The very first thing that comes to mind when you are all set for keyboard personalization is to check the options for top-quality keycaps. And it has to be this way as keycaps are the first thing we feel directly while typing on keyboards.
Other than the material, size, and shape of the keycap the method used for lettering on keycaps is the substantial factor you can’t afford to ignore for keycap customization. With that said, choosing a printing technique that you would be using for keycaps is such a daunting task as every technique has its own positives and negatives that can create confusion while selecting.
With various printing methods, typically double-shot and dye-sub are the two common manufacturing techniques that are widely used in keyboard customization. These are the methods used for printing legends on keycaps. Double-shot is the process of insertion legend through injection molding, whereas the dye-sub is the technique of lettering on the outer layer of keycaps.
Both printing processes produce upscale prints more than other known techniques like laser etching or pad printing, therefore these are immensely popular among enthusiasts. In terms of feel & durability, both printing approaches offer the finest quality result compared to other available methods.
Let’s know about double-shot and dye sublimation keycaps first and later we will be analyzing the qualities and drawbacks of both styles to get you in-depth knowledge that may help you make the right choice.
Click To See Content Of This Post
Double shot keycaps are top-of-the-line keycaps widely used in illuminated mechanical keyboards these days for better light transmission. The process of manufacturing double-shot keycaps is not just complex but is more costly than other keycaps, however, the printing technique has been used since the 70s.
A double shot keycap is made out of two plastic pieces that are molded properly to fit together for one piece. Letter, symbols, or signs can be seen from an outer layer of the keycaps, which are injected between layers, making the keycap more reliable and durable. And that offers the great benefit of legend on keycap do not fade away or erase as these are not printed on keys.
The bi-color factor of double-shot keycaps makes them unattractive sometimes but the concept of shine-through legend with RGB backlit made up for this weakness pretty well.
Earlier, only ABS plastic was used to make 2shot keycaps as the low melting point of this kind of plastic makes melting and molding easier for constructing keycaps. But considering the prime quality and durability these days there are some double-shot keycap sets made out of PBT plastic, which however cost high.
In regards to pbt vs. double shot PBT, some enthusiasts think both are almost equal but in reality, PBT with double shot gets you many advantages that you cannot find with any others.
Dye Sublimation Keycaps
Also termed dye sublimation, it is one of the most popular printing processes used on keycaps. Nowadays, you will find these keycaps mostly in premium-grade keyboards. in the early 80s, it was the best printing method used for keycap printing later, pad printing to be a cheaper technique was introduced as a dye sublimation substitute.
Briefly, the dye sub technique involves special paper to be printed legend then transferring it to the keycap using high temperature to vaporize legend on the keycap from paper. That whole technique makes dye sublimation keycaps not just tear and wear-resistant but also the hardcore procedure makes legends less likely to fade off with the time.
PBT plastic is used to make dye-sub keycaps mainly because of its high melting point however, dye sublimation keycaps manufactured with ABS are quite rare to find but some do exist.
Also Read: What are Alice Keyboards?
Double-Shot Keycaps vs. Dye Sub Keycaps – Differences
Although both keycap styles are highly reliable for some good reasons double-shot keycaps, especially with PBT offer great durability than any other. There is no way that legend can be removed as the legend on the different plastic layers is fixed into the keycap, it is so far the most durable technique you will get in keycaps out there.
On the other hand, it is not like the dye-sub technique used on keycaps is easy to fade out or it’s not durable at all rather it is the second most durable printing process after double shot. The intensive heat treatment during the dye-sub method ensures the legends carved on the keycap will remain there lastingly.
Although legends can likely fag-out only after quite a long time heavy usage somehow affects the complete surface of the keycap as well as the legend on it.
Appearance & Feel
Whether it is dye sublimation or double shot, you will find both keycaps have quite prominent, clear, and good legends. However, the top-notch clarity of legends offered by double-shot keycaps is much better than dye-sub legends, all because of the printing nature.
At times dye-sub legends, mostly in low-quality sets, legends do not seem good or clear. Essentially the legends on dye-sub keycaps happen to be in a darker shade than the surface they are printed on, this factor restricted color options in dye-sub keycaps. Thus, making dark-colored dye-sub keycaps is hard so you will see various lighter-colored sets as options.
On the contrary, double-shot keycaps can be made with any color & contrast, making them a step ahead of dye-sub keycap sets. This technique provides a good range for companies to try out making sets with various vibrant colors and contrast.
There is not much difference in feel with both styles rather you will feel smoothness upon touching double shot and dye-sub keycaps.
Due to great flexibility and range double shot, PBT or ABS keycaps are commonly used on RGB backlit keyboards as light-through keycaps. Double shot keycaps are produced using different types of materials like PBT, ABS & POM but the case with dye-sub keycaps is totally different as PBT is the only plastic material used for dye-sub sets.
The double shot is an expensive technology often used on top-notch keycap ABS sets whereas the dye-sublimation technique is used for budget-friendly & premium quality keycaps alternatives to the popular and prime quality keycap sets of Drop or GMK in general.