Introduction: DIY Printed Circuit Board

I want to share my personal experience with heat toner transfer method of making PCB.
It's easy to learn for beginners and it delivers very good result for fair price.
Do fast prototyping with fun!
To get more info about LIQUID TIN see Spec sheet at

NOTE!!! Why it works only with laser printer!

Heat toner transfer is possible because it employs physical properties of laser printer toner.
Toner is a mix of a very fine plastic powder and black pigment.
When paper is being heated by fuser inside printer plastic particles melts and sticks to paper.
If we attach paper to flat surface and apply heat to paper so temperature of paper exceeds toner melting point,  plastic melts again and sticks to adjacent surface.

If you don't have laser printer you can use xerox to make copy of your artwork. Since xerox employs laser technology it should work the same way.


LuisQ22 (author)2016-09-06

wow thanks exactly what i was looking for your a life saver

nicholashansen36 (author)2015-06-11

I'm wanting to custom make some LED tailights for my car, this seems like the route I want to go. I'm not quite sure on the exact materials needed for this, could you maybe post a list of all the materials I would need? Thanks, and this is a fantastic video!

shiwei.luan (author)2014-11-13

I followed your instructions to transfer toner to copper board. I used canon photo glossy paper. But when I remove the iron, most of the toner are still on the paper. Would you please tell me which exact type paper do you use? And my etching process is very very slow... Thank you.

apuzari (author)shiwei.luan2014-12-16

Increase heating during the transfer for better results.
Tip: Add 1 part of conc. Citric acid to 4 part FerChloride for faster etching.

VirabhaiP (author)2014-10-18

Best Results obtained using Laminator Machine :)

dendritic (author)2014-05-02

Thanks for that introduction! Was that for a through-hole application, or for SM?

For through-hole, does the copper/tin flake easily?

thakala made it! (author)2014-04-09

Thanks for the walkthrough!

nodoubtman (author)2014-02-27

After the iron,under the copper it's all black, is it possible that my iron is too hot, the iron settings is before steam. What do you suggest? thank you!|

Alderin (author)nodoubtman2014-04-04

I know this is likely a bit late, but I have a couple of follow-up questions for you (and please remember I mean no offense):

Are you sure you were using a bare copper board and not a photoresist board?

Was the print-out clear and clean, or did it have dithering or hashes or spots? Make sure your printer settings are set for black and white, no dithering, no color, and high-quality... though if your circuit is "bleeding" into a single mash, you may want to try "normal quality" or even "economy" to reduce the amount of toner the printer uses.

Is your circuit very dense? If so, perhaps a little less time and/or pressure may be needed. Keep in mind that "Press as hard as you can" means very different things between a 90 pound teenager and a 220 pound adult (me).

What paper are you using? I haven't used other than glossy photo paper myself, so I don't know what effects standard printer paper may have, but intuitively it may 'wick' the toner into a wider pattern than intended (or the toner may soak into the paper too well and leave nothing on the copper), really not sure. Paper choice for this process is a big issue.

The nice thing about the toner transfer method is that you can see problems before the board is ruined, just clean off the copper and try again as many times as it takes, you just use more paper and toner. (Much cheaper than the copper boards!)

Hope this helps!

dennist1 (author)2013-03-22

A couple of tips I have found will help but not seen posted anywhere.

Your local printshop can be your friend. Take your graphics file in on a disk or thumb drive; and ask them to print it out on a color copier/printer/xerox machine with the darkness setting wide open and in forced color mode even though its black and white. Color mode will cost you a buck or two, but this forces the machine into mixing a black toner from the four process colors. The result is a much thicker layer of toner so you get better transfer and better protection of the copper. Use a little less iron pressure though; its thick enough to squish our a bit under extreme pressure.

Also, there is no need to buy photo glossy paper. The printshop will have a ready supply of glossy papers at near normal paper prices. Ask for the lightest weight gloss paper they have; and try a couple different paper brands. I have personally found "Sappi" gloss text 80# to work well - but that may or may not be available. I like it because I find it softens/falls off faster in water after ironing.

Set up your board to fill a sheet of paper - ie multiple copies of it. It won't cost any more and you will have spares for mistakes or future duplicates. (yes, my employment is in such a printshop - so I've had the opportunity to do some experimenting with all this :) Just wanted to share the info with those who don't have the equipment available to 'play' with.)

Getting the toner back off after etching can be a challenge. Alcohol, nail polish remover, light fluid, etc will do it with a lot of scrubbing. Go to your local auto parts(or Wally for that matter) and buy a spray can of 'brake and parts cleaner'. Hit the board with a shot of that, and the toner will wipe right off instantly.

You can use the same technique to create a 'silk screen' image on the board after etching, even in full color! I don't recommend doing it on a side your going to solder. It doesn't stick as easily to the bare board as it does the copper, but its good enough to locate components for assembly.

netskink (author)2013-01-29

What program did you use to draw the circuit board pattern with?

I think I've drawn it manually with EAGLE.

limbo (author)2012-09-02

Very well commented video...
Keep on!

lancellot07 (author)limbo2012-09-11

hi can you use liquid toner printer for the pcb?

No, only laser printer works but there's method of using modified jet printer to print artwork directly on cooper clad and then etch it. You can find lots information

lancellot07 (author)2012-09-11

hi can you use liquid toner printer for the pcb?

nodoubtman (author)2012-08-02

photo glossy paper works?

NorthernMind (author)2012-07-28

Thanks for the great tutorial! Finally my husband can print his own boards and rest assured on the quality of the outcome. The last boards outsourced had horrible squiggly lines and no spots for drilling, which made things quite difficult.

I'm going to assume that the poor quality job he has received is due to the transfer being heated too high when applying, thus causing all of the holes to disappear and lines to be wavy. Do you know what the maximum temp should be? Or is it safe to say that the iron will not go past that?

Once again, thanks for the fantastic tutorial. It really saved the day for us!

Quality is a matter of experiments and practice;)

Heat and pressure force should be evenly distributed over whole area and best result you can achieve using laminator.
Squeezing too hard on one spot will result in distortion of image being transferred.

If iron is too hot you may try to put additional sheet of regular paper between iron and paper with artwork.

joko0124 (author)2010-10-06

should it be a laser printer only? can i used an ink-jet printer for instance cannon pixma? tnx!

It works only with laser printer or photocopier. I posted explanation in main article. See above.

Ani1996 (author)AP Digital light2012-06-27

yea, i appreciate that "laser printer only" ... but u can also use a permanent marker and draw the lines yourself by hand... that will also work... i made 7 circuits like that myself... rest of the steps are same... only use a marker to draw the lines on the copper plated board...!!! (no iron needed)

oh thank u very much, i've applied it already and i appreciate your post... tnx a lot buddy!

edwinxxl (author)joko01242011-01-01

Laser printer only, he explained it very well, so: No inkjet printers.

MrPhelps (author)2009-04-23

Nice one. I tried this technique once but got bad results, I think the problem lied in the type of paper I used and I'll retry with glossy paper. When etching with FeCl3, why do you rub the board with a sponge ? Is it just to speed up the process or is it important for the toner technique ?

bliz23 (author)MrPhelps2009-06-14

What printer were you using? I used a brother laser printer and couldn't get any good results and I did some research and they said that almost any printer besides a brother laser works. Something with brother's toners are at a higher temperature.

celem (author)bliz232012-04-30

I use a Brother HL-2140 with good results. I put a clothes iron on the highest setting and iron for about 3 minutes. I put a meat thermometer against the iron and it read 180 degrees F.

celem (author)celem2012-05-02

UPDATE: My success was with Brother brand toner. When I used a non-Brother brand refill (Roswill) I had 100% failure. The toner would not reliably stick to the copper. I believe that the off-brand toner contains fuser oil, which is known to prevent adhesion to copper, while genuine Brother copper is free of fuser oil. By the way, although my thermometer read 180 degrees, I suspect that the actual temperature is much higher because I have read that Brother toner melts around 370F versus HP toner that melts around 338 - 356°F

Halt! I am Reptar (author)bliz232011-08-13

ahhhghgh!!!! I've been trying with a brother printer for weeks now. I was getting so hopeless. I used different magazines an iron and two different laminators with no luck. Thank you.

Try another printer (not Brother brand) or Xerox.

AP Digital light (author)bliz232009-06-15

I use HP LaserJet 1012.

HP Laserjet 4 works great too :)

bliz23 (author)AP Digital light2009-06-16

Hm.... haven't heard anything about that one. Your iron on its highest setting and printing at highest quality? whats not working right?

anshu_de (author)MrPhelps2011-08-08

Laser printer and photo copier machines uses Toner. Which is a plastic like material w,which melt when some heat is applied to it. this is the basic tech. behind this.

You can use glossy photo paper, i used Magazine paper which is also glossy paper. Don't worry about the stuff printed on paper because it is printed with ink. and will not affect your design.

Rubbing is done to remove the extra dirt or something on copper clad board.

Do it properly and u'll get better results.

I have to use sponge to reduce etching time. I haven't built yet etching tank with air agitation:-(

truebeliever71 (author)2012-01-31

Great tutorial! I'm considering making my own board for mounting/soldering high powered Cree LEDs to. Would this stand up to the high temps of the LEDs? I will have it mounted to a heatsink and add a fan if needed.

Make board as large as possible with open copper areas to dissipate heat. Additional heat sink will help also.

uber man (author)2008-10-18

I'm sorry I must sound like a total dunce right now what is the difference between the curcuit board U are showing and the green ones please help I'm only 10!

llamma1010 (author)uber man2010-09-06

Ok Im 12 so bear with me here. The professional boards us a plastic resin to stop short circuiting it is just a dye. But don't worry these boards are perfectly safe. The company just doesn't want to get sued so they put the extra precaution on so that it can't get sued. I REPEAT THEY ARE PERFECTLY SAFE so no worry there.

tristantech (author)llamma10102010-09-11

I'm 14, let me explain. What you are talking about is called a solder mask. It is an extra layer on most commercial or professional boards that prevents solder from flowing from one trace and accidentally coming in contact with another. It is only necessary for small surface mount components, Homemade boards should be fine for through hole or wider-pitch (spacing between pins) SMD components. The solder mask comes in lots of colors, but green is the usual.

Another extra layer you can add to a professional board is a silkscreen layer that lets you put text onto the board for labeling parts, values, and what the board does.

But, it does not have anything to do with lawsuits. The cheap commercial boards don't have one either! They are an extra thing that usually cost more. If there is a short in the board from soldering, then that is the designer's fault not the fabricator.

Hope that helps!

Seifpic (author)uber man2009-02-20

Hey, I'm 10 too!

Azayles (author)Seifpic2009-06-14

The green (or blue, sometimes) you see on commercially produced circuit boards is called a solder resist. It stops unwanted solder bridges forming between copper tracks that are close together because the solder doesn't stick to the green area. If you ever do repairs or moderations to a circuit board with this green layer, you often find you have to scrape it away in some places with a sharp knife to expose the copper underneath to solder it.

Don't worry about your age. ;-)
People here will be happy to help you to gain some knowledge.

In my tutorial I don't do final operation - applying of soldering mask.
It's not so easy to implement at home based lab and it's not really necessary for most of boards.
After soldering I coat board with transparent conformal coating.

sparktech (author)2010-05-18

Oh i see it was already answered before in the comments ah that makes sense.

sparktech (author)2010-05-18

hey AP i was wondering when you do all the chemicals do the holes for your parts get eaten away also or do you have to drill your own holes?  thank you!
Great movie!

wesie42 (author)2010-05-09

Hello AP, How do you get the coated circuit board that you transfer the toner on to? Also, is LIQUID TIN mandatory?

AP Digital light (author)wesie422010-05-09

Copper coated boards I've got from local electronics store.

Now, about tinning.

Yes, tinning can be avoided for home-made prototype.
Purpose of tinning is prevention of bare copper against oxidizing. It also provides excellent solderability.

Of course Liquid tin gives home-made PCB professional finish but
you have option to save few bucks and tin PCB manually with soldering iron.

Clean board, wet whole board with liquid flux, get fine soldering wire and carefully solder all traces i.e. cover with thin layer of solder whole conductive area. 
Final step, clean PCB with alcohol and carefully check for solder bridges (unwanted short between traces).  

popcorn man (author)2009-01-07

how does one add thorough=holes for adding components?

Using drill press;-)

on the same thought, if making a 2-layer board... how do you plate the holes/vias through? just let a ball of solder melt and fill in the hole and make contact with a pad on either side?

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