With all this time spent at home, my creative juices have been flowing, and the latest “build something” inspiration comes from a newfound group of keyboard enthusiast friends at work. (Shout-out to the #keebs group at Slickdeals!)
For those who may not know, “keebs” (a universal descriptor for keyboard lovers) appreciate the technology, aesthetics and minute details of all kinds of typing inputs. They’re also often found designing or buying custom/artisan keycaps to modify or even build a keyboard from scratch.
This fascination with a device that most people consider to be utilitarian, plus my passion for the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise (fueled by the recent global marketing efforts behind the upcoming Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time film) has me taking my first baby steps of creating a themed keyboard.
Using the newly-released Razer Huntsman Mini as a base, I set off to build a keyboard that resembled the popular Evangelion Unit-01.
The Building Blocks
For this EVA-01 build, my resources included:
- Razer Huntsman Mini Keyboard (Mercury White)
- Razer PBT Keycap Upgrade Set (Razer Green)
- Razer PBT Keycap Upgrade Set (Classic Black)
- Tamashii Nations NXEDGE Style Eva-01 (For Inspiration)
The Huntsman Mini was my foundation of choice for a number of reasons — the 60% form factor is popular because of its symmetry, portability, and the extra space it offers on the right side, which is important for FPS gamers like myself.
The detachable USB-C cable also adds to the convenience of traveling with this board — after all, part of the fun of modifying things is to show them off to friends!
I was really torn between the Mercury White and Classic Black versions of the Huntsman Mini, but ultimately went with white one. I felt that the bright matte finish of the aluminum body would be a better backdrop for the colors from the per-key Chroma RGB lighting to bounce off of.
Moving down the materials list, Razer’s PBT Keycap Upgrade Set — one of the better kept secrets of the site — comes in four colors so we can be all matchy-matchy with a Quartz Pink Blade laptop, or color code our WASD keys because we live our gaming lifestyles to the max.
In case you’re curious, PBT is a stronger type of plastic that’s more resistant to wear, and Razer’s keycap sets feature doubleshot molding, a superior manufacturing technique which results in thicker walls, zero lettering fade over time, and more vibrant backlighting.
Sadly, purple isn’t offered in the keycap sets, but the Razer Green color is almost spot-on for EVA Unit-01.
To start the build, I removed all of the Mercury keycaps using the handy tool that’s included with the upgrade set, which reveals Razer’s Purple switches. Was this a sign that I was always destined to build an Evangelion keyboard?! I’ll let you decide, but what’s definitely true is that these purple switches are fast, smooth and satisfying thanks to a 1.5mm actuation distance and an optical sensor. If clicky keys aren’t your thing, the Huntsman Mini can also be spec’ed with Razer’s Red linear optical switches.
Studying images of Evangelion Unit-01, the elements I really wanted to incorporate were the green bands throughout its armor, the subtle orange accents in the neck/upper chest area, and obviously, the signature purple hue of the body.
After sketching out a rough game plan, I poured the colored keycaps onto the table and started inserting them in place. A couple of iterations later, and here’s what I settled on in terms of key placements:
I tried my best to keep a symmetrical layout without making the configuration look too busy so that the Chroma lighting can shine through (pun intended!).
Finishing Touches – Razer Chroma RGB Lighting Design
The last layer of my Evangelion Huntsman Mini build involved programming the RGB lighting using Razer’s Synapse software.
This program provides intricate lighting controls with precision down to a single key. There are preset animations and colors, but the fun really starts when you begin layering and grouping effects to create a unique light show.
The first step was defining the color palette for the lighting, which can be done easily with the eyedropper tool — you can take a color sample of anything on your screen.
In actuality, the official color codes from the Evangelion series produced hues that were too faint for my taste, so I went with the default colors in the Razer Chroma app instead.
Here’s what my design looks like in the dark:
And when the room is lit:
Finally, for a bit of extra visual impact, I added a vertical purple wave animation for just the black keys, as if Unit-01 were being launched from underneath Tokyo-3.
So there you have it! My very first keyboard build, inspired by Evangelion. It was a fun evening of creativity and experimentation, and since I now have three full sets of keycaps, I can keep the fun going by modifying my other keyboards with white and green accents.
…what will I come up with next?