Where is the other half of my keyboard? - Delux T11 Designer Keypad review

Reviews November 15. 2018

This is the first keyboard digitalEPIGRAPHY is going to review that is oriented specifically towards digital artists, illustrators and graphic designers, therefore we are very excited to share our thoughts after spending 2 months with the device. We’ve already included the Delux designer in our recommended Tools section, but today we’d like to dig a little deeper and point out its strengths and shortcomings when using in the studio. Although the device itself is relatively small and light it is not suited for being used in the field. In stark contrast with Wacom’s Express Key remote, it connects with your computer with a USB/Type-C cable, there is no wireless option offered at the moment. 

Hardware

The Delux Designer keyboard is unique for its size. It is compact, requires only a small space on your desk and practical enough to fit into your backpack for when you are on the go. Furthermore, the keyboard has a curved front lip, allowing you to rest your hand on it which is very important if you are going to use it for long hours.

The keypad has mechanical key switches, meaning that every click has a satisfying tactile feel to it. The downside of using a mechanical keyboard is that they are loud, but we don’t mind the clicking sound because that's easily compensated by the good feeling of the click. The device is about as thick as any typical plastic keyboard, but the design and build quality of this backlit keyboard is excellent. The body is made of brushed aluminum that feels good to the touch. The edges are beveled and polished. One shortcoming for some is that the only convenient placement for the device is on your left. This comes from the positioning of the keypad’s specialty, which is the knob, that is supposedly operated by your thumb and index finger. This might come as bad news for left-hand artists, although, according to Delux, there is a left-handed version in the works.

Now we’d like to talk about the most important aspect of the keypad, namely its day-to-day use in the studio. First, let us elaborate a little bit on the key arrangement. Besides having a dedicated Numerical key, there are three Memory keys, each allowing you to assign a dedicated set of shortcuts to one of your preferred software. For example, you can have M1 dedicated to Photoshop, M2 dedicated to Illustrator and the third one set up for Affinity designer or any other program. Naturally, you can switch between them by pressing the relevant M key and the active key lights up. For each set, you can configure specific keyboard shortcuts for the 10 shortcut buttons provided (0-9). In addition to those 10 buttons, there are also the , Z, X, C, V and the modifier keys: Shift, Control, FN and Alt. So basically, with the default settings, in addition to the 10 shortcut buttons, you can undo, cut, copy and paste. Unfortunately for Mac users, the FN key can’t be mapped to Command just yet, but it is promised to come in a future update. 

Photo by Delux

The multi-functional dial

Before we are getting into our specific customization regarding inking in the studio, we’d like to say a few words about the multi-functional dial. This knob comes with various additional commands you can choose from by clicking or clicking and holding while turning it left or right. For example, if you want to change brush size or zoom in and out in Photoshop, you can do so with the dial. However, digitalEPIGRAPHY’s experience with this particular feature wasn’t as buttery smooth as advertised, with the knob-button sometimes being unresponsive. We are certain that these software kinks can be easily worked out in future updates and once the knob was set to a specific task, execution was not a problem for us. 

Setting up Shortcuts

As you can see on the above screenshot, my Delux Keypad is using M1 set for Photoshop-specific shortcuts. These have a close resemblance of my other devices’ settings (including Astropad Studio and the Wacom Express Key Remote) for the ease of use. The top row is used for step back (Cmd+Z) and step forward (Shift+Cmd+Z), smoothing on/off (Alt+1and Alt+7), lasso tool (L) and right click and the middle row is used for switching between brush (B), eraser (E) and pattern stamp tools (S), save (Cmd+S) and rotate canvas (R). I reserved the bottom row for Cmd(luckily you can customize any of these keys to execute the Cmd key on the Mac) and for some more complex tasks I execute often when inking, such as stroke path (Ctrl+Cmd+S) and delete path (Ctrl+Cmd+G). Finally, I set my last key in the bottom left corner to deselect (Cmd+D). With the addition of the modifier keys Esc, Tab, Space, Delete and Enter, this little device provides a plethora of options for our daily studio work. In fact, there are a lot more options here than on my Wacom Express Key Remote, while arranged in a more orderly fashion. I don’t want to suggest that I like the Designer Keypad better, but I have accustomed to the luxury and comfort of having all the tools I might need right underneath my left hand, whenever I need them. However, I’m not going to play with all the different knob settings for the time being, I just set it up to zoom in and out of my canvas and it works like a charm. 

There is an option in the designer keyboard to dig even deeper into customization, called macros. This key feature adds the ability to program multi-step command sequences, just like you would in Photoshop’s Actions tab. Having the ability to program your own macros can save a lot of time for those who go through certain processes or steps frequently. At the end of the day, the Delux T11 Designer Keypad is not an overly complicated product to get accustomed with. Once you go through their manual and download the client software to your computer, getting started with it depends only on the time it takes for you to setup your favorite shortcuts. Saving time when working on complex drawings in the studio cannot be overrated, therefore we should be thankful for any help we can get during this process. The Delux Designer is a relatively new product and some of its initial kinks need to be worked out, but it can already speed up one’s workflow tremendously. 

Delux T11 Designer Keypad costs $69,99 right now. To purchase the device and learn more about it, we recommend visiting the digitalEPIGRAPHY Tools menu. Some of the most popular buying options either in silver on grey can be found directly at Delux or through Amazon US,  Amazon UK and Aliexpress. Now, that Delux's original Kickstarter campaign has ended, the company has stared accepting preorders of the Designer Keyboard on Indiegogo.

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