When looking at high-end keycaps, they are typically made from two manufacturing methods: double-shot and dye-sub. What are double-shot keycaps and dye-sub keycaps and how do they compare?
Here’s a quick explanation:
Double-Shot and Dye-Sublimation are processes used for creating the legend on your keycap. Dye-sub involves printing the legends onto the keycap. Double-shot uses injection molding to insert the legend. Both methods offer great durability, feel, and are much better quality than other processes.
To find out all the big and small differences between double-shot and dye-sub keep reading so you can find out how each contrast each other.
Double-Shot vs Dye-Sublimated Keycaps
|Double-Shot Legend||Dye-Sublimated Legend|
|Legends injected||Legends printed|
|Uses two layers of plastic||Uses a laser, dye, and extreme heat|
|Looks sharper||May look not as sharp|
|Any color legend possible||Legend must be darker than keycap|
|Any color possible for keycaps||Fewer color options for keycaps|
|Cannot feel while typing||Cannot feel while typing|
|Will never fade or chip||Very resilient and may wear very little|
|Used on ABS, PBT, and POM.||Only used with PBT|
|On backlit and non-backlit caps||Only on non-backlit caps|
|Often expensive||Usually cheaper|
The legends on both double-shot and dye-sub keycaps will look really good and will be clear.
Occasionally dye-sub legends, usually in cheaper sets, might not look as clear due to the nature of how it is printed on.
Dye-sub legends must be darker than the keycap that they are on which limits many color options. This removes the option for dark colored keycaps and results in many dye-sub sets being lighter colors. This is one of the biggest draw backs to dye-sublimation.
Unlike dye-sub, double-shot legends can be any color which gives them a step up over dye-sub sets. They are the best option if you want to get a dark colored set. With this method manufactures can make sets with high contrast and vibrant colors.
Dye-sub keycaps on the bottom side look like a regular keycap but with the double-shot method there will be added plastic from the injected mold that provides the legend.
Both dye-sublimated and double-shot keycaps have great reliability.
Dye-sub is printed onto the keycaps, which may make you think that the durability is not very good, but it is the most durable method besides double-shot.
There is a heat treatment process that engraves the legend onto the keycap that will permanently be there. This legend can wear down but it is only after very long periods of use as the entire top surface of the keycap starts to wear.
With double-shot the legend is a different piece of plastic that is injected into the keycap. This means that there is no chance of the legend ever getting removed. This is the most durable method out of any keycap.
Both methods are very durable and durability for the most part shouldn’t be an issue but if you want the best durability then double-shot sets are the way to go.
Double-shot is typically more expensive than the dye-sub keycaps as the process is more difficult and requires more resources.
A mold is needed for each specific keycap. Some high end dye-sub keycaps may be the same price as some lower end double-shot keycaps but in general double-shot is usually more expensive.
Even though dye-sub is cheaper it isn’t necessarily worse and in many instances it is a good option for manufacturers of pre-built boards if they have non-backlit keyboards.
Since it is a cheaper method this is why vintage keyboards would use the dye-sublimation process rather than double-shot even though it was out at the time.
If you want the best quality and want better looking caps with more color options then spending the extra money for a double-shot set is worth it.
Common Usage of Both Styles
Double-shot keycaps are common shine through keycaps on backlit keyboards with RGB lighting. They also are the go to method for high quality keycaps such as GMK. This is due to how good the reliability is and the fact that the legends are not felt.
Double-shot keycaps can keycaps can use a variety of materials such as ABS, PBT, and POM. Often this method is used to high end ABS keycap sets. Double-shot is a more expensive technology so the process is usually found on after market keycaps or higher end prebuilt keyboards such as the Drop ALT or CTRL.
The dye-sublimation process is only on non-backlit keycaps made from PBT. This method is often used on high quality keycaps and budget alternatives to the highest quality sets from companies like GMK or Drop.
Dye-sub is also very common on Topre boards from companies such as Realforce as they provide great quality and looks without being overly expensive.
More vintage keyboards like the IBM Model M also used keycaps that were created with the dye-sublimation process, which is one of the reasons why vintage keyboards are known for having great build quality.
Both these kinds of legends are high quality as they are the most durable methods for legends and these legends unlike some other printing processes have no feel.
Double-shot is more expensive usually but provides more color options, can be on keycaps of materials besides PBT, and will never wear down. Double-shot is the go to method if you want high quality backlit keycaps as well.
If you don’t need a backlit set and the color options dye-sub keycaps provide are sufficient than it is worth it because the quality is about the same in feel and durability.
For those who need backlit, something besides PBT, or a vibrant or very dark colored set then it is worth it to spend the extra money and get a double-shot set but otherwise dye-sub sets are incredibly good and could save you money if you provide what you need.
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