Novelty keys are a nice option if you are looking to keep things simple just as much as they are great as a way to add to your already custom keysets. They are by far the easiest to find and there are more companies selling various novelty keycaps than I could ever count. Of the six companies that we are working with on this article, three of them were nice enough to send over a variety of novelty keycaps. They sent so many in fact that the only way I can cover them all without it getting to confusing is to look at what each company sent over one at a time. Then after that I put them all together on a keyboard to see how well they would work with backlighting, while doing that I also had the chance to toy with using various backlight colors with some of the keycaps using the Razer Blackwidow Chroma.
In addition to the white and orange Replica Cherry keyset that Techkeys sent over, they also sent over an impressive 20 other keys. Six of those keys are a set of transparent dice, two are artisan keycaps, and the other twelve are more of a traditional novelty keycap. To start things off, let’s take a peek at the vegas dice keycap set. This set is designed to be used in the top row of your keyboard. You can replace your F keys or use these keycaps for the 1-6 number row keys. All six of the keycaps are doubleshot with a transparent red and a solid white, the double shot process should make for an interesting stripe pattern on the key when it is lit up.
For the mix of novelty keycaps Techkeys sent over five of their Nuke keycaps (three with translucent orange and two with black and yellow), one Road Cone, a Creeper keycap, a Riddler keycap, a PBT Grenade keycap, a Reddit keycap, and Breaking Bad keycaps. It is a nice variety of keycaps that shows a little bit of what they can do. The four white with orange transparent keycaps are a perfect match for the orange replica Cherry set, I didn’t waste too much time getting them onto the Rapid-I with that keyset. The grenade keycap is great if you play FPS games, you could easily bing your grenade button to whatever key you are using that on. The last five keycaps are all different ways you can show off your interests or represent a group. If you are a big fan of Reddit or any other website, you can show your support. I hope that in the future we can have a LanOC keycap for everyone to show their support. The Breaking Bad, Riddler, and Creeper keycaps are just examples of showing off your interests. While Techkeys didn’t send any, I especially like the selection of gaming keycaps that they have. They have Zelda hearts, Mario, Luigi, and Wario keycaps. Hell you can even show your political affiliation if you want as well.
Beyond standard novelty keycaps, you can really go crazy if you want. There is a whole subsection of keycaps called artisan keycaps. Different people hand make keycaps using different materials and in some groups they are traded and collected. Techkeys doesn’t have a huge selection, but they did have a few. They actually sent over two. Keep in mind some of these keycaps can sometimes be VERY expensive, they are works of art that are handmade. A good example of this is the six shooter keycaps that Techkeys sells. I would never ask for something so expensive from them, especially considering all of the other support they provided with this article but they did send over two of their Molar keycaps, one in white and the other in gold. While I will fully admit that the molar design isn’t really for me, I was very impressed that someone could even recreate a molar into a functional keycap. The weight of each of the keys was very heavy due to them being made out of metal. I think the market for this specific design is most likely small but I can completely see how artisan keycaps could be shown off online and to enthusiast friends just like someone might show off a new painting.
Max Keyboard actually sent over a whole selection of keycaps but as it turns out some of them are actually previews of upcoming products. I went ahead and included those in here because they didn’t really fit in the other sections. They were even nice enough to print up labels or each of the small baggies to help identify each of the keycaps as well.
To start things off, let’s take a look at the four different LanOC keycaps that they made and sent over. All four are UV printed but the two dark keys are transparent with laser-etched lettering on the front. This is especially interesting because you could have a custom design on a keycap and still be able to identify the actual key. I was especially impressed that these keys were .46mm thick, this is thicker than the other custom keycaps that I took a look at in previous section. Currently custom keycaps aren’t available on their website but I’m told that their custom keycap service will be available soon. Be sure to keep an eye on their website and their Facebook for information.
The black and clear translucent keycap sets that Max Keyboard sent over are both available on their website now. You get nine keys, they replace your escape, direction keys, and WASD. When combined with backlighting we should be able to do some really cool things with these keycaps. You aren’t limited to those uses btw, it just means that you get four row b keycaps, three row c, one row d, and one row e. The small paper included with each helps show you what each key does, but if you get mixed up you can look on the underside. The row names are molded in as well. Each of the sets are cheap to pick up and a simple way to customize your backlit keyboard!
Max Keyboard also sent over a couple examples of their standard novelty keycaps. These also support backlighting. They have a wide variety of designs available but they sent over a power button, lock, and a running person. They are ABS keycaps molded in a transparent white with a painted finish. The design is etched out of that paint. This is the same construction of most backlit keycaps, including the keycaps that Max Keyboard uses on their keyboards. Be sure to check out the full selection of novelty keycaps on their website, there are a lot of other designs that might just catch your eye. I love that on their website, when you mouse over the image it shows what it looks like lit up.
The Tick Double-Shot keycaps that they sent over are another preview of a future product. Of everything they sent, this might just be my favorite. That says a lot considering the custom LanOC keycaps. They measure at an impressive .60mm thick and the double shot design is different than all of the other doubleshot keycaps I have taken a look at today. They managed to not have to have the stripes so the backlighting should be very consistent. Being doubleshot over painted means there is more texture to the keys. They are ABS but should still hold up much better than a standard backlit keycap. Max Keyboard is planning on selling this as a complete set when they launch it in early 2015. I might have to pick up a set to replace the keys on my Max Keyboard Nighthawk, it sees use on my main PC every day and the current keycaps are looking a little tired. I love how much better these feel to type on.
Lastly Max Keyboard is getting ready to introduce PBT keycaps as well. They sent over a couple that have been laser etched. I’m told they are going to support UV printing on the front of the keycap or you can get laser etching on the front or the top. They are planning on starting things off by releasing a set but they might do individual keys later on as well. I do not have any information on what color sets they are planning on selling but with them releasing these before the end of the year we will be finding out very soon!
While a good portion of what PimpMyKeyboard is about putting together the group buys for custom keycap sets like what we took a look at earlier. They do have a regular key shop as well with a few keysets, novelty keys and a few translucent keycaps as well. They sent over a mix of keys to check out to give us an idea of what they are about.
PimpMyKeyboard sells full transparent keycap sets as well as individual keycaps should you need them. They have them available in 5 colors currently as individual keys and for sets you can get clear, red, and blue. They also have three different color options available with a frosted top. The frosted top is nice if you have backlighting and are looking for everything to glow but you don’t really want to be able to see the keyswitch.
For novelty keycaps PimpMyKeyboard has a few keycaps with funny comments or pictures like “Beer Break”, “Oops”, and “Panic”. They also have a few novelty keycaps with translucent lettering for your backlit keyboards. With the popularity of backlighting it’s always great to see options for them. They sent over oops!, Oh Shit, and PANIC keycaps. They tinted the lettering right out of the hole, so if you have white backlighting you can expect these to light up in blue and red for the panic button.
PimpMyKeyboards even sells glow in the dark keycaps. While they just sent a few keys, on their website you can actually buy as many as you would like of each row. They even give you the option for the caps to be ABS or PBT with the price being the same between both. If you don’t have backlighting but are looking for something a little different this could be an option. The keys glow really well with the lights off but I had a hard time trying to get a good photo of them glowing.
Installed and all lit up
The mixture of novelty and sample keycaps really don’t make for a complete set in any way shape or form. Rather than swap them out individually I put them all onto our Razer Blackwidow Chroma so I could spend a little more time testing and toying with how they look with various backlight colors. This does mean that a lot of the keys aren’t in the exact location that they should be on the keyboard, so keep that in mind when looking at the photos below. I tried to keep matching sets together to make them easier to photograph, but in a lot of case that means they ended all over. There are also caps designed for different key profiles as well.
To get things started, I was really excited to see how well the Artisan keycaps from Techkeys would look and perform. The interesting keycap shape does mean that if you look close from the side you can see the key switch. I don’t think this is that big of a deal but something to keep in mind. When I added backlighting to the mix I really like that those same gaps help light up the key, obviously without that the metal isn’t going to let any light through.
The Vegas Dice keycaps from Techkeys ended up over on the number pad when they really should be in the top row of your keyboard. Even so they look great even without any backlighting. When I turned the backlighting on all six keys really light up, just like the Vegas strip or a slot machine. All I need now are the sound effects that the slots make. Changing the back lighting to red didn’t change the look, going to blue turned them a little purple for a different look all together.
The transparent orange novelty keycaps from Techkeys looked great with white back lighting as well. So much so that after doing this testing they went directly onto my Quickfire Rapid-I to go with the Replica Cherry keycap set. Some might find the stripes weird, but I think they look better than what solid orange would look. I do wish the stripes would run the same direction though.
The white and black transparent keycaps from Max Keyboard especially caught my eye. They looked good with white back lighting but really stood out when I put other colors of back lighting. Both sets are available in completely keycap sets with and without lettering. They would be a perfect addition to a new RGB keyboard.
PimpMyKeyboard sent over the two sample sets of the blue and red transparent keycaps as well as the glow in the dark set. How did they look? Well I found it especially interesting. The transparents look great with white backlighting to let them glow in their natural colors, but I found it even more interesting to toy with various colors on them. Using yellow on the blues made the blues look green and blue on the reds look purple, as you would expect. This got me thinking that it would look cool to use this idea to give your keyboard a completely different look in the dark than it has during the day. You could do a red theme that glows purple or if you get especially creative you could alternate led colors to really give it a unique look.
So how did the PBT keycaps from Max Keyboard react to the backlighting? Actually, they look great. You can see the laser etched legends perfectly and they glow just enough. I think a whole keyboard with these would look great with white backlighting to give them a little glow.
Two of the LanOC keycaps that Max Keyboard sent over aren’t designed to be transparent but I still tossed them on the Chroma to see if the light would still show through. The red key did glow but the white didn’t. The two transparent keys look great with the backlighting as well!
The Creeper, Riddler, and Breaking bad keys may not support backlighting but they still add a nice touch to a keyboard.
The Novelty keys from PimpMyKeyboard with their red and blue transparent plastics look great with white backlighting. Some backlight colors won’t work well with this setup though, red will filter out blue for example.
What about the backlit keys from Max Keyboard? The novelties look great on the Blackwidow Chroma. The keys look great with any color backlighting, especially red on the power button. The double shot direction keys also worked well.