Sometimes we want to make our keyboard really feel like OUR keyboard.
Fun little modifications to make it feel more comfortable, make it perform better, or simply make it look more aesthetically pleasing to us can make our whole typing experience far more enjoyable.
One such modification that many people enjoy making is changing the keycaps. There are countless keycap options available to you.
Some are designed to be more comfortable, some are designed to be more simplistic, and some are designed to be potentially over the top expression of our own personal taste and style. Artisan keycaps are perhaps the best example of the latter.
But, what are artisan keycaps? What are they for? Where can I get them from? Should I even get them or are they a waste of time and money?
Artisan keycaps are specially designed caps usually created with silicone and resin. Other artisan caps are made from wood and metal. They are significantly different from standard keycaps and allows the user to add a personal touch to their keyboard.
This article answers all of your questions about artisan keycaps and more!
What are Artisan Keycaps?
Artisan keycaps are very special keycaps that are particularly detailed in style, color, texture, and even depth. They are simultaneously very popular and also often unheard of.
Those in the know have the ability to make some pretty wild customizations to their keyboard. Those who aren’t, well, their keyboards are potentially rather bland by comparison.
When we talk about artisan products we are usually talking about things like artisan bread, or artisan pottery, which simply means it has been made by hand with great care. It doesn’t necessarily mean it was made with old and traditional methods but that is often the implication.
Artisan keycaps are usually handmade as they are far too intricate to be made by a machine.
You can find artisan keycaps online if you look hard enough but you aren’t likely to find them sold in bulk at your local computer repair store. Why? Because by definition there aren’t going to be very many of each keycap type.
Unless the person responsible for making them is feeling especially motivated to create thousands of the same specific design. Which can happen, but not often.
Artisan keycaps are almost exclusively used on mechanical keyboards though they are, of course, compatible with any keyboard that is capable of attaching your standard keycap size.
Artisan Keycaps vs Regular Keycaps
Regular keycaps are designed to be smooth, comfortable, and by default, in most cases, plain.
They will be some sort of shade of grey on the color gradient scale between black and white with very simple markings.
Whatever function the button does is most likely the only “decoration” you’ll find on the keycap.
Artisan keycaps on the other hand are often incredibly detailed both in color and in texture.
Your keycap might be carved into the shape of a bear or a cartoon character. It could be a complex shape or pattern. In truth, it could be anything.
Artisan keycaps don’t always feature an indicator for the key that they represent. In most cases, they don’t feature any sort of key descriptor at all.
The reason being, when you buy the keycap you will want the ability to use it as a replacement for any key. Especially given how much you can end up spending on them.
Artisan keycaps are often slightly larger than regular keycaps because they need a bit more room for more detail. This is both in height and width, it differs from keycap to keycap so always try to find the dimensions before you purchase.
What are the Benefits of Using Artisan Keycaps?
The only real benefit to using artisan keycaps is they look amazing.
They aren’t better for typing by any means. Though, you could perhaps argue that since they make whatever keys you have replaced with artisan keycaps stand out from the rest it could potentially improve your typing speed if you are someone who looks at the keyboard as they type.
Most of us touch-type so that it isn’t overly beneficial.
However, many artisan keycaps are very textured meaning you will clearly feel when your finger is resting on or pressing a key with an artisan keycap.
This could arguably help you keep track of where your hands are on the keyboard; but, most people who feel the need to buy artisan keycaps are often very good typists anyway so this was never a problem for them in the first place.
The real benefits are from aesthetics. They look awesome, they are a great way of showing your personal style as well as highlighting your interests.
In truth, very few people will see your keyboard except yourself or perhaps your family so it’s a nice way of freely expressing yourself without fear of judgment from your peers.
Do you want some sweet Pokemon keycaps? Well, go for it! Why not?
What are the Drawbacks of Using Artisan Keycaps?
As with anything in life, there are always going to be some lows to balance out the highs. So, what are the drawbacks of artisan keycaps?
First of all, the keycaps can be a little gaudy. This is going to be your fault somewhat as you chose the keycap. However, we can’t always tell how bulky and chunky they will look until they are actually installed on our keyboard.
Beware that having an oversized artisan keycap can look a little peculiar as well as even make typing difficult if it’s too wide to fit comfortably in your layout.
If you have a very tight set of key clusters you might not be able to fit an overly detailed artisan keycap.
The other drawback is that these keycaps can be so, SO, expensive. They are handmade, often to order, with very few units available. You get what you pay for, of course, but it doesn’t make it any easier to stomach the bill.
An artisan keycap can cost anywhere from $20 on the low end, to $100-$200 on the high end. Some are worth even more than that depending on the quality and rarity.
That’s most likely more than the rest of your keyboard put together.
Are Artisan Keycaps Worth the Cost?
So, we have established that artisan keycaps have the potential to cost an arm and a leg; but are they worth it? The thing is, you could very easily argue for or against.
On the one hand, a very nice artisan keycap or set of keycaps could cost you anywhere from a hundred to a thousand dollars. But, you only need to buy it once and it should last you forever.
They look awesome and if you enjoy them and can afford their cost then why shouldn’t you go ahead and purchase some?
On the other hand, can you really justify spending the same value of your keyboard again on perhaps just one singular measly keycap?
We don’t spend a thousand bucks on our phone case, do we? Have you ever seen a pushbike that has a bell that costs more than the bike? I’d be willing to bet the answer is no.
However, when you consider the rarity of the keycaps it’s important to note that unless you badly damage the keycap in some way it probably won’t lose all that much value. It’s still a secondhand keycap, not brand new, but that more often than not doesn’t mean very much.
There are still only a few available, if you have one and someone else wants it you can probably get your money back for it if needs be. Maybe even more.
At a stretch, you could even argue that a keycap might make a good investment. With a little bit of luck on your side, of course.
What are Some of the Best Artisan Keycaps?
Some of the best artisan keycaps are the ones that you least expected to find. They are designed to be cool and interesting, they don’t necessarily need to fit any kind of style. They can just be whacky.
If you want to find something really good you might need to do a little digging. For example, searching for something like “Pokemon + artisan keycap” is bound to net you a whole heap of keycap designs you had never even considered.
The best keycaps though are often the ones you make yourself. You can make artisan keycaps in a few ways but the easiest is perhaps to 3D print in resin and then simply paint your finished print.
This can give you a whole lot of flexibility as you are designing it yourself. If you already have the 3D printer this also makes acquiring some far more affordable.
A good example of the kind of incredible detail you can expect is from the team at S-craft studio. They make amazing Pokémon keycaps that fit comfortably on your keyboard and look spectacular.
They are currently out of stock so their website is a little bland, but this in-person review of their products gives you a taste of what they have to offer. You can find the review here.
Where is the Best Place to Find Artisan Keycaps?
The best place to find artisan keycaps is probably a mixture of doing your research on google and scrolling through small websites to find whatever niche subject you are interested in and what keycaps are on offer. Or, using message boards.
Reddit is a good example of a place to find artisan keycaps for sale both directly from the artists or from resellers. Be wary of scammers, of course, but you should be generally pretty safe.
Another good source is Etsy. Again, you will find sellers on Etsy can be a little bit hit or miss. Etsy is a generally safe marketplace but there is always potential to be scammed.
Use your best judgment to decide whether a keycap seems worth the cost before you purchase. Check past reviews or perhaps even message the seller.
The issue with artisan keycaps is you aren’t going to find much of a selection on popular stores like Amazon. There are a few to choose from but not many.
2 Tips for Getting Your Money’s Worth
I have two tips for getting your money’s worth when purchasing artisan keycaps.
Tip 1: Less is More
The first is a logistics tip. Having artisan keycaps looks awesome and I can fully appreciate why people like to do it. However, I should tell you now that the more artisan keycaps you have on your keyboard at once the worse it will look.
Artisan keycaps work because they stand out, they highlight certain keys, they are a nice, sometimes subtle, addition to your keyboard. However, if you replace 1/3 of your keycaps with artisan ones then you dilute the style you are going for and it can look a little tacky.
Try to just use artisan keycaps for important keys. Like the escape key for example. This looks better and can save you a heck of a lot of money in the long run as you only need to buy a few new keys each time you want to swap your current set out.
Tip 2: Be a Trader
My next tip is to trade your artisan keycaps. Unless you have a sentimental attachment to your keycaps you can probably find a willing trade partner.
Once you get bored of your keycaps instead of simply purchasing a replacement, trade the old one for a new one both saving you and the other person money.
Trading artisan keycaps is easier than you might think as countless other like-minded people are wanting to avoid breaking the bank, too.
Hopefully, this article has not only clarified to you what an artisan keycap is but how it’s made, what it does, why you might want one, and why you might not.
They are cool, they look rad, they are fun to use. Do you need them? No. Should you buy one? That’s up to you!
Good luck with whatever you decide. And remember, be careful when using online message boards or market places to buy or trade keycaps. Not everyone is as genuine as you are. Be cautious with your purchases. Good luck!