Unlocking the Secrets of Keycap Profiles: A Comprehensive Guide

Discover the meanings behind various keycap profiles and learn how to select the ideal one for your unique typing setup. Mechanical keyboards offer almost limitless customization options.

While much attention is given to the diverse key switches that dictate movement and sound, the significance of the keycaps themselves should not be overlooked.

Considering that your fingers may constantly interact with them for extended periods, finding the perfect shape can significantly impact your typing comfort and efficiency.

The good news is that you often aren’t confined to the default keycaps that come with your keyboard.

This article aims to acquaint you with the prevalent keycap profiles available, catering to both mechanical keyboards and other types.

Additionally, it will shed light on their typical applications in keyboards you may already be acquainted with, as well as explore the less common yet cherished keycaps embraced by enthusiasts.

Explore the ideal keycaps for every board in your collection with our Essential Guide to Keycaps.

What exactly are keycap profiles?

Keycap profiles serve as categorizations that define the physical shape and size of a keycap—the part of the keyboard that directly interacts with your fingers during typing. 

Each keycap profile encompasses a distinct set of shapes. When examining a mechanical keyboard from the side, you’ll notice that keycaps either share an identical height and shape or exhibit variations based on their rows.

This primary distinction in keycap profiles revolves around whether their rows are uniform or individually “sculpted” to align with the natural movements of your fingers.

Additional Differentiators:

Uniformity or Sculpted Rows: Keycaps may have uniform rows or be individually sculpted to match the natural flexion and extension of your fingers.

Height Variation: Keycap profiles differ in height, impacting the overall feel and ergonomic design of the keyboard.

Top Shape: Some keycaps, especially rounded ones, have a deeply convex top to cradle your fingertips, while others remain flat.

Important Considerations:

Non-Inclusive Attributes: Keycap profiles focus solely on physical attributes and do not consider factors like cap color, transparency for showcasing RGB lighting effects, or material composition.

Visual Representation: A chart below provides a visual overview of some of the most prevalent keycap profiles currently in use:

Keycap ProfileDescription
Sculpted SASpherical contour for ergonomic feel
DSAUniform height across all keys
OEMUbiquitous profile with classic appeal
(Additional profiles as per the chart)

The Most Common Types of Keycap Profiles

Certain keycap profiles have been in existence for years, while others have emerged recently, driven by the surging popularity of mechanical keyboards.

Here, we explore five of the most prevalent keycap profiles that you may encounter when searching for a new keyboard or standalone keycaps.

For a visual comparison, Keycaps.info provides a handy side-by-side visualization or an overlay of each profile, or you can refer to the chart above for a comprehensive comparison.

OEM Keycaps

  • Medium height with an angled top.
  • Mildly sculpted rows, with the top row taller in the back and shorter in the front.
  • Subtle sculpting, often unnoticed when viewed from the side.

Commonality: If you’ve used a mass-market mechanical keyboard without identifying the keycap profile, it was likely OEM.

Cherry Keycaps

·         Medium height (slightly lower than OEM) with angled tops.

·         Subtle sculpting for a visually pleasing, uniform look.

·         Less aggressive sculpting compared to OEM.

Noteworthy: The influential Cherry G80 keyboard, in production since 1988, is a well-known board featuring Cherry keycaps.

SA Keycaps

·         Tallest keycaps on the market, towering over Cherries and OEMs.

·         Substantial sculpting, forming a semi-cylindrical shape in each row.

·         Angled and concave tops (the “S” in SA stands for “Spherical”).

Preference: SA keycaps are popular for modern keyboards aiming for a retro aesthetic with rounder keycaps.

Flat Keycaps

·         Not a specific profile but a category representing a common design choice.

·         Flat surface without angled or convex shapes, typically unsculpted.

·         Ideal for easy keycap position swapping without creating a confusing design.

Trend: Once common, flat keycaps have diminished in popularity with the rise of “Chiclet” keycaps.

Chiclet” Keycaps

·         Uniform look with an extremely low profile.

·         Resembles candy-coated chewing gum.

·         Ideal for keyboards requiring minimal vertical space, popular in laptops.

Evolution: Modern designs utilize stable scissor switches for a satisfying and reliable keypress action.

Whether you seek the classic feel of OEM or the modern aesthetic of “Chiclet,” understanding keycap profiles enhances your keyboard journey.

Other Common Types of Keycap Profiles

While we’ve explored some of the keycap profiles in detail, the realm of keyboard design extends beyond the commonly discussed ones. Here’s a brief overview of additional keycap profiles you might come across in the market:

Keycap ProfileDescription
Topre KeycapsSpecially designed for Topre key switches, known for their high-end electrostatic switches. Offers precision and a satisfying “thock” sound, commonly found on HHKB keyboards.
MT3 KeycapsA slightly shorter and less rounded take on the SA profile. Embraces a more sculpted effect, providing a unique typing experience.
DSA KeycapsFeatures a “spherical” top design similar to SA but without sculpting, creating a uniform and distinctive retro appearance.
Artisan KeycapsNot intended for mass production; artisan keycaps are unique art pieces crafted by individual makers. Often feature small objects or scenes encased in resin, placed as a single accent piece on keys like Escape.

Venture beyond the mainstream and explore these intriguing keycap profiles. Mechanical keyboard enthusiasts often find it challenging to return to standard keycaps and switches after experiencing the precision and uniqueness offered by profiles like Topre.

If you’re curious about why Topre is a favorite among keyboard users or want to try a thoughtfully revised take on traditional key layouts, delve into the full range of high-end keyboards from HHKB.

Ensuring Keycap Compatibility for Your Keyboard

When considering a new keycap set for your keyboard, it’s crucial to ensure compatibility to avoid any fitting issues. Here are essential factors to consider:

Check the Keyboard Size

Before making a purchase, verify that the keycap set aligns with your keyboard’s layout and design. Full-sized keyboards, for instance, require a keycap set with enough keys to cover the entire layout, including the number pad. Note that some keycap sets cater specifically to 65% or tenkeyless layouts, as larger layouts demand more keys, affecting the overall cost. If you’re uncertain about keyboard sizes, refer to our guide. Ensure your chosen keycaps match your keyboard size.

ANSI vs ISO Layout

Another crucial consideration is the compatibility of your keycap set with ANSI and ISO layouts. The primary distinction lies in the size and shape of the enter key. While most keycap sets accommodate both layout types, exercise caution and confirm before making a purchase. Ordering a keycap set only to discover that the enter key doesn’t fit properly can be a frustrating experience.

Keyboard SizeVerify that the keycap set provides enough keys for your entire layout, considering the specific size of your keyboard.
ANSI vs ISO LayoutConfirm compatibility with both ANSI and ISO layouts, paying attention to the size and shape of the enter key.

Ensure a seamless transition to your new keycap set by carefully examining these considerations and confirming compatibility with your keyboard’s specifications.


Unlocking the secrets of keycap profiles unveils a world where personalization meets functionality. Whether you seek gaming prowess or a comfortable typing experience, understanding keycap profiles is the first step towards keyboard nirvana. Embrace the diversity, choose wisely, and let your fingertips dance on the keys tailored just for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *