An Overview of Different Keycap Materials and Profiles

Choosing the right set of Keycaps for your mechanical keyboard can be difficult. The wide variety of keycap styles and aesthetics tends to make it difficult to decide on the perfect set. Now both the aesthetic and feel of keycaps are subjective meaning they vary from person to person, and for that reason, this article is not meant to give you the undisputable best keycap set out there. This article is intended as a simple guide on deciding between the different keycap materials and profiles that will best suit your preferences. Our hope is that by the end of this article you will have obtained a more detailed understanding of the kind of keycaps that you are looking for

Keycap Materials

Keycap materials are predominantly separated into 2 kinds of plastic: ABS and PBT. Both of these types of plastic create different sounds, feelings, and aesthetics once they are molded into keycaps.


Let us start with the more common of the two, ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is the most common plastic used in the manufacturing of keycaps for keyboards. It is used in the manufacturing of keyboards due to its high impact resistance and durability allowing for it to be clicked millions of times before showing signs of cracking or crumbling. On the other hand, the drawback to using ABS keycaps is that though they are durable and do not tend to crack, the keycaps still do wear down with use. A common occurrence in ABS keycaps is the characters of the keycaps slowly fade away and diminish over time. As for the feel of ABS keycaps, they are very smooth in texture but this in itself has a downside as they tend to develop an oily and glossy with use over time. ABS keycaps also tend to be thinner than their counterpart but there are high quality thicker ABS keycaps that are sold for a more premium price. Prebuilt mechanical keyboards tend to come with the common cheap kind of ABS keycaps out of the box, but more expensive higher quality ABS keycaps can be bought. For reference, the popular keycap manufacturer GMK actually prefers using ABS plastics over PBT when creating their premium keycap sets.


Polybutylene Terephthalate more commonly known as PBT plastic was the less common type of plastic material used in the manufacturing of keycaps due to it being more expensive to produce. But as the mechanical keyboard hobby has been growing more and more popular it is becoming easier to find PBT keycap sets on the market although, these still tend to be sold separately from the mechanical keyboards themself and it is still uncommon to find prebuilt keyboards that come with PBT keycaps. In comparison to ABS, PBT is a more rigid and stiff material making it less prone to wearing down but this does add to the cost of producing these keycaps since they are tougher to shape and produce.

The feel of PBT keycaps is more textured and sandy as compared to ABS keycaps but there are more premium PBT keycap sets that come with a smoother texture that are available. Additionally, the look of PBT keycaps is more matte in contrast to the shiny properties of ABS keycaps. As for sound, PBT keycaps have a more defined and louder sound thanks to being thicker as opposed to most ABS keycaps.


Considering all the differences between PBT and ABS keycaps it is still up to your personal preference on the material that you decide to go with for keycaps. But if you were to ask for our recommendation we consider PBT to be the superior material for keycap manufacturing. This is because they are more durable and have a more pleasing sound experience. All that aside there still are some exceptional ABS sets out there like the ones from GMK that are considerably more expensive than your usual run-of-the-mill keycaps but if those are your tastes then it’s all up to you.

Keycap Profiles

Keycap profiles refer to the style of the keycaps in terms of shape and height. Some keycaps are round, others are angled, and some are even flat. Furthermore, the profile of the keycap set as a whole changes the style of the keyboard it is on. For example, the flat profile keycaps are the same height for each row of the keyboard, but the standard profile for most keycap sets, OEM, gets shorter and longer depending on which row of the keyboard it is meant for. As compared to materials, keycap profiles are slightly more complicated and hard to understand but we will try our best to explain them in a simple manner so that you can understand them. Here is a picture of a complete chart of keycap profiles that you will be able to find along with their names and information created by the Reddit user /u/gtderEvan. The leftmost column refers to the top row of the keyboard moving down to the rightmost corresponding to the bottom row. Also if this is your first time seeing all this I imagine the names and measurements can be a little overwhelming, don’t stress about it the acronyms and specific heights are mostly irrelevant. Just having a simple understanding of how the keycap profiles are different from one another is all you will really be needing when making your decision.

Due to the diversity in keycap profiles, we have detailed their differences in the table below.

SA  These keycaps have a high profile, they are sculpted and spherical.
KAT These are a variant of the SA profile which are slightly shorter and smoother.
OEM These are the standard profile keycaps that you will find on most keyboards and keycap sets.
Cherry These are very similar to OEM keycaps as it is also a quite standard keycap profile but slightly shorter than OEM.
XDA These keycaps are different from the rest as they are much flatter and have a uniform height across all the rows. These sets tend to come with unique characters and are more like a rounded square in shape rather than the usual spherical shape.
DSA These are also very similar to the XDA profile being the other uniform height profile although slightly shorter and flatter.

This table contains a list of the most common keycap profiles. Less known or more obscure keycap profiles may not appear on the list.

Picking your Profile

When choosing a profile for your keycaps they can be basically separated into 3 categories: High Profile, OEM/Cherry, or Unifrom. High profile refers to the SA and KAT profiles that are the tallest of all the profile s these utilize a sculpted approach which means they have a slight angle to assist in typing and these types of keycaps generate the deepest sounding clicks. Next, we have the Cherry/OEM profiles which are simply the standard keycap sets that most people are accustomed to these are the keycap profile that we recommend for most people as they are also sculpted yet not too tall making them more quick and comfortable to press. Finally, we have the uniform category which refers to the XDA and DSA profiles, these are usually bought for their unique designs but most wouldn’t enjoy the typing experience of these as they lack the typing angle found in the other profiles for ergonomics.


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