A good portion of the mechanical keyboard community focuses on custom and artisan keycaps. In search for a cool cap to adorn my own keyboard, I found a 3D maker shop on Shapeways with an adorable sloth head model. I purchased one in the basic white plastic and used acrylic paint in multiple layers to bring the sloth to life. The addition of googly eyes came with the discovery of a forgotten craft box I'd never unpacked; the eyes were the perfect size to fit in the hollowed out shape that allowed for backlighting.
Upon sharing with the community, I had a good response to others wanting one, and so I contacted the creator of the 3D model with thoughts of running a group buy. Fortunately the creator was enthusiastic about the idea and allowed me a small bulk sale of the printed plastic caps. With these in hand, I propped each MX stem onto a thin wood skewer and stuck these skewers into a small assembly line in floral foam.
I started the process by sanding each to buff out the printer marks. Two layers of off-white primer were applied before going through another light sanding. Using my original painted cap and the reference photos I'd worked off of, I painted base coats of light ochre, burnt sienna, and burnt umber as undercoats to the basic colors of the sloth's facial features and hair. Details were added varying layers of light and dark hues. Each cap was then applied with a layer of semi-gloss clear coat.
To approximately half the caps I added the googly eyes. This was done by placing a thin line of super glue around the outer edge of the eye holes and then using a small dab of hot glue to hold the eye in place. Finishing touches around the eyes, nose, mouth, and edges were added before completing the caps with a painted layer of clear coat.
I used these caps as an opportunity to set up a small product shot studio at home. Using an existing shelf on the wall and an unused desk, I purchased white vinyl banner, clamp lights, and old lamp shades. With these I made a rolling backdrop and softboxes, the first iteration of my light box setup. The photos were shot in RAW with my DSLR and then edited through Photoshop.
I launched the Group Buy online to the mechanical keyboard community and got a great response, selling most of the stock I made. To package and mail each keycap, I bought those clear pop-top containers found in toy quarter machines at the grocery store and cut out green paper leaves to curl around the keycap stuck inside. These provided not only protection from damage in the mail but also a fun experience in opening a new purchase.
There are still a few keycaps available for purchase if you find your keyboard in need of slow escape. Visit the LCD Store.