Keycaps are printed one-at-a-time on pad-printing machines. Keycaps are then heated to 'diffuse' the ink into the surface. Legend and keycap colors are limited with this process. Light colored keycaps with dark legends work best. Sublimation will greatly increase the usable life, as the ink diffuses .002-.003 into the surface. Sublimated keycaps are made from polyester (Velox) plastic.
Keycaps are placed in a fixture and printed using dry transfer paper. Sublimation takes place between the heated keycap/paper combination. Multiple legend colors can be printed in one pass. Same life and wear as wet sublimation. Fixturing costs are generally high, but overall costs are low if a large number of sets are produced.
Artwork for pad-printing & sublimation
Artwork can be customer supplied. Preferable is 1:1 emulsion-side down film. Camera ready artwork may be supplied at 2:1, preferably reversed.