Star Wars, a Baby Yoda keycap for your ESC is a great way to show it.

Aside from that, you may choose from a variety of designs inspired by other shows or movies. Many folks like anime logos or themes, and others even enjoy anime television episodes. It’s all a matter of personal preference and taste.

3D Printed Custom Keycaps vs Artisan Custom Keycaps

Artistic Feel

Artistic feel: 3d printed vs artisan keycaps
Artistic feel: 3d printed vs artisan keycaps

Regarding artistic touch, you may truly appreciate an artisan keycap as a work of art from top to bottom when you get one.

You know the materials and colors were carefully chosen and that the art was hand-crafted by the artist.  As a result, the artisan keycaps may have more alive feelings which mass-production 3D printers have yet to do.

That’s why many people having a sense of art usually prefer premium artisan keycaps. You can also read: Why Artisan Keycaps are so popular now? to learn more about its popularity.

Affordability

In terms of cost, the winner will be surely 3D printed keycaps. Due to the lower material costs and no manual work involved, a 3D printed keycap may have 20-50% of the price of a new artisan keycap.

If you can acquire artisan keycaps brand-new from the artist, they will set you back $20-40. Moreover, If you miss the first sale, you will even end yourself spending twice as much or more in the aftermarket.

Expensive Artisan keycaps
Artisan keycaps are reasonably expensive

Collectibility

Collecting artisan keycaps is a cool hobby for many folks. Almost all of the fun for them is hunting down the unique keycap they desire and trying to get a good bargain on it. Many folks in some forums also trade their artisan keycaps.

As you can buy 3D printed keycaps for a low price anywhere, you may not gain the collectible value as the moment of getting an artisan keycap. It also doesn’t feel like what you’d struggle to acquire because they can always produce more.

Design options

3D printed keycaps are designed through software that uses accurate, calculated measurement systems. Therefore, they can perform some very interesting multi-piece tricks that may be much more difficult than making an artisan keycap.

There are also some extremely tiny pieces, which would be difficult to shape and cast; however, everything is getting easier with 3D printed technology.

3d print technology
3D print technology is more accurate | Source: Artstation

Material choices

The artist has ultimate control over the end result for artisan keycaps. Any keycap will appear precisely as the creator intended unless you’re insane enough to try changing materials or coloring it (and damaging its value).

For 3D print keycaps, there are at least different colors of plastic with a variety of materials to choose from, including metals like silver and gold. Even several weird things like sandstone, porcelain, and wax that you wouldn’t believe could be 3D printed.

Captain America keycap
Captain America Shield artisan keycap by Hirosart

So, that’s all about 3D printed keycaps vs artisan keycaps. If you want to know more about other keycaps, check out this article: The Complete Guide to different types of keycap: Materials, Profiles, Printing methods, and more

Final Thought on 3d print keycaps

In conclusion, 3D print keycaps still have certain places in the market.

If you are on a budget, 3D printed keycaps will be a good choice. However, they will not give you artistic value as artisan keycaps can do.

So, if you want to get a sense of a collectible work of art, visit Hirosart and explore the world of artisan keycaps.

FAQs

Can you 3D print your own keycaps at home?

Yes, absolutely. With material, a print template, and a printer, you can make any 3D print artisan keycaps you want.

How long does it take to 3D print a keycap?

The 3D pieces were created with a tiny build platform. These pieces can take up to an hour to print and use roughly 2 grams of material.

What is the best printer to print 3D keycaps?

The resin printer can be a good choice for printing 3D keycaps due to its good performance and higher-quality outcomes.