this instructable will show you exactly how to read all those confusing circuit diagrams and then how to assemble the circuits on a breadboard!

for all the electronics hobbyist wannabes this is a MUST-READ instructable.

knowing how to read circuits is a very useful skill that will help you out all the time. especially if you start messing around with building little electronics projects.

In addition to reading this instructable it may be a good idea for you to read my other instructable "electronics components and what they do" to get a good understanding of what you are doing when building a project. (woops not done with this yet, i got caught up with other stuff, check back in a week or so)

Step 1: So What Are All Those Symbols???

here is a little guide that shows you the basic symbols for all sorts of components. its handy to keep a little guide like this around in case you forgot some. Plus, while you're beginning you might have to refer to it pretty frequently. I have boxed the most common symbols in red, these are the ones you should get to know by heart. the others you can always refer back to the guide for.

dont be overwhelmed its simpler than you think, just stay with me

Step 2: Okay, But How Is Each Part Connected?

physically parts are connected by wires, in the diagrams you will see black lines going from one part to the next. this means that you connect them with a wire

when the black lines cross in a diagram there are ways of telling whether or not the wires should be connected to each other as shown below.

Step 3: HOLD UP: What About Polarity?

some components to a circuit board are polarized, meaning one side is positive and the other is negative. this means you have to attach it in a certain way. for most symbols polarity is included in the symbol. in the the photos below you will find a guide to distinguishing polarity for various symbols. to find out the polarity of the physical part a general rule of thumb is to look for which metal lead wire on the part is longer. this is the + side.


Okay, so now that we've gone through the basics, lets try to read a real world schematic of a circuit. so lets dissect this circuit!

*I have numbered each symbol so that we stay on the same page while im describing each part

the first symbol you see is the one with two horizontal lines, one smaller than the other. do you remember what this is? you can always look back at the guide. its a battery. in this case a nine volt battery. if you look back at the polarity chapter you will see that the longer line represents the positive terminal of the battery.
next you can see that there is a line connecting the positive side of the battery to the second part which if you look back at the guide you will find is a switch with two positions: closed (on), and open (off). seems backwards? its not because if you think of that little door like thing on the symbol closing than it would complete the circuit, thus being "on".
so when we flick the switch closed where does the electricity go next? that squiggly line is a resistor. this is a symbol you REALLY want to memorize. they are in almost every circuit. basically in just makes sure that the not too much power from the battery is sucked up by the next part by resisting the flow of electricity.
so the final part is the triangle thing. that is a diode (as you can see on that handy chart in this ible). in this case a light emitting diode, or LED. remember LEDs are polarized so when you actually go to make this circuit make sure you put it in right.
finally you can see that the negative side of the LED connects back to the negative battery terminal and the circuit is complete!

THERE IT IS! a flash light! you can now continue on to building the actual thing!

building this circuit will bring its own challenges. so, if you want to be walked through check out my instructable: "making circuits: the beauty of breadboards". it will go through the exact steps of building this flashlight, including where to buy parts for cheapest. but also teach you more important knowledge for building all sorts of circuits. (i did actually make this one)
important note, the schematic will not tell you all you need to know. in most there will be text seperate telling you exactly what parts to buy, you cant just throw in any resistor or any capacitor and whatnot. i have the details for the parts in this project in the next instructable mentioned above.

this is my first ible, i need feedback
<p>very good</p>
<p>But I still can't read that complex circuit.......I have no talent on electricity OMG.....My family's DNA missed </p>
Thanks I am working on a welder and this certainly cleared up a few questions. 7yrs and still going, good for you.
<p>Great lesson and very easy to understand , Nice&amp;Clear</p><p>Thank you</p>
<p>Thanks. This was very helpful. Stay Wired|&laquo;{)</p>
<p>nice lesson and good instructor</p>
so helpful, thank you!!!:)
<p>it helps me a lot...i am a non-electronics man who wants to learn beginner's basic electronics</p>
<p>useful information for the beginner </p>
<p>Omg so helpful! thanks!<br></p>
<p>its really very helpfull for me too</p>
<p>supercool. thanks for taking the time!</p>
<p>this is very helpful thank you</p>
<p>Great work. explains this clearly. I never used circuit schematics i just had my own symbols but when it came to building something from an already designed schematic i got stumped</p>
<p>hey that helpful thanks</p>
very smooth! go ahead
Thank you!!! It's such a good guide - not too much information, but a great starting point - thank you!
<p><strong>GREAT WORK LIKED IT VERY MUCH</strong></p>
Easy to read, great job.
<p>great post... ill be printing this to keep in my soldering/ components kit, as you said, its a least a good refrence.</p>
<p>An LED symbol has two diagonal arrows coming off the horizontal triangle.</p>
<p>Thank you. just cleared up a few things that have been ripping away at the back of my mind.</p>
<p>It seems to me that the symbol for the NOR gate is incorrect. It should be an OR gate with a bubble on the output. Just a small observation.</p>
<p>Six years and you are still being read. Do you know that?</p>
<p>Good job man</p>
great job<br>im new to using resistors,capacitors and other hard stuff
<p>Very simple and easy to follow, good job so far.</p>
<p>easy so far, hoping you continue..</p>
<p>Here is an interactive simulation you can use to practice reading basic circuit diagrams. It allows you to assemble and test simple circuits. </p><p><a href="http://stemsheets.com/engineering/electric-circuit-game#resource" rel="nofollow">Electric Circuit Game</a></p>
I still don't understand how microchips, like 555 timers and those other blac rectangles with like, 20 leads work. Nor do I get caps. For that matter, how the heck does electricity flow? Oh well, camera tasers are still awesome. -PKT
<p> Atoms are a nucleus with electrons around them, also known as electricity. Metals do something weird when they are together: they have a sea of electrons, thus giving them highly conductive properties. Gold and silver are known as super conductors, because their resistance is basically zero.</p><p>======= T H E I M P O R T A N T S T U F F =======</p><p> Electricity is negatively charged, and since same charges repel each other, electrons want to get away from other electrons as fast as possible. A battery works by having electrons all in one spot, trying to get away from each other, but they can't. Once a path is made or circuit is closed, then there is a way for the electrons to get away from each other. The less resistance, the faster they leave, which is why short circuiting is so bad.</p><p> I hope I helped.</p>
<p>incorrect. yes electrons flow, and yes electrons are negatively charged, but electricity is always treated as a flow of positive charge, opposite in fact to the direction of electron flow. this is known as conventional current</p>
micro chips are very complicated small circuits. they are built out of the same things as most circuits: resistors, capacitors, transistors, etc.... just shrunk way down. hence micro. so really a micro chip is just a very tiny circuit board pre-made for your use
Your the first one in 3 years to make microchips actually make sense. Thank you. -PKT
<p>whats the symbol for a transformer</p>
<p>Here it is</p>
<p>Symbol for transformer is:</p>
<p>Good work!</p><p>Help me a lot.</p><p>Ravi</p><p>R&amp;D Engineer</p><p>www.nrdcentre.com</p>
<p>hi! i am a grade school student and one of our project is to pickup invention in instructable site. i have chosen your laser trip wire as my project but i am having a difficulty in finding the circuit board. The store just gave me project board to use as circuit board but i don't have any idea on how to use it. can you help me,please?</p>
<p>Great instructable ! I read because I am creating a computer and I'll need help!</p>
<p>Small questions being answered TY.</p>
<p>very easy to follow so far</p>
<p>Great!!! Thank You</p>
I'm it trying to be a cynic, but I think that the diode was improperly labeled in the schematic. By all means, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't LED's supposed to have two little lightning bolts along side of them?
<p>i thought the same thing, lightning bolts are unfamiliar to me, but i've seen 2 arrows pointing away from the triangle showing light is being emitted from it</p>

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