Ever wanted to get a keyboard with backlight but it’s not the colour you want? I got into the same situation. I couldn’t stand it. So I soldered my own LEDs on it. Here’s how you do it. We also have a video showing how I did the whole mechanical keyboard LED mod!
UPDATE: We just reviewed word from a brave modder, Immanuel Jungheim, who performed this exact same LED mod on the Ducky One 2 TKL – and it works!
In this entire guide, I’ll be featuring my Ducky One TKL non-backlit version which I own it personally.
[alert type=”info” icon-size=”normal”]This guide specifically uses DIP LEDs only. Do it at your own risk as you might void your warranty too![/alert]
TL;DR: Watch this video for a quick summary and preview on how it looks.
Firstly, my Ducky One TKL keyboard is the non-backlit version. I reviewed the Ducky One TKL backlit version before, and I found out that the blue light is just not my cup of tea. I thought hey – might as well get the non-backlit version then. Better yet, they told me the non-backlit version will be shipped with this configuration. Black keycaps with orange fonts. That’s exactly what I wanted!
When I was about to pick my personal unit of the Ducky One TKL, they told me apparently Malaysia is getting a different keycap. It’s going to be the exact same keycap as the Ducky One TKL backlit version. That means backlit keycaps for a non-backlit keyboard. I thought to myself – it’s not that bad, right?
Guys over at Ducky did give me some hints by telling me that I can solder my own LEDs if I wanted to. That time I just ¯_(ツ)_/¯ and moved on. I used the Ducky One TKL non-backlit version for like about 2 months until I realized how ugly it looks. I bought myself some LEDs then.
[nextpage title=”Inspecting the keyboard’s PCB”]Again, I did this specifically for the Ducky One TKL only. This keyboard seem to have resistors built into it too. Of course I opened the keyboard up to inspect before doing anything else.
There are many resistors on this keyboard, and it looks like there’s one for every key too. I didn’t have any specific tools to test if there is a resistor linked to every LED, so I took the bullet and assumed that it does. Keep in mind I’m not an expert in keyboard PCBs. I never did inspect any other keyboard’s PCB to be honest.
One thing I did realize is the LED holes are covered with solder already. I’m not sure why the manufacturer would do this as anyone who wants to perform the mechanical keyboard LED mod will have to remove solder from each and every LED hole. There’s 2 holes for each LED, so have fun removing over 150 of them.
[nextpage title=”Purchasing the LED”]They’re from China of course. These LEDs come in various sizes and colours, so make sure you get the correct ones for your mechanical keyboard LED mod. Onward with the research on which are the correct LED to use.
As the Ducky One non-backlit keyboard uses the classic Cherry MX switch with black casing, you’ll have to choose the correct LED size. For this I did a little research and found out 3mm DIP LEDs are perfect.
Another thing that I’ve found out though, is that at the base of LEDs, some of them have a lip. This illustration puts it out there very clearly showing the difference between the two. Remember to pick the LEDs without a base lip.
I got my LEDs from this store on Taobao.com. Obviously I chose orange LEDs here. It also satisfies the other conditions in choosing a compatible LED for the mechanical keyboard LED mod too.
- 3mm in size
- No base lip
- Has the colour I wanted
Pretty good to go. Made the purchase in a jiffy. Ordered 100 of them – even though I know I will have extras. Doesn’t hurt to have some extras actually, since I do expect myself to screw up.
[nextpage title=”Soldering the LEDs themselves”]This is no different form any soldering job. You’ll of course need these things before doing any soldering work.
- Soldering iron
- Solder sucker or solder wick
- Soldering sponge
- A fan
- Lots of patience
As I mentioned earlier – there are solder on the LED holes already. You’ll have to remove them one by one before inserting the LED through the keyswitch. There are many precautions to take while soldering too.
- Make sure the soldering iron isn’t too hot
- Do not heat the PCB for too long as it damages other components
- Do not roast yourself (I roasted my finger actually)
- Have great ventilation to prevent inhalation of solder smoke
I prepped a video for you on how it actually looks after soldering here. Check it out.
[nextpage title=”Wrap up”]Was It simple? Pretty much actually. I just had to solder the LEDs in, and it worked. While researching about this, Reddit user kschang pointed out that I will need to have to update to the backlit version’s firmware to get those effects working. These words are not his own, it’s from Ducky Taiwan themselves.
However that’s not the case. I didn’t have to update anything at all, and hitting FN+F10 changes backlit modes straight away.
Other than that, the only I want to say is the amount of DIP LED colours available to choose from. Seriously, this Taobao store is the one to visit when you’re choosing LEDs for a mod. There’s even a UV-LED for your keyboard! Imagine if you use a UV-reactive keycap – that’ll look great when it glows.
So are you going to mod your own keyboard? If you do, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook – I’ll be happy to help you in whichever way I can. If you did perform your own mechanical keyboard LED mod, send us a picture or video! We’ll feature it on our Facebook page for sure 😀