Installing custom keycaps is one of the best ways to customize your mechanical keyboard. But the sheer number of options on the market makes dipping your toes into the wacky world of replacement keycaps quite intimidating. That’s where our list of the best keycaps aims to help you.
We’ve gone through most of the ready-to-ship keycaps from online retailers and selected a handful of keycaps that cover as many bases as possible. Due to the group-buy-centric nature of most keycap drops and the subjectivity of aesthetic preferences, we won’t claim that this is a definitive list. But we think there’ll be something for everyone here, so let’s get going.
- Best ABS Keycaps: Drop + GMK Keycaps are ultra-high-quality, thick ABS with great legends and a handful of pleasing colorways.
- Best ABS Keycaps Alternative: Domikey ABS Keycaps are almost as good as GMK, but offer better value, with around 200 keycaps in every set.
- Best Double-Shot PBT Keycaps: Ducky Double-Shot PBT Keycaps come in a variety of colors, from vibrant to muted, all with crisp double-shot lettering.
- Best Dye-Sublimated PBT Keycaps: HK Gaming Dye-Sub PBT Keycaps offer good quality for the price and come in various colors, from traditional to modern.
- Best High-Profile Keycaps: DROP MT3 Keycaps mimic 70s and early 80s IBM keycaps for a deliciously old-school flavor in various tasteful colorways.
- Best Uniform-Profile Keycaps: Signature Plastics DSA Keycaps are good-quality uniform keys that come in several attractive colorways.
Our Favorite Keycap Sets
Before we start, we’d like to point out that we’ve tried to avoid recommending specific keycap sets wherever possible. Aesthetics are incredibly subjective, so telling you that so-and-so colorway is the best keycap feels more disingenuous than anything else. Instead, we’ve limited ourselves to recommending keycap “families” and tried to link a few different colorways of each for you to choose from.
|Number of Keys||129 - 163|
GMK used to be the undisputed king of high-quality aftermarket Cherry MX keysets. And while it’s now facing stiff competition from the likes of JTK and Domikey, it’s hard to deny that GMK keycap sets are still some of the best Cherry profile keycaps money can buy.
Most GMK sets sell via limited-time group buys, making them harder to get than sets from other manufacturers. Thankfully, Drop has used its financial muscle to provide enthusiasts with a range of ready-to-ship GMK keycaps in several aesthetically pleasing colorways.
They’re generally not quite as adventurous as some community-designed group-buy GMK keycaps, but that’s to be expected for ready-to-ship sets. Either way, they’re a great option if you want some GMK action in your life without the long wait times of GMK group buys.
The Redsuns set linked above is likely our favorite, with its tasteful gold, blue, and black color combo. Those who want something even more minimalist will likely appreciate the White-On-Black (WoB) set, which is as old-school as they come. In contrast, users who want something more eye-catching should start with the Drop + MiTo Laser set’s cyberpunk-approved neon purple, cyan, and pink tones
One thing to watch out for when buying a Drop + GMK set is the varying number of keys in the base kits on Amazon. Some kits, like the Drop + MiTo Laser come with “only” 129 keys that cover mainstream layouts. On the other hand, kits like the Drop + MiTo Pulse have 163 keys, with provisions for quirkier bottom rows and modifier key arrangements.
No matter which colorway you go for, you’ll get the signature GMK quality with these sets. These keycaps feature crisp and clear double-shot legends, made with thick ABS that feels and sounds great to type on. They’re at the top of the price range as far as keycaps go, but they feel every bit as good as the price suggests they should be.
|Number of Keys||210|
If you’re looking for high-end Cherry profile keycaps but aren’t quite willing to pony up the cash for GMK sets, then you may want to check out Domikey’s offerings. They’re still on the pricey side, but you get many more keycaps for your money with little to no drop in quality.
Domikey makes keycaps in many different profiles, but our favorites are the GMK-style Cherry profile ABS keycaps. These come in various colorways and often feature two sets of alphanumeric keys: double-shots with English QWERTY legends and triple-shots with English and Hiragana legends. The latter aren’t practical, but they add some visual flair if you like that sort of thing.
Beyond the two sets of alphas, you get all the extra keycaps you need for any semi-mainstream keyboard layout. We particularly appreciate the inclusion of multiple Spacebar lengths that cover Corsair- and Razer-style bottom rows and split Spacebar layouts.
We’re big fans of the traditional White-on-Black set linked above, but that’s not the only colorway you can choose from. The warm and restrained Astronaut set is a highlight, while the company’s take on the immortal Miami colorway ramps up the neon and looks great with the triple-shot legends.
However, the standout colorway has to be the Obsidian set. It looks like a typical WoB set at first glance, but look closer, and you’ll notice a subtle transparency to the keycaps that shows the internal bracing and lets some light through. The Obsidian set is a perfect subtle twist on an otherwise conservative color, and we dig it.
Domikey’s ABS sets feel as good as you would want from a premium keycap set. The ABS is nice and thick, and the double- and triple-shot legends are as crisp as they come. You even get similar (if not identical) fonts to GMK sets, too.
All in all, there’s little that differentiates the two companies’ products in terms of visuals and overall quality. Domikey’s ABS keycaps are great caps well worth the price of admission.
|Number of Keys||108 - 119 keys|
|Profile||OEM or Cherry|
For some, double-shot PBT is the holy grail of keycaps, as it combines the hard-wearing and durable nature of PBT with the crisp legends and colorway variety of double-shot ABS. Quite a few manufacturers have jumped on the double-shot PBT train, but our favorite of the bunch has to be Ducky.
Ducky’s double-shot PBT keycaps come in both OEM and Cherry profile and cover a lot of aesthetic ground. If you want attention-grabbing keycaps, you may want to consider options like Frozen Llama’s teal, blue, and purple combo (linked above) or the equally vivid blue, purple, and pink Joker set. Ultra Violet is another excellent option, with teal legends on purple, violet, and pink keys.
Want something a bit more subdued? Ducky’s got you covered there, too. There’s the GMK MoDo-style Dolch colorway, which adds a splash of teal to the classic grey-and-black Dolch scheme. Similarly, Midnight is an inversion of the classic Miami colorway, with teal and pink legends on a black base. If you want something brighter but just as laid-back, Ducky’s Cheese Peach combines soft green and pink modifiers with white alphanumerics.
Ducky’s really covered almost all bases with its double-shot PBT caps. If you’re more of an RGB person, then the shine-through backlit black or white should hit the spot. If you’re a fan of pudding keycaps, Ducky also sells double-shot PBT pudding keycaps that are worth checking out.
While the colors are great, there’s one particular downside of Ducky’s double-shot PBT sets that may not make them suitable for all boards. Ducky only ships 108 keys in its keycap sets, which only cover basic full-size, TKL, and 60% layouts. So these won’t work if you’re rocking a 65% or 75% keyboard.
The only exceptions are the MechanicalKeyboards.com collaborations, namely the Frozen Llama and Good in Blue. These come with a few extra keys, usually a second set of (alternately colored) arrow keys and novelty 1u keys. They’re nice to have and add a splash of color, but the lack of a short Right Shift means that they’re not all that helpful for 65% and 75% owners.
Layout limitations aside, however, Ducky’s double-shot PBT keycaps are high-quality sets that we believe many of you will enjoy. They’re far from the only company manufacturing double-shot PBT, but we feel that Ducky’s legends and overall material quality set these keycaps apart from the rest.
|Number of Keys||139 keys|
Affordable dye-sub PBT plastic keycaps are a dime a dozen these days, but many suffer from ugly legends and fonts that, in our opinion, ruin the whole experience. That’s where HK Gaming’s dye-sub PBT keycaps come in, offering well-made caps with decent-looking legends at only a slight premium above other bargain-basement PBT Cherry profile keycaps.
Most of HK Gaming’s colorways have a decidedly old-school flavor, with its dark-on-light color schemes (a limitation of dye-sub) and focus on white and cream alphanumeric keys. But they’ve cleverly elected to add some modern twists to the formula by adding lovely splashes of color for some options.
A few great examples are the blue and yellow modifier keys of the Bee colorway or Chalk’s five-color modifiers. Some totally break out from the mold and opt for vivid colors all around, such as Mamba’s purple-and-yellow scheme or Marlin’s two-tone blue with red accents. These show that you can still do a lot with traditional dye-sub, even with its dark-on-light limitation.
Of course, HK Gaming has you covered if you like your colorways more conservative. Fans of two-tone keysets will enjoy the 9009 and Stealth Dolch sets. Anyone after a minimalist look will undoubtedly enjoy the Bow keyset with its all-white color scheme, interrupted only by a tasteful blue Enter key.
Unlike older budget keycaps, HK Gaming hasn’t skimped on the materials here. You get 1.4-mm PBT on all keycaps, giving these sets a solid feel that belies the relatively wallet-friendly pricing. The thick PBT also helps give your keyboard a slightly deeper typing sound that many associate with a more “premium” experience.
Overall, HK Gaming’s dye-sub PBT keycaps are an excellent buy if you want affordable Cherry profile custom keycaps without the usual compromises of some other, cheaper, sets. But even if you don’t, these caps are still great as a low-cost, high-quality PBT option in a variety of fetching colorways.
|Number of Keys||161|
Drop’s MT3 keycaps have been around for a couple of years and, for our money, they’re still the best high-profile keycaps on the market. Sure, the drama between Drop and MT3 creator Matt3o is unfortunate, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the MT3 keycaps are perfect for those seeking an old-school, terminal-style flavor for their keyboard.
MT3 profile is patterned after the keycaps on IBM’s Beam Spring keyboards of the 1970s and early 1980s. These keyboards had high-profile keycaps to house the large beam spring switches, plus a noticeably slanted profile owing to the angled switch plate. MT3 retains the essence of these keycaps, albeit with modifications to suit the flat switch plates of Cherry MX-style keyboards.
Drop currently has a few different colorways available in the MT3 profile. They’re all relatively restrained, befitting the profile’s old-school inspiration. Our favorite is likely the MT3 Susuwatari set, the only one designed expressly in collaboration with Matt3o. It’s a two-tone grey set with tasteful colored modifier key text alongside optional red Enter and Escape keys.
If you want something brighter, the MT3 Camillo set’s cool white, grey, and blue tones might be more up your alley. On the other hand, old-school purists will get a kick out of the White-on-black set that oozes 70s IBM goodness.
Beyond the great looks and profile, we also appreciate Drop’s MT3 keycaps for including a lot of keys in their base kits. You get 161 keycaps with all MT3 base kits that cover all the mainstream keyboard sizes, including the odd-sized keys needed for 75% boards and ISO layouts. The thorough keycap selection definitely helps justify the roughly $100 price for most of these sets.
The only potential downside is the use of ABS instead of PBT, which some of you may not appreciate. While shine will be an issue, we feel the material choice works perfectly for the light-on-dark look that most MT3 keysets go for. Besides, ABS shine adds a suitable patina to vintage-minded keysets like these.
Overall, Drop’s MT3 keysets are a brilliant choice if you like the high-profile look. The extra height alters typing feel, which not everyone will enjoy, but we urge you to check them out if you’re after something a bit different.
|Number of Keys||Varies|
|Material||Dye-sublimated PBT or Double-shot ABS|
If you’re after the unique look and feel of uniform-profile keycaps, then there’s really no other option except Signature Plastics’ classic DSA profile. It’s the company’s signature keycap profile, boasting an impressive range of color options that’s sure to satisfy even the most exacting of customers.
Signature Plastics uses both dye-sub PBT and double-shot ABS for its DSA keycaps, going with whichever method best suits the desired color scheme. That said, dye-sub PBT sets like the classic Granite (linked above) and Quartz sets definitely dominate the Signature Plastics range. Other great-looking PBT sets include the subtle military theme of Combat and muted gold tones of Alchemy.
Barring a few sets, most of Signature Plastics’ DSA sets opt for more restrained colorways. Even the double-shot ABS sets don’t go too crazy with the colors, opting to use double-shot technology to enable light-on-dark schemes like Dolch and Eve’s blue-on-black modifier keys. This may be disappointing for those looking for statement keycaps, but we appreciate the tasteful colors on display here.
Unlike many ready-to-ship keysets that come with a fixed number of keys, Signature Plastics sells its keycaps in a “modular” fashion, so to say. The options differ between keysets, but there’s always a base or alpha pack, and then smaller sets that cover modifiers, Numpad keys, ortholinear keys, and ISO keys, to name a few.
Essentially, this lets you mix and match different keysets to create a unique set that fits your exact aesthetic needs. But it also means that you’re only paying for the keycaps you need, with no “waste” in the form of unneeded keycaps. If you don’t plan on using your caps with different keyboard layouts, this is a great way to get a perfectly-fitting set.
Signature Plastics’ DSA profile may no longer be the only uniform profile in town, but we think it’s still the best of the bunch. Those more experienced with uniform profiles may choose to look elsewhere, but anyone looking to dip their toes really should start here first.
Before You Buy
If you’re new to the world of mechanical keyboard keycaps, you may be confused by some of the terminologies we’ve used here. For a thorough overview, you can head over to our guide to keycap types. However, let’s go through a couple of relevant topics here to save you from clicking away.
Keycap profile refers to the keycaps’ shape, height, and angle. Out of all the specs to worry about when buying a custom keycap set, the profile is the one that’ll affect your typing experience the most.
All profiles feel different to type on, with high-profile and uniform profiles (such as SA, MT3, or DSA) standing out the most from “normal” keycap sets. These can take some time to get used to and may even require slightly different typing styles than Cherry- or OEM-profile custom keycaps.
For example, the increased key height of MT3 keycaps such as the MT3 Camillo may change your hands’ typing angle. Thus, you may need a keyboard wrist rest or a floating wrist typing method for maximum comfort. Conversely, uniform profiles eliminate some of the usual touch typing landmarks you may rely on, and require practice to regain any lost typing accuracy or speed.
There’s no “best” profile; the right profile for you will depend on what you’re most comfortable with. I like Cherry profile the best, but you may prefer OEM profile or one of the more exotic ones out there. The only way to tell is to try as many different profiles as possible and see which one you enjoy the most.
Keycap Materials and Printing
Most keycaps on Amazon will use either acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) or polybutylene terephthalate (PBT). These are the two most popular keycap materials, with main difference between them being durability and “feel.”
PBT is more durable than ABS, which is why many enthusiasts consider it the better keycap material. ABS develops “shine” over time, and can also go yellow due to UV exposure. PBT keycaps face no such issues and will maintain their original finish and color for much longer (if treated well) than ABS keycaps.
ABS’ main advantage used to be that it was the only material capable of double-shot construction, which uses two molds to construct keycaps. Instead of printing the legends, double- or triple-shot keycaps use multiple layers of differently-colored plastic. This allows for light-on-dark colorways and ensures ultra-sharp and hard-wearing legends.
However, recent advancements in keycap tech mean you can now get double-shot PBT keycaps, such as Ducky’s Joker set. These combine the durability benefits of PBT with the crisp legends and colorway flexibility formerly reserved for ABS keycaps.
For some, this makes double-shot PBT the best printing and material combo out there, although, again, we’d like to stress that there’s no objective “best” when it comes to keycaps. Double-shot PBT isn’t quite as mature as double-shot ABS yet, and colorway variety isn’t quite where we’d like yet.
In addition, many of the most exciting group buys (on forums like Geekhack) still use high-quality ABS manufacturers like GMK for the premium feel (and prestige). So ABS still has a place, even if it no longer has an exclusive hold on double-shot manufacturing.
If you’re really after the best keycaps, you should keep tabs on all the group buys on various forums and dedicated keyboard retailers. But not everyone wants to play the waiting game, and that’s where ready-to-ship caps like the ones we’ve listed here come into the picture. You may not get the most exciting color schemes ever made, but you can still find some great caps if you spend some time looking.
Those after a full-on premium keycap experience should start with any of the Drop + GMK keysets, such as the Redsuns or Drop + MiTo Laser. They’re pricey, but nothing feels quite as good as GMK. If you’re more of a PBT person, Ducky’s double-shot PBT keycaps are a strong choice. From eye-popping schemes like Frozen Llama to more conservative options like their Dolch, there’s probably something there for you.
All the best!