How to Make a Gaming Keyboard Your Own
For a regular gamer playing on a PC, a keyboard can be a big deal. It’s not just the de facto controller for any and all gaming experiences — it’s a complex accessory that will influence playing style and affect the experience. It is almost, in its own way, a means of expression.
It’s with all of this in mind that we explored where to find a gaming keyboard in an article previously posted here. In that article, we highlighted a number of the things to consider when shopping around for a piece of equipment like this: whether it has programmable keys and built-in memory, what sort of keys are on the board, potential for additional attachments, and so on. These indeed are among the features and factors that differentiate gaming keyboards from one another. But they also speak to an interesting fact about these accessories, which is that they are ultimately highly customizable.
Careful shopping, and considerations of these factors, can land you with a gaming keyboard that has just about everything you’re looking for. But if you want to make more of a project out of it, there are also some things you can customize and engineer on your own — such as some of the following.
One of the quickest and most effective ways to turn a keyboard into something unique to your own experience is to customize the keycaps. Looking at how people have customized keycaps before gives you some idea of the variation in designs — from different colors, to special symbols on keys, and so on. Coming up with your own keycaps will make your keyboard look just the way you like, and if you combine this step with programmable keys, you may even be able to build in some unusual functions. You can go about doing this either by customizing keycaps through a related service or, potentially, by 3D printing your own.
The only way to bring about even more in-depth customization is to go beyond the keys and actually build your own PCBs. These are the printed circuit boards inside of keyboards, which take your keystrokes and turn them into functions by communicating electrical signals. PCB design is not something you can simply learn how to do in an hour — but it is something you can pick up in time. You can study keyboards’ PCBs and learn how to use a PCB stencil through widely available software programs. From there you can digitally design your own PCB and have it produced as the core of your very own keyboard. The benefit of going to this effort is that you can build in completely original functions (such as designating keys to open specific games from your desktop, as an example.
Your Choice of LEDs
If you look at enough examples of gaming keyboards, you’ll see them backlit in all sorts of interesting ways. Some brightly display individual colors; some have rainbow-like progression across keys; and some feature just a few colors used for different kinds of keys. Whatever the case, keyboards are backlit with tiny LEDs, which can be just about any color you like. Whether you find a manufacturer who will customize lighting to your desire, or you build your own board and choose LEDs directly, this is another great way to piece together a unique look.
Last but not least is unique casing. A keyboard’s case is basically the structure surrounding the keys, and encasing the electronics. And this, above all else, can be customized in all sorts of ways. From adding accessories (like pads for your wrist), to stickers and paint jobs, to 3D printing an entire case of your own, you can truly make it look and feel any way you like.
Through all of these features, a gaming keyboard can be built to your exact preferences. Done well, this can enhance your gaming experience and help the keyboard to contribute to your gaming atmosphere as well.