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Why are Keycaps so Expensive? Truth is Revealed

As I planned to upgrade my keyboard with new keycaps, I was a bit surprised by their hefty price tags. Curiosity led me to find out the reasons behind this surprising cost. Through thorough research, I discovered several factors contributing to the high price of keycaps.

Regarding keyboard keycaps, their prices can soar due to exceptional manufacturing quality, exclusive color choices, and limited availability.

In this article, I shared the truth of keycap pricing. Continue reading.

Keycaps

Why are Keycaps so Expensive?

Keycaps may not be crafted from expensive or rare materials that would warrant a high price. They are commonly made from affordable plastics. However, the cost of keycaps lies in the intricate manufacturing, molding, and coloring processes involved, which can be quite expensive.

The manufacturing method employed for keycaps can also impact the sound quality of your keyboard. High-quality keycaps contribute to a premium keyboard experience with superior construction, resulting in a satisfying sound profile.

Renowned manufacturers like Ducky, GMK, Matrix, EPBT, and JTK specialize in producing top-notch keycaps. These brands prioritize aesthetics, durability, and longevity, ensuring each keycap looks and feels exceptional over an extended period.

Keycaps are typically made from two types of plastic: PBT and ABS. ABS is commonly used for cheaper keycaps but tends to degrade gradually over time. However, when manufactured by reputable companies, ABS keycaps can still offer high quality.

On the other hand, PBT keycaps are stronger but more challenging to manufacture. Ensuring proper quality for larger keys, such as the space bar, can be difficult due to potential warping issues. Additionally, poorly made PBT keycaps may exhibit warping over time.

While PBT keycaps are robust, they often have limited color options. ABS plastic is more compatible with vibrant colors and maintains its hue better. PBT keycaps, on the other hand, may appear dull in comparison.

Premium keycaps feature thicker plastic that reinforces the stem, enhancing durability. Sharp corners and straight sides indicate superior construction, ensuring resistance to warping and degradation.

Conversely, lower-quality keycaps exhibit thinner plastic layers, rounded and uneven sides, indicating inferior quality. Avoiding such keycaps whenever possible is advisable to ensure a satisfactory typing experience.

Are Expensive Keycaps Worth the Price?

Whether to invest in a good set of keycaps ultimately rests with the individual. While high-quality keycaps may enhance aesthetics and tactile experience, it ultimately depends on one’s willingness to allocate the necessary funds.

I use two custom-built keyboards daily, and I have no regrets about splurging on quality keycaps. I’ve noticed that Cherry-style keycaps improve my gaming performance, while XDA-style keycaps offer a satisfying sound and feel.

Additionally, my keycaps’ color combinations and styles perfectly complement my keyboards.

Opting for cheap and plain keycaps would leave me dissatisfied with the meticulous time and money invested in building my keyboards.

After all, what’s the point of creating a high-quality keyboard if a few low-quality components undermine its overall appeal?

Why are GMK Keycaps So Expensive?

GMK stands out as one of the largest and pricier keycap manufacturers, and there are valid reasons behind it. A typical set of GMK keycaps can range from $150 to $200, assuming you can secure a set before aftermarket scalpers swoop in.

One of the primary factors contributing to the high cost of GMK keycaps is their limited production quantities. GMK consistently creates unique and visually appealing keycaps, available exclusively through group buys scheduled months in advance.

Once the group buy concludes, GMK discontinues production of that particular keycap set. They introduced 2 options: pay the inflated aftermarket price, or scramble to secure any remaining extras, which sell out rapidly.

Older GMK keycap sets become increasingly expensive as time passes due to their growing rarity and perceived value.

Additionally, GMK stands apart from other premium keycap companies by using ABS plastic as their primary material. While ABS is commonly found in lower-end keycaps, GMK excels at crafting high-quality keycaps that boast thickness and durability.

By leveraging ABS, GMK enjoys greater design flexibility, resulting in its captivating and vibrant color schemes highly regarded within the keyboard community.

Why are Mechanical Keyboard Keycaps So Expensive?

Mechanical keyboard keycaps can be expensive due to several factors. Let’s explore three key reasons behind their higher price tags:

Quality Materials and Manufacturing Standards

Mechanical keyboard keycaps are often crafted using high-quality materials such as durable plastics (e.g., ABS or PBT) or premium materials like metal or custom resins.

These materials come at a cost and are selected to ensure longevity, aesthetics, and an enhanced typing experience.

Additionally, reputable keycap manufacturers maintain strict manufacturing standards, including precision molding, meticulous coloring processes, and attention to detail.

Limited Production and Customization

Many mechanical keycap sets are produced in limited quantities, making them more exclusive and sought after. Manufacturers often release keycaps through group buys or limited-time sales, resulting in higher demand and potentially increasing prices due to scarcity.

Customization options, such as unique color schemes, legends, or artisan designs, also add to the cost. Custom molds or complex designs require additional resources and time, resulting in higher prices to cover these expenses.

Artistry, Design, and Branding

Mechanical keyboards have gained popularity as both functional tools and collector’s items. Keycap sets often exhibit intricate and aesthetically pleasing designs, featuring themes inspired by various cultures, gaming, or art.

Keycap designers and artists invest time, effort, and creativity into crafting visually appealing and thematic keycaps. These designs and the reputation of well-known keycap brands contribute to the premium pricing.

Moreover, limited collaborations with artists or renowned brands further increase the desirability and cost of specific keycap sets.

Why do Artisan Keycaps So Expensive?

The cost of materials is a significant factor in keycap production. Various equipment, such as pressure pots, air compressors, sculpting tools, scales, and more, contribute to startup expenses.

Ongoing costs include resin, clay, silicone, dyes, pigments, cleaning supplies, gloves, respirator cartridges, stir sticks, mixing cups, mold release, etc.

Time & Effort

The time and effort invested in keycap-making can vary greatly. Some individuals operate keycap businesses, while others work as a team.

For hobbyists like myself, who have unrelated full-time jobs, finding a few hours per week to dedicate to a key craft can be challenging. Thus, increasing the time cost of producing keycaps.

Color Theory and Complexity

Color theory and complexity play crucial roles in the keycap creation process. Mixing colors in precise ratios requires knowledge of color theory.

Understanding the different types of colors and associated techniques is also essential, such as,

  • Liquid pigments versus powdered pigments
  • Translucent versus opaque effects
  • Incorporating colors into resin versus painting them into the mold
  • Utilizing color shift and interference colors
  • Materials for special effects

These considerations add further complexity and expertise to the keycap production journey.

Final Words

So, why are keycaps so expensive?

The higher price of keycaps can be attributed to factors such as using quality materials and adherence to manufacturing standards, limited production quantities, customization options, and the artistry and branding associated with keycap designs.

While this may make keycaps more expensive, it reflects the commitment to durability, aesthetics, and personalization, offering keyboard enthusiasts a premium and unique typing experience.