How to Pimp Your Keyboard




Stuck with a dull old 90's keyboard? Want a cool blue backlit keyboard on the cheap? Say no more...I'll show you how to upgrade your sleep-inducing boring old keyboard into the next century.

Step 1: Tools and Materials You'll Need:


- 1 dull keyboard
- 3...6 high brightness LEDs (I used blue, but you can use any color you want, or even mix)
- current limiting resistors (depends on keyboard voltage and LEDs, see further)
- wire, not to thick.


- soldering iron
- glue gun
- dremel
- small drill
- sharp knife
- screwdrivers know, the usual stuff.

Step 2: Disecting Your Keyboard

Locate the screws on the backside and open your keyboard. Don't force it if it doesn't open easily after you think you removed all screws ;sometimes they hide a screw under a label.
Remove the bottom part with the electronics and put it asside for now. On most of these old keyboards the top part will just hold the keys themselves.

Step 3: Decide Where to Put the LEDs

On the inside of the top of the keyboard, locate the spots where you want to put the LEDs.
Some hints:

- make sure there is enough room for the LEDs to fit. I didn't at first and had to use an electric paint stripper to soften up the plastic to get the LED in position.
- it might be a better idea to use 3mm instead of 5mm LEDs, a I did.
- try to pick some spots where LEDs shine inbetween the rows of the keys, so the light gets spread under them.
- keep in mind each LED will also get one resistor, so you'll need room for that too.

Once your happy with the spots:

- remove the keys on the top near the LEDs choosen position
- mark the spots
- start drilling, using a drill slightly bigger than the LED . Give the LEDs some room so you can point them in the right direction, we'll fix em later with the hot glue gun.

Step 4: Mount the LEDs

Put the LEDs in the holes to see if they fit. if they don't enlarge the hole with the dremel or a file or whatever. Remove burrs with a sharp knive, remove plastic dust.

Now, on the bottom side of the keyboard (with the controller) locate GND and VCC near the connector where the cable gets in. Use a voltmeter for this. I found 4.5V supply voltage. No idea if this is a "standard" keyboard voltage.
Then calculate the current limiting resistors you need, using ohms law. I choose 15mA for the LED current. The blue LEDs from my junkbox had a drop of 4V@15mA (must be really crappy ones).
Solder a resistor to each LED.
Solder wires to the LEDs ( white=VCc, green=GND in the pictures)
Do a dry test with a battery or power supply.

Happy? Position the LEDs in such a way as that they shine in between the rows of keys.Get medieval with the glue gun and fix their position.

Step 5: Key Cutouts:

if you use 5mm LEDs (as I was stupid enough to do) it might be that the keys near the LED are blocked, so mark where it is stuck, get the dremel out and remove the offending plastic from the keys.

Step 6: Route and Solder the Wire

Route the wire towards the controller. Use the hot glue gun to fix it every 5 cm or so.
Make sure your wire uses a path that doesn't interfere with the keys functioning.
You might have to cut away some plastic on the inside here and there, to get your wires through.
Then solder the wires to the power points (observe polarity).
With the keyboard open and connected to your computer, do another dry test.

Step 7: Close It Up and Enjoy.

Close the keyboard making sure none of the wires gets squashed. Replace all screws.
turn over and hookup.Pray everything still works and switch on.
Enjoy your newly pimped ultra-cool backlit keyboard!

Step 8: Some Ideas and Hints

The pictures only show how to put the two LEDs to the left in. The procedure is the same for more LEDs.
You might want to experiment using different colors. For example blue on the left side and yellow on the right to make a nice gradient.
I recently added some more LEDs, in the top row, however the "backlit" effect works better if the LEDs are inbetween rows, like the ones on the left and right.



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33 Discussions


7 years ago on Step 7

wow !!!!!!! ..... im gonna try tht ........


10 years ago on Introduction

do you think it would be possible to do this witht a macbook keyboard...does anyone know of a keyboard that i can buy for a macbook that illuminates?

3 replies

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

I'm not sure, since I don't have a macbook. but if you decide to do this yourself, it is better to use 3mm LEDs or even SMDs and not 5mm's as I did.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

i found 3mm high flux leds's they're kinda flat so possibly i can kinda inlay them throughout the keyboard


9 years ago on Introduction

I have this exact keyboard (or at least a very similar one) and i modded it to Dvorak.  In Dvorak, because the keys from different rows are different heights, it has a nice wavy three dimensional effect.


9 years ago on Introduction

Cool, good idea for people who can't afford real gaming keyboards.


looks awesome may have to do this when i get the parts and will be awesome for gaming at night when i cant see the keys and might put one in my mouse.

1 reply

10 years ago on Introduction

Dude, this is really cool. Im doing this and am planning on adding a layer of aluminum foil underneath the LEDs. Totally cool.

2 replies

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

No it's not, use aluminum tape instead. It sticks my itself, and it's a lot more smooth (and flat)!


10 years ago on Introduction

I'm curious. Could you use EL wire as the light source instead? Is there any way to make the light illuminate the charactars on the keys? I'd like to try this on one with flatter buttons (possibly using RGB LEDs).

4 replies

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

you could try EL foil. it can be cut in all sizes. make sure upfront you can fit everything in the keyboard.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

I thought they only made EL wire and panels... Does it glow on both sides? Here's why I ask-look at this picture: I had an idea for a CTF (Capture the Flag) set that you can see in the dark. Although you can't hide them well, it was made to be played in the woods at night (thought possibly not the safest activity). The trick is to get the cloth to glow.


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

That shouldn't be a problem...I'll just need two pieces back to back. I'd probably use white and have the color cloth of my choice covering it. Thx for your help