Gamers are obviously interested in performance, but never let it be said that gamers don’t value style as well. When you want the best aesthetic to add a swathe of colour to your desk, keycaps are the way to go.
As most keyboard modders will tell you, it’s all about personal preference. The way colours blend together, or the way the keyboards sound when you hit a key. Whether you want a retro styling or a futuristic RGB light-fest, there’s a keycap mod available. The best part is – keyboard modding is super easy as a do it yourself project. All you’re going to need is a compatible mechanical keyboard and a few handy tools.
We’re going to look at some of the best products available from two market leaders for UK keycaps and help you figure out what kind of aesthetic, style and even noise you are hoping to achieve.
Best Keycap Brands
One of the most affordable and well-known brand of mechanical keyboards and keycaps is Tai Hao, a Taiwanese manufacturing company founded in 1962 and now a household name in keycap production.
What sets Tai Hao apart from its competitors is their commitment to brand quality and an ever-progressing range of popular products in a crowded market. They have their finger on the pulse when it comes to the aesthetic gamers and PC enthusiasts are looking for, too.
Beside them on the podium is the Ducky brand, also based in Taiwan, formed in 2008 and focused on delivering the best possible mechanical keyboards to consumers. Their reputation goes ahead of them, and it is impossible to talk about keycaps or mechanical keyboards with mentioning their ever-popular range.
Buying a Mechanical Keyboard
Let’s start at the beginning. You are going to need a mechanical keyboard to start your quest in finding the perfect desktop aesthetic. There are several options available, and your decision will be heavily influenced by what you’re going to be using your keyboard for in the fist place.
Gamers tend only to use the left-hand side of a keyboard, so you will see the vast majority of mechanical keyboards that are aimed at gamers looking something like this Ducky One2:
There’s no numpad, as you can see, which makes the footprint of the keyboard excellent when space on your desk is at a premium.
Full size keyboards are also available, which is perfect for those of us who use our gaming PC for both killing aliens and paying rent. Whilst still being functional for gaming (especially simulators or games with lots of key bindings) keyboards such as this RGB mechanical keyboard from Ducky are great:
Here you have access to all your function keys and a traditional layout complete with numpad and volume keys etc.
Prices are varied and start at around £60 for a quality mechanical keyboard and can go up into the £150 - £250 (and more) when we look at brands like Corsair, SteelSeries and other high-end gear.
There’s some value to be had, but steer clear of Wish and AliExpress if you want quality. Amazon can often present a few deals, though prices between good quality manufacturers and lesser-known keyboard makers are often similar. Keyboards like the Redragon K552 pictured above will set you back around £45, but the aesthetic is fairly specific. i.e. this keyboard looks like a young Matthew Broderick should be hacking the military’s mainframe with it.
Your Custom Keyboard
It’s time to look at aesthetics and get down to business. Once you have your new mechanical keyboard in hand, you can begin testing pulling keys and replacing them. Test out the O-Rings to check if you prefer the dampened sound or if you want a nice clunky thocc.
Thocc. What a wonderful word.
Thocc (noun): Onomatopoeic sound of a keypress on a keyboard. “My space-bar makes the nicest thocc you’ve ever heard.”
In the pursuit of the perfect thocc, gamers have attempted weird and wonderful methods of hitting the perfect key (pardon the pun), including placing foam and Play-Doh inside of the keyboard chassis. Yep. Play-Doh.
Without digressing too much, let’s look at Tai Hao firstly, and see if anything catches your eye.
Tai Hao Keycaps
Tai Hao have such a huge range that it’s hard to choose which style to go with. That said, their prices are not that steep that you’ll be put off buying multiple styles to figure out your best mix.
Fans of Stranger Things and pop culture love Tai Hao’s retro keycaps. They’ve managed to capture the aesthetic perfectly for eighties and nineties flavours. Take the Hawaii PBT Double Shot for example:
Hawaii PBT Double Shot
This keyboard style would not look out of place in any retro space, as these colours unashamedly shout Atari and Commodore aesthetic blending brown to blue in a totally traditional style.
Bringing the time period forward, and we have what looks like an Amiga spec keyboard with the Tai Hao ABS-Cubic Profile Grey + White:
Tai Hao ABS-Cubic Profile Grey + White
This is where the nostalgia comes in with keycaps and it is not difficult to see why this can become an obsession with fans of this type of customisation. With the hundreds of styles offered by Tai Hao alone, you will be spoilt for choice.
Onward we go, and if it’s something a little more modern you require, there’s plenty on offer from Tai Hao.
Rubber Gaming Backlit Keycaps-18 keys Black
ABS Yellow Submarine
One of the coolest things you can do with a custom keycap set is to tailor the aesthetic to your favourite game. Being able to mix and max these styles is great for even those who lack any creativity (myself included) and will enable you to match your pop culture references with ease.
Tai-Hao Rainbow Limited Edition ABS Keycaps, US Layout
Tai Hao Rubber Keycaps
For gamers, rubber keycaps are perfect for not losing your grip during the fight. Little nodules on the tops of keys have been developed by Tai Hao with gamers in mind, of course, but if you just want your keyboard to look unique – then these are also the perfect choice.
Tai Hao Rubber Keycaps
Tai Hao Translucent Keycaps
Who doesn’t want their desktop to light up like a nightclub? Tai Hao’s “Haunted Keycaps” set below look incredible and are just as cool when they’re not lit up.
Tai Hao’s Haunted Keycaps
These are just some of the features of Tai Hao’s keycaps, but all of their styles are expertly formed and sound great, too.
Note: Whilst Ducky are superlative keycap manufacturers, they also make mechanical keyboards, so if you are looking for an all-in-one solution, check out their range of keyboards too on their website.
There’s a lot to unpack with Ducky. They are experts in designing awesome mechanical keyboards, and they just seem to know how to hit the market with aesthetics and make them appealing to a huge cross-section of consumers.
One thing Ducky are great at is brand quality. The box you receive looks great, and you know you just purchased a great bit of kit when you’re unboxing.
The quality doesn’t stop at the packaging, though. Take their hugely popular PBT Double-shot Joker design:
Ducky PBT Double-shot Joker
Not only is this strikingly gorgeous as a colour range, but the keycaps themselves don’t even look real. They look like a 3D concept design because they have such perfect lines.
Ducky products have great functionality and durability, too. Their overall touchability (brand new word) will have you caressing them instead of typing and wondering how you ever coped with cheap ABS keys where the letters would disappear after a year of use.
Ducky have got a lot of things right with their designs, encouraging you to dispose of that rectangular piece of black plastic and replace it with something you could almost bite with designs like their Cotton Candy keycaps:
Ducky Cotton Candy
If it’s blasts of colour you want, then Ducky have you covered with their ABS Double-shot Afterglow SA keycaps:
Ducky ABS Double-shot Afterglow SA
Blending the entire spectrum, Ducky have gone for a major statement here, and the keys feature pin-sharp characters and the brand’s painstaking attention to detail in moulding.
Ducky Rubber Keycaps
Like Tai Hao, Ducky manufacture an awesome range of rubber keycaps that look and perform the way you’d expect a premium brand to.
Ducky Pink Rubber Keycaps
The texture feels great under your fingers, and under close inspection, the characters appear to be extremely well detailed and sharp.
Ducky Pudding Keycaps
Ducky Pudding style Keycaps
If you want a bold and beautiful keyboard, why not go for pudding keycaps, where your RGB lights will shine through the lower part of the key and the character, topped with a black profile that looks magnificent from any angle!
Ducky Side Laser Engraved Keycaps
If you’re going to be one of the best suppliers of keycaps, then you need a range of features other manufacturers don’t even want to attempt. Engraved with a subtle character font on the side, these laser engraved keycaps are ideal for those who want a touch of class on their desktop.
Ducky Side Laser Engraved Keycaps
We hope this introduction to the world of keycap customisation has been helpful, and you are well on your way to choosing a style that suits you! Both Tai Hao and Ducky keycaps are brands that can be trusted to deliver quality and style while remaining somewhat affordable.
There’s really no separating them in terms of quality, but if you are looking for added features that will make you stand out when you’re doing an obligatory rig photo for Instagram, then Ducky is a little out in front of Tai Hao. If you want the ease of swapping out various colour schemes, and you want to land on the right side of a modest budget, then Tai Hao may be more what you want.