Restore Painted Letters on Keyboard Keys





Introduction: Restore Painted Letters on Keyboard Keys

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

My laptop and our new desktop computer have cool looking black keys with white painted letters. After a while, certain keys lose their painted letters from fingernail strikes. Note the A, S, D, H, L, E, R, T, O, N, and M keys. In low light it can be hard to find the right key. There is a way to restore the damaged keys without paying the price of a new keyboard for caps.

Step 1: Use Your Word Processor

Type the damaged letters in your word processor. Use the Arial font. I set the font size at 22 points. I elected to have the color of the letters as white and the background color black. In Writer you pull down Format and select Character. Then look for Background and Font Effects.

Step 2: Blacken Around the Letters

After printing the letters you need, use a felt tip marker to blacken a bit more border around them.

Step 3: Apply Clear Tape to the Letters

Paper letters would not wear well on a keyboard. Cover them with a good quality of clear tape. The light areas over the A and between the E and R are from light reflecting off of the tape.

Step 4: Add Double Sided Tape to the Back

Pull the long leader from a roll of double sided tape and apply the tape to the back side of the letters you printed. As you can see, I used a piece of scrap paper for this project.

Step 5: Cut the Letters Apart and Apply

Cut the letters apart one by one with a scissors and apply them to the keys as you cut each. The reflection of the flash makes the new letters appear especially light in shade, but that is an illusion.

It works better to make the letters a bit smaller than the key surface. Notice the T. Smaller is better than an edge that extends beyond the key surface and continually catches on your fingers as you type. If a letter is poorly aligned after you apply it, peel it off and apply it again.

Refurbishing painted letters damaged by fingernail contact makes your keyboard easier to use, even though you know how to touch type and even though they are not a perfect replacement. They also seem to wear well and the touch of your fingers on them is nearly identical to a keyboard without the new additions to your keyboard.



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    37 Discussions

    Um, great idea, but I'm terminally lazy - I mean, efficient! I fixed mine by using my P-touch label maker. Can anyone tell me why manufacturers insist on labeling the keys off-center? I AM, after all, old enough to remember typewriters. LOL

    3 replies

    Re. offset letters; keyboards for languages with accented characters or additional letters place these glyphs in the other corner, accessed with the Alt-Gr shift key.


    b1russell, I believe it's meant to prevent their rubbing off so quickly. The keyboard I have now has the letters in the center and they've worn off faster than any keyboard I've ever had, within a very few months of buying it brand new. Seven years later, you may not stlll have this question but perhaps it'll help someone else.

    A P-touch label maker would be a very good idea. Can you get black tape and make white letters on it? I have only an old-style Dymo raised plastic letter label maker from the late-1960's.

    Simplest way to have letters and digits engraved on the keys by the OEMs. The grooves then can be filled with white paste as and when required.

    I used my french manicure pen.The white tip on it is perfect to paint the letters on your keyboard.Wipe your keyboard off with alcohol, let it dry.print your letters on,let dry for a couple minutes, use clear polish when your paint is dry..easy.

    5 replies

    OMG! Haahaa I just came down here to write the same thing. I happen to have it on my desk at the moment and used it rather than the instructable. We're great minds. :)

    MoobL or Lanilea - Can you please tell me which french manicure pen you used? I was going to buy Sally Hansen White Tip Pen but the reviews weren't great. Thanks!

    I'm almost positive mine was Kiss brand. I bough it from a store here called Fred's. It's a Pharmacy and a small store. Basically a store like Walgreens, CVS, etc. Kiss is an inexpensive brand. If you're looking for quality for your nails, I suggest Essence. I've never had chipping or flaking with Essence pens.

    Good luck.

    Good Instructable! Though I had no idea how fiddly double sided tape is! I think I spent more time trying to peel the tape and position it on the keys than I would have if I'd replaced the keyboard. ;)

    7 replies

    I made a mistake. I meant to say to make a VERTICAL slit, not diagonal. Just find a corner and slit 1/2" into the corner , so straight down.

    I had the same problem, especially when the cut letters are so small. I solved the problem by turning over the cutout letter, taking an exacto knife and making a half inch diagonal slit into one corner. You don't want to go all the way through, so you need not press hard. Then I slid the exacto point under one side of the slit. It raises that part and you can peel off the back.

    The double sided tape I used came on a roll in a dispenser. There is no backing on it, but the adhesive is not very strong, either.

    Some keys on my wife's notebook computer lost their lettering. I now have Brother P-Touch label maker. I got a black tape (white letters) cartridge for it and replaced damaged letters on my wife's computer. The label tape is holding up well and looks great. If you can, try this. I think you will be pleased. (To remove the backing from the P-Touch labels, gently fold the finished label lengthwise. The backing slit runs down the middle and will begin to separate from the label so you can remove it very easily.)

    Thanks Phil, I'll try that on the next keyboard.

    Well I did it with the P-touch I use at work, but the label is composed of 2 folds and after a while the top fold get away and you get sticky keys. I will try the clear nail polish with the printed letter on the Text Processor.

    I have a P-touch labeler now, but have not tried it on keys. I have used it on all sorts of things, but have never had part of a label come loose. I even put a label on a mug and it goes through the dishwasher.

    Well by pressing on key with a finger pressure, heat, humidity from the air and the "acid" of the perspiration of the fingers, believe me, the top fold of the P-touch labels will slowly but surely go away, letting a sticky surface on the key. You get the "letter" label (which has move on the key) still on the key but the clear fold get away.

    I just finish renewing my laptop keyboard with printed letters with clear nail polish... Superb ! I will see how long it will last.

    And by the way I customized some keys, by erasing some symbols I never use, or by erasing the second language text on some keys.

    Clean keys with alcohol, put some polish on the key, adjust printed letter on the key, recover the all with a layer of polish.

    I will probably put a second layer of polish tomorrow.

    So a big big thank you for your tip !

    I posted a picture of my renewed keyboard. Some key are not dry enough but I get my "I" "E" "S" back !


    An oldie but a goodie. Some great ideas in the thread comments as well. I have been buying stick-on decals, but they wear out too, and it's annoying when you only need a few keys. Will be trying the label-maker approach next.