Whether it's in your studio, at an agency or office, working on our computer is a daily affair. It's part of our digital society and it's important to create a set up that's right for you, whether you use your keyboard mainly for shortcuts and quick edits, or you spend a lot of time crafting pitches. We often take a while to consider what will be the best laptop, tablet, drawing tablet or desktop computers for art and design – but less so on what keyboard we prefer.
When editing in the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, Final Cut Pro and other software, we learn the best shortcuts and rhythms of our creative process, but what if your keyboard could help you to work even more efficiently, and intuitively?
Here we have a list of best keyboards for designers, including keyboards with customisable dials, specific key lighting and keyboard shortcut covers for individual Adobe applications such as Photoshop and Lightroom. We've also included favourite keyboard accessories such as the best mini-keyboards and editing consoles on the market.
Some of the keyboards have full reviews, so make sure you check those out as well.
Best Keyboard Overall - Logitech Craft
This keyboard is helpful for anyone who uses Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Premiere Pro and Lightroom Classic CC – which is probably most of us. It works with both Mac and Windows for Adobe’s tools at least, and it’s backlit.
Logitech's new Craft aims to do more for your creativity than your average keyboard. It features a dial at the top left that you can use to control parameters in creative applications – as well as office software like PowerPoint and Word. Logitech calls this dial a Crown, and it works a bit like Microsoft's Surface Dial for the Surface Pro and Surface Studio (read our Surface Studio hands-on review).
In Photoshop, for example, twisting the Crown zooms you in and out. Tap on the top of the dial and parameters for the tool you are using appear – for example, if you’re using the Brush tool you see Size, Hardness, Opacity, and Flow. You can tap from one to another, adjusting each by rotating the dial as you go. Having a physical dial makes adjusting parameters easier than using on-screen sliders with a mouse (or a keyboard), as you can quickly make larger adjustments with a flick of your hand – then slowing your hand’s movement down to precisely select the value you want.
However, that the dial is on the left of the keyboard is bound to annoy some left-handed users who like to have their mouse or tablet on the left.
A new update for the Craft has just added support for Lightroom Classic CC; Adobe Reader DC and VLC Media Player on Windows; Preview, QuickTime and Safari; and Spotify for Mac and Windows.
To find out more about what the crown is capable to do, see our full feature.
Best Mechanical Keyboard - Keychron K1
We love mechanical keyboards at Digital Arts, but the wireless Keychron K1 has to be the best on the market - and at 18mm thin it's officially the world's slimmest mech-board, too. It's also one of the sleekest looking, especially surprising considering the low-price point. This is one keyboard that'll look great on any desk.
Another USP is that the Keychron is one of the rare mechanical keyboards to have all the Mac function keys, featuring every macOS function keys as seen on the Apple Magic. There's even a keyboard shortcut for Siri and Dictation featuring their iconic symbols, too.
Not a Mac user? No worries, as with a simple switch at the back you can toggle to Windows mode, and with the button for Siri you can summon the Cortana assistant if needed (choose the Windows variant at checkout if you'd, err, rather have a Cortana stamped key instead).
Also on the back there's a button to switch on your Bluetooth if you want to connect wirelessly - otherwise, just jack in a USB lead and you're good to go.
Talking of buttons, there's even a screenshot key that works for all platforms - so no need to hold down 'cmd + shift + 4' anymore. Wow.
Best Retro Keyboard - Azio Retro Classic
This backlit keyboard offers a classy vintage style. Although it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, and the keyboard weighs a hefty 1.5kg, it’s an impressive, handsome design. It’s all about the aesthetics, in other words.
If you’re a fan of tactile, mechanical keys (although they might be a little cold in the winter), and enjoy transporting yourself back a few decades – or you simply want your studio desk to look enviously slick, then this is the keyboard for you.
Azio are known for their sturdy keyboards aimed at gamers and hardcore typists, but its Retro Class keyboard combines modern technology with vintage good looks. This keyboard is all about the detail, such as its circular keys and aluminium plaque. The keys are backlit, with LEDs centred under each key for uniform light across the board. There are four models: Artisan, Psoh, Onxy and Elwood (seen here).
The Azio Retro Classic ships with a Windows layout, but includes Mac equivalents in the box. Simply pop off each PC key and swap them out, toggle a switch on back, and you’ve got a native Mac keyboard.
Read our full Azio Retro Classic review
Best Keyboard With Multi-coloured Lighting - Corsair K70 RGB
There’s no doubt about it – the Corsair K70 RGB Mechanical Keyboard is an eyesore. It’s aimed at heavy duty gamers (that goes without saying), but if you’re main priority is functionality over aesthetics, this could be for you.
The interesting feature on these keyboards is the ability to assign each key with its own unique backlighting colour (and intensity) for any function, so you can colour coordinate your shortcuts. This could be helpful if you’re a visual person.
Multicolor key bindings puts you in control, and can speed up your workflow if you’re working to a tight deadline. The Corsair Utility Engine (CUE) software makes it easy to set up sophisticated animated macros and lighting effects.
Change any key on the keyboard to a colour and brightness setting of your choice. You can create, save, and load custom patterns for your favourite shortcuts.
Best Full-format Mechanical Keyboard - Keychron K4
Above you will have seen our best mechanical keyboard, 2018's Keychron K1.
There have been two new versions since that release, both eschewing the K1's slick black look for a more retro flavour.
Each still keeps the backlights of the original, along with Mac/Windows interchangeability. They also look maintain that Keychron eye for good design.
All Keychron releases to date are tenkeyless - except for 2020's K4 release.
This version gives you a retro looking keyboard much like last year's K2, but of the same width as the K1.
A lot of keys on offer, then, but we're sad to report the K4 lacks the screenshot key of the other boards that we use so much for our visual workflow.
We were given the RGB backlight version of the K4 with a Red switch, and love how quiet the model sounds (unlike the K2 with Red switch that's covered below).
The backlights twinkle nicely, somehow blending in well with the chunky vintage look of the board as a whole. Definitely no glaring contrasts here.
Best Classic Mac Keyboard - Apple Magic Keyboard with Numeric Keypad
You can’t go wrong with buying a keyboard made by Apple, for your Apple iMac. Although this keyboard might not strike you as anything special, most Macs come with a shorter keyboard that doesn’t include the numeric keyboard, which actually can be helpful for shortcuts.
And the built-in, rechargeable battery is long-lasting, powering your keyboard for about a month or more between charges.You can choose to power this keyboard with Bluetooth or via a Lightning to USB cable.
Another option is to buy the Numeric Keypad separately, rather than buying a whole new keyboard, which leads us into our list of best accessories for designers.
Best Compact Mechanical Keyboard – Keychron K2
2019's K2 is the more compact of the new Keychron gens, the White Backlight version of which we were offered for review. That model is probably the most subtle, so don't expect any rainbow optics as you type.
Our White K2 also came with a 'Red' switch which is described on the Keychron site as 'quiet' but still sounds clicky, so be warned if you're hoping to use one in a shared space.
The biggest difference between this and the others is size, with the K2 a much more compact set of keys. If space is a concern, make this your mech keyboard of choice.
Best Keyboard Accessories
Rama Works M6 companion keyboard
Rama Works always offer stunningly designed keyboards and accessories, and the M6-A is no exception.
Switch-based buttons offer you a chance to set six preset options - perfect when looking for simple shortcuts in your workflow - and with no soldering needed, it's easily customisable. Just pop off a key and replace it with another from the gorgeous Rama Works keycap range.
We've played around with a rose gold collectors edition 'Liquid series' variant (pictured) and were impressed with not only its sleek design but also the M6-A's sturdy yet lightweight build.
Just as cool is the way it lights up when you plug it in to your desktop or Mac - all you need is the provided USB cable and you're good to go. Highly recommended, the Rama Works M6-A is definitely the best companion keyboard out there.
Loupedeck+ photo-editing console
This Loupedeck Plus is the next generation of the original 2017 model, a photo editing console specifically for Adobe Lightroom (any version above Lightroom 6), Premiere Pro and Photoshop, in addition to After Effects on both PC and Mac via a standard USB. It also works in conjunction with Editor Keys’ Adobe Lightroom keyboard.
Outside of Adobe, the console is compatible with Skylum Aurora HDR and has a beta integration with Capture One, too.
Using the Loupedeck+, you can control common functions, tools and settings within Adobe Lightroom using its various buttons and dials. Everything is customisable. However, the console isn’t cheap so make sure you’re going to use it.
Palette controller kit
If you need more control than a single dial, check out Palette – which is a collection of interconnected dials, buttons and sliders that can work with many of Adobe's applications as well as Final Cut Pro - but note the slider is unable to reset from the last setting used, making it useless when working on more than one image.
Each control sits on its own satisfyingly solid module, which you can connect together in any layout you wish – with a command module connecting your setup to your Mac or PC over USB.
There are three kits available, each with the command module and a number of others, and you can buy additional modules separately. The Standard Kit has two buttons, a dial and a slider. The Expert Kit has two buttons, three dials and two sliders. The Professional Kit has four buttons, six dials and four sliders.
Delux Designer mini-keyboard
We've liked this mini-keyboard's style since it appeared as a prototype last year; a final product seems to have shipped out last autumn following successful crowd-funding, but it may be hard to get your hands on one now.
The Delux Designer give you only the half of the keyboard you really use while drawing or doing layouts using a drawing tablet – plus a dial for zoom, brush sizes, opacity or just to jack up your volume when an absolute banger comes on Spotify.
It supports Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Maya, Rhino – plus other 3D and CAD applications.
Learn more in our look at the prototype here.
Editors Keys keyboard Covers
Although this keyboard company primarily sells keyboards for sound editing, audio editing and video editing, it’s created handy keyboard covers of Adobe shortcuts for Mac and PC, including for the Microsoft Surface Pro.
Editors Keys has a range of separate keyboard covers with shortcuts specifically for all of Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications, such as Photoshop, InDesign, Lightroom, After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut Pro X and many more.
The good thing about these keyboard covers is the fact they’re affordable, and they prove helpful protection - so your real keys won’t get dusty or suffer from spillages.
Buy: You can take a look at the whole range of keyboard covers here. An Editors Keys Adobe Photoshop Keyboard Cover for Macbook and iMac cost £27.99/US$39.98.
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