Introduction: Cheap and Easy Toner Transfer for PCB Making

Picture of Cheap and Easy Toner Transfer for PCB Making

There are lots of people mentioned about using Inkjet Glossy Paper to do Toner Transfer. It can be done. But it is not easy to remove it after ironing. You have soak the PCB in hot water for more than ten minutes. It is quite time consuming. If you cannot remove the coating completely. It cannot be etched.

I have tried to use Konica Minolta Photo Quailty Matte Paper. Then design your own circuit and print it on the Matte Paper. Remember, before printing it. You need to mirror board. Otherwise, the circuit will be inversed.

Step 1: Start to Iron It.

Picture of Start to Iron It.

Face the Toner Side of Matte Paper towards to the Copper Side. Turn On your Iron. Unlike the Glossy Paper, you have to turn to maximum temperature. You don't need it this time. I turn the iron to medium temperature (becoz the paper is not very thick.. Heat is easy to Transfer to Copper and Toner). Firstly, Iron the side of PCB. After 30 seconds, you will find the Matte Paper will stick to Copper firmly. It means it is successful. Then Iron the whole PCB. Depends on the Size of PCB, I use around 2minutes for this Copper Board (Around 3cm x 4cm).

If some area cannot stick, it means your copper board is not clean enough. Remove the Paper and Use Acetone and Sand Paper to Clean it.

Step 2: Soak It With Cold Water

Picture of Soak It With Cold Water

Just Soak It in the Cold Water. Since Matte Paper are much thinner than Glossy Paper. Paper will become soft very quickly. Use your finger to remove the paper gently. Don't Remove it Too Hard. Otherwise, some toner will be removed too.

Please check the every trace. Find out any broke trace. If find, use Acetone to clean it and do it again.

Step 3: Etch It !

Picture of Etch It !

Use any kind of etchant to etch your copper board. I use Ferric Chloride. Put Ferric Chloride into Water and wait until it dissolve. Put the Copper Board into it and Wait Until All Uncover Copper Disappear.

Step 4: Clean and Then Finish!

Picture of Clean and Then Finish!

Finally, we need to remove the Toner. Use the Acetone (Nail Polish Remover) to clean it.

This PCB in the Photo are LQFP -80 14mmx14mm. The Trace is around 14mil. It is quite clean and no broken trace is found.

Originally, this method are tried by Karo-sama. He has made a video for demostration.

For more details , you can find it in my wiki.


Syren2k (author)2015-03-09

DanS14 (author)2015-02-06

Thank you, thank you for the excellent instructions! The photos make it easy to imagine and understand. I found that getting the coper 'clean' before ironing was more crutial than many might think. Just sanding didn't quite do it. I do that, but then put the board in the etch for about 10 seconds before ironing helped 100%. (Give the board a good soap and rinseing before ironing) Now, 100% of the toner is staying on the board, and no more broken fine traces.

ahmed.farag.3386 (author)2014-12-14

Hello, i need some help in my project . can your design pcb in frizing

cna connecting with me in facebook

dsandds2003 (author)2008-06-03

I have always used OOO steel wool to clean the toner off the board. Doesn't damage anything. also helps the solder stick better also.

I try to avoid anything abrasive as you will damage the surface of the copper and oxidation is likely to occur a lot quicker. Get a nice cheap bottle of nail polish remover and an old (lint free) rag or some makeup cotton wool pads will work too but may leave little bits on the board. Just make sure you do it in a well ventilated area or outside because it's really strong smelling. I also found that if you place it on a flat surface, then pour enough nail polish remover onto it to cover it (let the surface tension do the work and hold it on, so don't use too much) leave for a few minutes and then use an old kitchen scratchy sponge pad. These are made of a plastic material and they don't damage the copper. If you want to go all out you can then tin plate your board when you are 100% certain it is clean and free from any residue or toner.

cencia76 (author)2007-07-03

Hi, do you mind if I ask you where I can purchase a decent PCB board for the above application? You have mentioned a FR4 Silver Coating PCB. Is this a good choice? If so, where do you think I can look for it? Any suggestion will be appreciate it. Massimo.

edwardholmes91 (author)cencia762013-05-09

I use Rapid Electronics, they ship internationally and have pretty good prices. You can try the FR2 (SRBP - Synthetic Resin Bonded Paper) sold as economy board if you want a cheaper solution but I prefer the more expensive FR4.

dowd95 (author)cencia762009-07-24

radio shack or sells copperclad one or two sided boards for like 4-5 bucks

winchester883 (author)cencia762007-08-29

When I did some art stuff with etched pcb's I bought from this brand. Their site has all the stuff you should need. It should be under "copper clad boards" in their search by product name menu. Then you should find a online distributor and order to your hearts content.

this is the actual company that i ordered from

hilarycheng (author)cencia762007-07-03

I have brought it at Hong Kong from some sort of electronic parts shop. I donno any internet shop have selling it.

Spydamonky (author)2011-05-05

Hey man I've tryed this like 4 times now and everytime, its doesnt tranfers nicely, do you have to sand it first?

Hey, I tried this method for the first time the other day. I saw a video on YouTube where someone printed straight to a transpanancy and then ironed that and it seemed to come straight off, but when I tried this method it didn't seem to work properly, I ended up using an indelible pen to fill in a lot of the areas which was very time consuming! The second time I tried this I used the slightly shiny backing paper that comes with the 3M transparencies I use and this worked really well. It did require soaking in water though which the transparency didn't I was using 20 mil traces going in-between pads on a stand 0.1" DIL socket. I did get a few that were joined due to the 'splurge' of the toner. I used a small craft knife to cut these and it etched really well. I was using the iron on full temperature with no steam and I place a piece of baking paper/parchment between the board and the iron. I am going to experiment with some tracing paper soon and also maybe try printing onto baking paper if I can stop it from curling up so much... which gives me an idea... the iron seems to do a good job with this. I may try making a small batch of sheet of it to print onto. Just a quick note, which has been mentioned previously, you need to have really dense transfers from your laser printer. See if there are any print density setting and also ensure toner saving is turned OFF. I have a nice Samsung CLP-320 and can find any density settings and can't print decent artworks on it, but the old HP Colour Laser Jet 5M gives fantastic dense artworks.

ARJOON (author)2011-02-15

A MORE effective method is using a G clamp. clamp your pcb to a pentium3 heat sink and put it on the gas stove for about 30s, even distribution of heat and compressive strength

andrea biffi (author)ARJOON2012-12-14

that's a GREAT idea!

Spydamonky (author)2009-12-15

what do you maen by the "toner side" of the paper? and du you have to print this with a inkjet or lazer? 

Mike44 (author)Spydamonky2010-02-15

A laser printer is always required.  This is because laser ink contains about 50% plastic in it, so by applying the heat it allows the plastic to melt onto the copper board.  Removing the heat allows the plastic to harden again.  Normal ink jet ink doesn't contain plastic, so no matter how much heat you apply, you will always be able to wipe away the ink!

tomx63 (author)Mike442012-08-23


You have to use a laser print because:
* Lazer transfers by heat.
* Ink dissolves in water, so when you attempt to etch it, the ink will dissolve it in water.

The toner side of the paper is the side of the paper that has the pattern printed on. Lots of videos on youtube that shows this procedure. GL

ahowell16 (author)Spydamonky2010-11-09

you use lazer as the ink particles that sre present are more likely to produce a better finished product.

justkim (author)2011-06-18

Can anyone suggest a printer that is readily available? Have tried this so many times and have been unsuccessful. The problem seems to be that not enough toner/ink is deposited on the paper, image doesn't transfer and if it does, paper doesn't stick to metal and washes off.

diy_bloke (author)justkim2012-04-29

I have been doing this a few times now with a brother HL2130 an the print quality is even set at medium.

I do not use inkjet glossy paper though but a page from a glossy magazine. costs nothing and the transfer comes out OK. Admittedly, there are a few dots of copper left here and there and the tracks have probably be exposed a bit too long, but nevertheles it is a very useable PCB.

From printing to etched was all in all 30 minutes max. Now there is the drilling to be done. I always find that a pain

diy_bloke (author)diy_bloke2012-04-29

oh, btw, the black spots on the copper is just a bit of toner left. Apparently i did not clean it enough yet b4 i took that picture

HVahead (author)justkim2011-10-18

you could run it through your printer several times to build up more toner... just make sure you put it in so that it will retrace the same image (to do this mark a dot on one corner of your paper while it is in the printer and print it. now put that sheet in the same way (so the dot is in the same place) it was when you marked it and print again. repeat as necessary until you the right amount of runs from your printer

mattp1133 (author)justkim2011-07-04

I have heard that there are toner saving settings in some printer drivers. Check if you have these are turn them off if they are there. Then you may end up with more toner on your board. I hope that helps

ProMt8Pge (author)2011-09-16

There seems to be a method of printing straight from the printer to the board which looks even easier than this.  The following page describes this method:

Has anybody done this with their printer and got it to work?

lacksculture (author)2011-05-02

This worked the first few times I did it, but lately I've been getting really ugly, useless transfers. The tracks bleed into eachother and some of the pads are warped and filled in. I tried doing it with less pressure, but still had problems. Has anyone else overcome this? Too much heat, maybe?

dhnobles (author)2009-07-16

If you can get you hands on an old HP plotter (good luck though) they work great for making circuits and you can buy the pens for them that are actually resist pens. The nice thing about the plotters is that you can adjust the height of the printing surface thereby letting you print directly onto the copper with no intermediate steps.

billpenner (author)dhnobles2011-04-10

Where do I find the plotter pens with resisit in them? I have a Plotter.

dagenius (author)2009-07-16

In the intro, you say that you must reverse the image. I disagree, for that is only true when you are using surface mount components. If you are using the through hole variety, then the simple act of turning the pcb over to put the parts in the correct way will reverse it.

Unit042 (author)dagenius2011-01-19

You are right, but sometimes, the CAD program can flip it for you. Also, when doing through-hole components, the act of flipping the PCB does not fix text. They have to be mirrored when on the bottom of the PCB.
The question of "mirror or not" can't really be definitively answered unless all those other variables are accounted for, which would make for a loooong instructable.

In my etching experience, do a test print on regular paper, and do a thought experiment: imagine that regular paper as your transfer paper and work out what needs flipping for your own setup. Then print on the transfer paper.

nightmissle (author)2010-12-27

A home-made etchant of 1 part Muriatic Acid (common 28%) to 2 parts Hydrogen Peroxide (common 3%) can be used. If Ferric Chloride is used check for it at p/n 70201.
CAUTION etchants creates harmful fumes, best done outside, using proper protections.
A suggestion about how to dispose of used Ferric Chloride etching solution. A current law prohibits disposal of those chemicals in the sewer.
Before you pour it in to the sink, pour it in a plastic tank (I used a sealable freezer bag) and drop in some scraps of old steel nails, screws, small, nuts, bolts, etc., and let it stay for a few days. It will turn the hazardous mix of copper chloride and Ferric Chloride (FeCl3) into copper powder (sludge) that settles on the bottom, and a non-etching and non-corrosive solution of FeCl2.
After separation of solution of FeCl2, mix it with solution of soda (Na2CO3 used as detergent) in a flat tray lined with plastic film. It will turn FeCl2 into Fe(CO3) (insoluble rusty mud) and NaCl (harmless cooking salt). After drying outdoor whole dry rusty powder could be wrapped in plastic film and disposed of in the normal trash container.

MisterLudvigsen (author)2010-11-09

I had almost given up making my own PCB without any fancy equipment until I read this instructable.

I've tried dozens of ways using standard A4 copy paper. I've tried ironing it, I've tried yelling at it, hitting it, whileas it only makes incomplete routes, requiring lots of rework with knife/rerouting.

The magazine paper idea worked out GREAT!! I've just finished my first etching proper PCB with all routes intact, no short circuits etc, even the tiniest ones going between IC pins seem fine! Can't wait to drill/solder this baby, but that'll have to wait till tomorrow.


j39305 (author)2009-11-12

I have used 'recycled' CD-label backing paper with success.  Just remove all the remaining adhesive-backed labels and everything else from the waxy paper it was stuck to.  Then use the waxy side for the transfer.  The wax isn't enough to interfere with the circuit traces.  Didn't seem to harm my old LJ2100 either.

sosoft (author)j393052010-11-04

I had better results with 'recycled' backing paper for car or window labels, used in graphic studio. It's more waxed.

saone (author)2010-09-29

i can only use laser printer for printing the circuit?

ziggalo (author)2010-07-10

What's the difference between "matte" paper and just plain old, regular printer paper? sorry if that's a stupid question

bricabracwizard (author)ziggalo2010-08-29

Matte paper has a shinier surface because it is slightly waxed, whereas plain paper usually doesn't contain any fillers.

tomtortoise (author)2010-06-10

I was wondering where you got your ferrum chloride if you got it at a store or online and also what are some other etchants that can be used?

ziggalo (author)tomtortoise2010-07-10

do you have a MarVac's store nearby? the one by my house carried ferric chloride

Computerman29 (author)2010-04-08

Hello All,

I had ZERO success with ANY toner transfer methods until I tried these two things together:

1) After scrubbing the copper board, drop it into the etching solution for a few seconds. Remove and rinse. Be careful not to touch the copper after it is dipped/rinsed.  It roughens up the surface and makes the toner stick much better. It also removes any deep-down dirt that the scrubbing missed.

2) When repairing traces with a "sharpie", roast the board on your iron for about 20-30 sec. to make sure the "sharpie" ink is completely dry, then etch.

I use a beat-up HP Laserjet 6L, press-n-peel blue with my iron on about 3/4 full heat and moderate pressure, and get great results. Your millage will vary. Experiment a bit. It is probably different with photo paper, but try the above tricks. Good luck!

0_Nvd_0 (author)2009-07-20

Thank you very much. Now I know what Acetone is; nail polish remover. I have also cleared the toner by scratching the board with a used and blunt razor.

MeisterMarkus (author)2008-10-16

I had very good results using a steam-iron; the steam presses the toner onto the copper and the paper gets off real easy; no need to soak/peal/rub the paper

bombmaker2 (author)MeisterMarkus2009-01-04

I'm doing that right now but the iron leaked and tore the paper a bit it seems to have worked

bombmaker2 (author)bombmaker22009-01-04

wrong tried it three more times and it still sucks

matador29b (author)bombmaker22009-07-14

I found that this shrinks the image a bit, not good for surface mount chips

worldgnat (author)2008-07-14

Just a suggestion: if you find a broken trace you can fix it with a Sharpie marker (or so I hear).

440hertz (author)worldgnat2009-06-21

good instructable. Magazine paper does work well, or the semi glossy junk mail. You can buy special 'press and peel' paper for toner transfer, its blue on one side and it is very good for fine traces as you just peel off after ironing and it leaves no residue, it's more expensive though. I leave the toner on until I have drilled the board and ready to solder, then rub it off with 1200 grit wet and dry sandpaper, leaves the copper nice and clean for easy soldering if you don't tin your boards.

n0ukf (author)worldgnat2008-11-07

Sharpies work well for repairing traces, also for hand-drawing circuit traces directly on the board for etching.

bombmaker2 (author)n0ukf2009-01-03

I usually draw mine for a simple circuit

bombmaker2 (author)bombmaker22009-01-04

or I use PCB123 to design it

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