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Next-Level Keycap Craftsmanship: The 'Forbidden Realm' Series

The keycaps that came with your mechanical keyboard are probably cheap and boring. There are snazzy custom sets that can liven things up, but you can also get a single keycap that looks absolutely amazing. Jelly Key is one of the more well-known makers of so-called "artisan keycaps," and it's just unveiled the most stunning design we've ever seen--the Forbidden Realm series, which looks like a tiny world inside a keycap.

Jelly Key, which is part of Vietnamese design company Joinhandmade, began offering artisan keycaps a little over a year ago. The first designs were nowhere near as intricate as Forbidden Realm, but the offerings have gotten consistently more impressive. Some of its past caps have sold for $20 or $30, which is cheap for an artisan of this caliber. However, more complicated designs like Forbidden Realm will cost more when they launch.

Each Jelly Key keycap is literally handmade, and the materials vary considerably from one keycap to the next. Forbidden Realm uses a wood-and-resin construction, which was used on the similar (but much less complex) Oasis keycaps. According to Jelly Key, these caps are "inspired by the greatness of nature." Each one has waves of color and protuberances of wood visible in the clear resin, which makes it look like a tiny landscape.

They’ll fit on any mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX-style switches. The cap is the same height and shape as an SA row 3 cap; thus, it's slightly taller and chunkier than a regular OEM cap on the top row, which is where most people stick artisans. Still, it will instantly be the prettiest keycap on your keyboard--if you can get one, that is. There are only three of these keycaps in the world right now.

Giveaways And Group Buys

Jelly Key is in the process of giving away the three prototype caps, which are called Cloudy Cliff, Purple Valley, and Cyan Lake. Your best bet to win one is probably the /r/mechanicalkeyboards subreddit giveaway (for the Purple Valley cap), which will wrap up later today. The other two will be given away via the Jelly Key and /r/mechanicalkeyboards Discord channels.. If you win one of the caps, Jelly Key will probably follow up to make sure the cap holds up to being on a keyboard, and then it'll plan a full production run.

Some artisans make only a few caps, and you need to pray to random number generator gods to get a chance to buy one. Jelly Key runs its new caps as group buys, which means everyone orders their caps, and then the company makes the necessary number. If you don't join the group buy, you won't be able to get a cap.

The wait time for Jelly Key artisans to be shipped is usually two or three months after the group buy finishes. You'll probably pay $50-60 for one of these Forbidden Realm caps when the sale goes live. For the time being, just cross your fingers and try to win one.

  • Blinken
    The Cyan Lake cap was already given away and there's no indication these will be offered as group buys.
    Sometimes they just do that and a handful of people get a very unique keycap, while others who participate in the group buys sometimes end up with keycaps that don't come quite close to what was pictured: https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/6nlaod/help_i_just_got_my_oasis_cap_from_jellykey_is/
    Reply
  • bit_user
    How hard would it be to 3D print something like this?

    Obviously, you'd need a 3D printer that can automatically switch between materials (one of them being transparent). The other question would be about the resolution that 3D printers could handle.

    If both of those issues can be addressed, then mass producing keycaps like this or whatever else you can imagine & model should be very doable and probably cheaper than what hand made caps cost (assuming you're willing to compromise on the materials and potential lack of uniqueness).

    Another idea would be for someone to sell "make your own keycap" kits, that would include the necessary resins and molds.
    Reply
  • Rock_n_Rolla
    On top view, looks like a pretty old key from some other 90s model keyboard thats been dipped into muriatic acid or burned with cigarette flame lol.. :-P
    Reply
  • These guys have a nice scam business model going on. How long does it take a person to make one of those? An hour? A day? The average salary in Vietnam is $6.50 a day. So they make these, sell them $60/pop, for a single key-cap, but keep the demand high by doing single runs and group buy pre-orders. They also prevent buyer remorse by packaging the single key-cap in a nice wooden box! If ever there was a Veblen good, this is it.
    Reply
  • Glock24
    They look, nice, but what's the point? I don't think it's practical to have a keyboard with landscape images in every key, unless of course, you know the location of all the keys by memory.
    Reply
  • 19949780 said:
    They look, nice, but what's the point? I don't think it's practical to have a keyboard with landscape images in every key, unless of course, you know the location of all the keys by memory.

    At the cost of $60/key, you're not going to do the whole keyboard. You just replace a single key, or a few, for style. Doing every key would cost you $6240 typical keyboard.
    Reply
  • Rob1C
    What's up with this Website and the Firefox Browser?

    I'm using the Mobile version and can't see any Article's images (except ADs, Banner, 'Share Icons', etc.), even tried checking Desktop Mode; nothing (except the 'Magnifying Glass +' which doesn't work).
    Reply
  • bit_user
    19949107 said:
    These guys have a nice scam business model going on. How long does it take a person to make one of those? An hour? A day?
    Yeah, um, relax. I'm sure enterprising folks are already hard at work on cheaper ways to make these (perhaps along the lines of one of the ideas I listed).

    IMO, it's not really a scam unless they're truly mass produced and only marketed as unique, hand-made one-offs. But if people know they're getting something purely decorative and what they receive looks approximately like they expected, then how is this any worse than any other kind of art or decoration? As I'm sure you know, the sky's the limit for what you can spend on art or "designer" items.

    BTW, is your pic of someone famous?
    Reply