How to Build a DIY QMK-Powered Macro Keypad

Whether or not you’re a Twitch streamer, a 3D designer, or simply about every other kind of laptop consumer, macro keypads (also referred to as macro pads or macro keyboards) can come in useful. Performing as an auxiliary keyboard, these small units will be loaded with shortcuts, macros, and different keyboard instructions to make it potential so that you can deal with complicated actions with a single keypress.

As a substitute of shopping for a macro keypad, why not make one your self? We’ll present you the way to use mechanical keyboard switches, an Arduino, and QMK’s keyboard firmware to get began.

macro keyboard tools

You’ll want some instruments and components to your macro keypad construct. You need to be capable of get all of them on-line.

The Instruments:

  • 3D printer (or a neighborhood 3D printing service)
  • Soldering iron
  • Screwdriver/hex key (to match your bolts)
  • Wire cutters/strippers

The Components:

  • 3D printer filament of your selection (we used PLA and PETG)
  • Arduino Professional Micro
  • 8 x Cherry MX-style mechanical key switches
  • 8 x Keycaps (re-legendable keycaps work properly)
  • 2 x M3 bolts
  • Silicon (not PVC) coated wire
  • Double-sided tape or superglue (to mount the Arduino)

The best way to Construct a Hand-Wired Macro Keypad

After getting all your components helpful, will probably be time to start out your macro keypad construct. This course of will be fiddly and difficult, however it should even be satisfying when you get to the tip of it. Let’s dive proper into the work that you must do.

Step 1: Print the Case and Backplate

3d-printing macro keyboard backplate

First, that you must print out the case and backplate to your macro keypad. We didn’t make the 3D fashions for this undertaking; we discovered them on Thingiverse. The Stream Cheap Mini Macro Keyboard was initially constructed by DaveM, although we’ve modified the method to the soldering and keyboard firmware to make it a bit of simpler.

macro keyboard sliced

We used PLA for the bottom part of the keyboard and PETG for the backplate, however you’ll be able to use any type of filament you want. Ours didn’t require helps, rafts, or every other additions. It may be price experimenting along with your print settings if you’re new to 3D printing, and people utilizing native printing retailers will be capable of get recommendation for his or her print settings.

If you happen to print at dwelling, it is sensible to make use of the time it takes to print your keypad to work on the opposite undertaking parts.

Step 2: Construct Your Keyboard Configuration

keyboard layout making

Earlier than you can begin wiring something up, that you must construct a configuration to your keypad that may allow it to work correctly. You’ll must go to a few completely different web sites for this. The primary is Keyboard Layout Editor. You should utilize this website to create a keyboard structure just like the one within the picture above, then go to the Uncooked Information tab and duplicate the straightforward code discovered inside.

The following website you will have to go to is named Keyboard Firmware Builder. As its identify suggests, this website permits you to create keyboard firmware that’s powered by QMK, whereas additionally offering you with a straightforward manner to determine your Arduino pins. This a part of the method takes a couple of completely different steps.

keyboard firmware builder import

  • Step 1: Paste your keyboard structure code into the field and click on Import.

keyboard firmware builder wiring tab

  • Step 2: Be sure that the Wiring tab matches the picture above; this exhibits a primary map of the wiring that you’ll be utilizing.

keyboard firmware builder pin layout

  • Step 3: Go to the Pins tab and select pins that work for the microcontroller that you’re utilizing (we’re utilizing an Arduino Professional Micro). We used F4 and F6 for our two rows, and B5, E6, B6, and B3 for our 4 columns. This was finished principally for comfort, as it may be simpler to solder wires onto the Arduino when they’re spaced out.

keyboard firmware builder keymap

  • Step 4: Now it’s time to arrange your key mapping. We used F14 to F21 for our keyboard, as these keys can be found in macOS and Home windows however keyboards don’t are likely to have them. Choose a key and click on on the field under Configure Chosen Key to decide on the command you need for every key.

keyboard firmware builder export hex file

  • Step 5: Head to the Compile tab and click on Download .hex to retrieve the firmware you could have simply constructed.

Hold a maintain of this firmware, as you will have it afterward. First, although, it’s time to wire up the Arduino and switches you’re utilizing.

Step 3: Wire Up the Arduino and Switches

switches in backplate

Wiring up your Arduino along with your switches is a reasonably easy course of. We began by slicing out lengths of wire in two colours. You want two wires to your rows and 4 wires to your columns, and we used pink and black respectively.

precut switch wire

Subsequent, it’s time to start out soldering wires to the legs in your switches. Be sure that your switches are in the proper positions clipped onto the backplate earlier than you begin this. Because the switches want to connect to the wire at completely different factors, we discover that it’s best to chop sections out of the wire insulation, as seen within the picture above.

complete backplate soldering

We began by soldering the wires for our rows to the proper leg of every swap, adopted by the wires for our columns within the left legs. See the picture above for an concept of what this appears like when it’s finished.

finished wiring on macro keypad

Subsequent up, will probably be time to solder the wires you’ve simply put in onto the Arduino board you’re utilizing. This course of must be simple, as we’ve already discovered the place every wire must be connected. The photograph above exhibits how this could look whenever you’re completed. Simply six wires, so good and easy.

Associated: The 9 Best Soldering Irons for Beginners

Step 4: Load QMK Onto Your Keypad


Earlier than you go any additional with the construct of the keypad, it’s time to load the firmware you made earlier onto your Arduino to ensure that every thing works correctly. You will have to obtain a bit of software program known as QMK Toolbox from GitHub to undergo this course of, and the installer you need will be discovered within the Releases part of the undertaking.

With QMK Toolbox put in, you’ll be able to plug your Arduino into your PC utilizing a micro USB cable. This could make the board flash, and your OS might offer you a notification to let you know {that a} gadget has been plugged in.


Now you’ll be able to load QMK Toolbox. Choose Open subsequent to the highest bar, and select the .HEX file you downloaded earlier. Earlier than you’ll be able to set up this file in your Arduino, that you must put your board into its Bootloader mode. This may be achieved by shorting the Reset and Floor pins. We used a small piece of wire to do the job.

qmk toolbox flash board

As soon as the board is in the proper mode, you solely have a couple of seconds to hit the Flash button within the QMK Toolbox software program. In case you are profitable, your display screen ought to appear like the one above, however you’ll be able to at all times strive once more in the event you don’t handle to flash to board in time.

Step 5: Testing the Keyboard

keyboard tester

Testing is vital everytime you work with an Arduino, as you’ll be able to usually save lots of time in the event you establish points early on. We used a web site known as Keyboard Checker to check our work. This website tells you the final key that was pressed, even when not included within the graphic; good for a keyboard utilizing greater F keys. Simply be sure all your keys work earlier than going ahead.

Step 6: Assemble the Macro Keyboard

arduino in macro keyboard case

It’s lastly time to assemble your keyboard. Begin by attaching the Arduino to the within of the case. You should utilize double-sided tape for this, however we opted for superglue to get the absolute best maintain. You have to just remember to place your Arduino in order that your USB cable can insert totally into the gadget.

built macro keyboard

Subsequent, it’s time to connect the backplate to the principle keyboard physique. If you happen to’ve used PLA to your print, it is possible for you to to easily screw your M3 bolts into the holes at either side of the backplate. For tougher supplies, although, you could want to make use of a faucet to create a thread. Be sure that every key works correctly upon getting tightened the bolts.

Lastly, you’ll be able to add your keycaps to the highest of your keyboard and begin utilizing it.

Utilizing Your Macro Keyboard

Most software program will let you change the default keybindings discovered inside, which ought to make it simple to make use of your macro keyboard for a number of various purposes. You can additionally think about the thought of constructing firmware with extra complexity. The web site we used earlier lets you add layers, macros, and even lighting to your keyboard.

Whether or not you’re feeling adventurous or not, we hope that you simply benefit from the macro keyboard you make. This undertaking is nice enjoyable, whereas additionally providing a strategy to study soldering and keyboard constructing.

Macro keyboard button press
The 6 Best Apps to Automate Your Keyboard and Mouse

Macros let you automate button presses in games and applications to control delayed responses. Here are some apps for it!

Read Next

About The Creator | The best way to Construct a DIY QMK-Powered Macro Keypad


Inter Reviewed is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button