Introduction: How to Make PCB at Home

Picture of How to Make PCB at Home

Hello everyone,

This is instructable is about "How to make PCB at Home" without any special material.As a Electronics Engineering student, I try making DIY projects which require simple electronics circuit and making PCBs.

What is PCB?

A printed circuit board (PCB) mechanically supports and electrically connects electronic components using conductive tracks, pads and other features etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive substrate.

A printed circuit board has pre-designed copper tracks on a conducting sheet. The pre-defined tracks reduce the wiring thereby reducing the faults arising due to lose connections. One needs to simply place the components on the PCB and solder them.

Different method to make PCB

There are in all three basic methods to make PCB
1. Iron on Glossy paper method

2. Circuit by hand on PCB

3. Laser cutting edge etching.

Since laser method is industrial method to make PCB we will get in detail of first two method to make PCB at home.

Step 1: Creating PCB Layout of Your Circuit

This is usually done by converting your circuit's schematic diagram into a PCB layout using PCB layout software.There are many open source software packages for PCB layout creation and design.
Some are listed here to give you a head-start:

1. Cadsoft Eagle

2. PCBWizard

I designed my circuit schematic in Cadsoft Eagle.

Note :In Eagle: File> Export>Image Be sure to set DPIG to 1200 for better quality

Step 2: Material Required

Picture of Material Required

You need also: Permanent black marker, blade cutter, sandpaper, kitchen paper, cotton wool, some old clothes.
To start making PCB, consider a simple project TOUCH SWITCH using IC555

Step 3: Take Printout of PCB Layout

Picture of Take Printout of PCB Layout

Take a print out of your PCB layout using the laser printer and the A4 photo paper/glossy paper. Keep in mind the following points:

  • You should take the mirror print out
  • Select the output in black both from the PCB design software and printer driver settings
  • Make sure that the printout is made on the glossy side of the paper

Step 4: Cutting the Copper Plate

Picture of Cutting the Copper Plate

Cut the copper board according to the size of layout.

Step 5: Make It Smooth

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Rub the copper side of PCB using steel wool or abrasive spongy scrubs. This removes the top oxide layer of copper as well as the photo resists layer.

Sanded surface allow image to stick better

Step 6: Methods

Picture of Methods

Method 1:

Iron on Glossy paper method: Transfer the printed image from the photo paper to the board. Make sure to flip top layer horizontally. Put the copper surface of the board on the printed layout. Ensure that the board is aligned correctly along the borders of the printed layout. Put tape along the two sides of the board non-copper side. This will help to hold the board and the printed layout in position.

Method 2:

Circuit by using permanent marker: Using reference of circuit image printed on glossy paper first draw basic sketch on copper plate with pencil and then by permanent black marker.

Step 7: Iron It!

Picture of Iron It!

  • After printing on glossy paper we iron it image side down to copper side. Heat up the Electric iron to the maximum temperature.
  • Put the board and photo paper arrangement on a clean wooden table and clothes with the back of the photo paper facing you.
  • Hold one end of it by the Towel and put the hot iron on the other end for about 10 seconds. Now, iron the photo paper all along using the tip and applying little pressure for about 5 to 15 mins.
  • Pay attention towards the edges of the board – you need to apply pressure, do the ironing slowly.
  • Long hard press seems to work better than moving iron around.
  • Here iron heat melts ink printed on glossy paper and get transfer to copper plate.

CAUTION: Do not directly touch copper plate because it is very hot due to ironing.

Step 8: Peeling

Picture of Peeling

After ironing, place printed plate in Luke warm water for around 10 minutes. Paper will dissolve and remove paper gently. Remove the Paper off at low angle & traces.

In some cases while removing paper some of track get fainted .

See figure in white box black line track is light in colour hence we can use black marker to dark lighted track as shown in image

Step 9: Etching

Picture of Etching

You need to be EXTREMELY careful & cautious while performing this step

• First put rubber or plastic gloves.

• Place some newspaper so that etching solution do not spoil floor.

1)Take a plastic box and fill it up with some water.

2) Dissolve 2-3 tea spoon of ferric chloride power in the water.

3) Dip the PCB into the Etching solution (Ferric chloride solution, Fecl3) for approximately 30 mins.

4) The Fecl3 reacts with the unmasked copper and removes the unwanted copper from the PCB.

5) This process is called as Etching. Use pliers to take out the PCB and check if the entire unmasked area has been etched or not. In case it is not etched leave it for some more time in the solution.

Gently move plastic box to and fro so that etching solution react with exposed copper and form iron and copper chloride.

After every 2-3 minutes check whether all copper is etched or not.

Step 10: Caution

Picture of Caution


In figure we can see that copper is slowly getting etched.

Step 11: Disposal

The etching solution is toxic to fish and other water organisms.

Don't pour it in the sink when you are done. It is illegal to do so and might damage your pipes.

Dilute etching solution and then dispose the solution.

Step 12: Final Touch

Picture of Final Touch

Figure show PCB of both circuit made using print out and using marker.

A few drops of thinner (nail polish remover works well) on a pinch of cotton wool will remove completely the toner, bringing back the copper surface.Rinse carefully and dry with a clean cloth or kitchen paper.Trim to final size and refine edges with sandpaper.Acetone help glossy paper stick to rough paper.

Drill hole and solder all the component & PCB is ready. Cheer!!

Step 13: Conclusion

1. Iron on Glossy paper method is efficient method to make pcb at home. If done carefully each track can be perfectly printed.

2. Circuit by hand on PCB is limited to our artistic skills. Simple circuit can easily be made by this method but for complex pcb Iron on Glossy paper is best.


Andre82693 (author)2017-04-11

Hi and thanks for your help
I have a problem with finding the right paper for this project . Do you have a brand or model number of paper you have used that works well. I am using the Iron on method with MG Chemicals Ferric Chloride etch

BenjaminJ23 (author)Andre82693 2017-09-15

use magazene paper that is thick and glossy. It will be semi-difficult to find but when you do it works very well. also keep the iron on the board for around 2 minutes and 30 seconds. Also put the iron on max temp.

SatyamG7 (author)2016-04-27

Do we require any special kind of glossy paper or any will do? Cause I tried it and the paper is not sticking to the copper.

asadulhuq (author)SatyamG72016-11-22

You may use glossy, already printed pages from a magazine paper. Examples are fashion magagines. You must use a laser printer or a photocopy machine to print the pcb layout.

AlokaD (author)2016-09-04

Very helpful :) thanks

AhmedA598 (author)2016-06-14

hello sir iam a learner on pcb making ,how that copper existing on vero board

--scientists-- (author)2016-06-01

Do you use random paper

theoriginalrage (author)2016-04-04

I am interested in attempting this myself. I feel like I can do it following your methods. Thank you for the instructable!

sharon c jhon (author)2015-12-07

Is this circuit can be printed in this way or is it possible to do it in pcb bought from outlets pls help me pls pls

guruji1 (author)2015-01-29

Hi any marker will do the job?


Engg_suraj (author)guruji12015-01-29

Yes but it must be permanent marker.
We use this because permanent market doesnot allow etching soon to react with circuit track copper.Hence after full etching process permanent marker track remain and that our circuit track.
I hope brother you understood :)

panic mode (author)Engg_suraj2015-02-02

not every permanent marker will do (unless you do 100 layers). standard Sharpie will have quite poor results, thought someone mentioned trying industrial Sharpies which apparently was better.

phatgnat (author)panic mode2015-10-26

I have used a standard Sharpie permanent marker with great results.

alao.janet.98 (author)2015-07-19

I found this post highly instructive and educative. Indeed, I'm so blessed the re with. My sincere thanks to the acton and metre great to your elbow

Engg_suraj (author)alao.janet.982015-07-26

Thank you very much for appreciation :)

kiranvarma-npeducations (author)2015-06-19


Hi! i have developed a PCB, when i plug the 12V dc power, the board producing shocks. what would be the reason and how to avoid it.

DriesV (author)2015-03-23

Thank you, I am going to try it. Certinly the cheapest way.

panic mode (author)2015-02-02

regardless if fabed PCBs or home made prototypes I prefer to use ground planes. this reduces usage of etchant so FeCL3 lasts very long (just filter out solids and bottle it for next time).

ibenkos (author)2015-01-27

Is the pcb designing software free? And good project! I have wanted to make my own pcb, thanks for shearing :)

danqtoo (author)ibenkos2015-01-28

There are, as mentioned above, many free programs - Eagle being the one I most often see mentioned. I haven't tried that yet, because I'm pretty happy with what I've been using for years: Diptrace has a version ("Lite") that is free for non-profit use, with limit of 500 pins and 2 layers. I haven't come up against those limits though. It includes schematic drawing , all the parts libraries, auto-routing and placement, everything I've needed so far.

ibenkos (author)danqtoo2015-01-30

thank you so much, I have been trying to find an good and free program but I can't find any for macbook, but Diptrace is free and works on macbook :)

I'm also a fan of DipTrace. Relatively easier to use than Eagle and such. The only problem is when you need to change the Pad sizes, you have to do it manually and one by one, other that that; it works great.

there is tons of PCB design packages. commercial product are often available as limited feature version (small PCBs only, limit on number of schematic pages, limited number of networks, layers etc.). there are also open source products such as GEDA and KiCAD. I started using KiCad few years ago when I needed to make more complex project and tiny 2"x2" board simply couldn't cut it any more (I needed 4 multilayer boards, each 8"x10").

lazemaple (author)2015-01-30

Baking soda will neutralize the ferric chloride, however the greater toxin in the mordant is the copper that is suspended in the ferric chloride after use. I strain the ferric chloride through the v shaped paper coffee filters and save the copper sludge up in a small container - plastic food container or even old dish soap containers which I take to the Toxic Waste Disposal a couple times per year.

lazemaple (author)lazemaple2015-01-30

'Hazardous Waste Facility' its called in some municipalities.

jstevenson12 (author)lazemaple2015-01-31

Hey thank you for being ecology minded.

rjayaram (author)2015-01-31

Dear Dhiraj gehlot,

Ferric chloride being an oxidising agent, oxidises metallic copper to its higher oxidation state; at first to the cuprous state of oxidation number 1 and then to the cupric state ( Cu++) of oxidation number 2. Cuprous chloride formed first is a dirty white precipitate. This is then converted to cupric chloride by the excess ferric chloride. The solution after etching, becomes green due to the formation of green cupric chloride which is soluble in water. The chemical equations are:

2 Cu + 2 FeCl3 ---> Cu2Cl2 + 2 FeCl2

Cu2Cl2 + 2 FeCl3 ---> 2 CuCl2 + 2 FeCl2

Thank you.

rjayaram (author)2015-01-30

The chemical equation is totally wrong ! Better remove it.

Dhiraj gehlot (author)rjayaram2015-01-30

It would be great if you suggest the right equation.

I'm using the mixture of Hydrochloric Acid "HCl" (which is found in cleaning chemicals sellers - even at the corner shops, or some supermarkets) and some Hydrogen Peroxide "H2O2" (which can be found in cosmetics shops or chemical materials sellers). These are relatively cheap and easier to find. Be careful of the disposal though: dilate before disposing, or otherwise your garden can be a desert in no time :) Also, NEVER breath the fumes, so do it in open area.

hinge (author)2015-01-30

Copper can not have 3 valency.There is no such thing as CuCl3.It is either CuCl or CuCl2

Pentagrid (author)2015-01-29

I have actually done this before, as to possible printer damage, here in NZ you can buy special A4 sheets of print medium to substitute for paper. As you say, print to the glossy side & it works well. Nice instructable & thank you for writing it up.

Orngrimm (author)Pentagrid2015-01-29
CatalinRO (author)Orngrimm2015-01-30

I can confirm that these yellow papers are doing a great job on laser printers. The price is also very good and will help you to avoid finding the right glossy magazine paper.

In order to use the yellow paper properly, I used a modified hot laminator for paper (here are some pictures: ), using a regular iron is too complicated for me.

Orngrimm (author)CatalinRO2015-01-30

I had no problem with a normal iron and these papers... :) But for everyone whats working for him ...

Engg_suraj (author)Pentagrid2015-01-29

Thanks @Pentagrid for appreciation :)

jimmijames64 (author)2015-01-30

Great instructions. As for disposal of etching solution. I find that the safest method is to neutralize the solution with baking soda. It makes a bit of a mess, so I recommend doing it outside and wear safety glasses. I use 5 gal pail and put a kitchen garbage in the pail. Then add some baking soda and slowly add etching solution, then more baking soda. Wait for it to stop reacting between each step of adding solution and soda. Once you have neutralized the solution. The solution will have become a solid and can be disposed of safely.

CatalinRO (author)2015-01-30

I saw that Eagle is the choice of many electronic enthusiasts, I used it in a while, until I ran into board size limitations. The thing is that Eagle is free only for your home non-commercial projects.

Therefore if you move forward to sell you gadget, you are on the position to spend money for your CAD environment (that will make things fair, since you agreed to use Eagle). Since you may be a pro on a certain CAD environment, you don't want to lose the expertise you acquired, therefore you will pay it (from this perspective you are forced to do it).

Which may hurt your start-up budget. I prefer using real Open Source software.

And in 2015 I see creations with strong community behind, creations with rapid development, fast bug tracking and solving and so on.

You can basically run a complete Open Source chain: Ubuntu + Open Office + GIMP + Inkscape + Librecad + KiCAD. There is needed maybe some effort to setup and to learn some new things, but it always pays its money.

Since in this instructable was mentioned Open Source, I recommend KiCAD for schematic and PCB creation. There are small companies using it for commercial products, if you look at the software complexity, definitely it is not an amateur job. If you need some fancy options, if you are a multi billions company, perhaps KiCAD and Ubuntu is not for you :)

mikefromspace (author)2015-01-29


Laser cutter, start slicing stuff for under 50 dollars by lamedust


Either use a cnc or simply trace a pattern, or if you like you can mask using a 3d printer to put the carbon or some other high temp ceramic powder over a good mirror, then you can be messy about aiming the $50 laser cutter.

Finally, the metal sheet you're burning away would sit ontop needles to prevent improper drippage.

Is this a good theory?

I just happen to have a 6j laser that weighs over 1k lbs from the 80's in my garage and wonder what it is even capable of haha I've never used it. I even have an extra one for spare parts. I can't imagine that it's 6joules like the label says; maybe the burst power of 10kw I think it was, is much more. Can't find a manual.

alzie (author)2015-01-29

Very nice.

I used to do both the iron on and photo methods.

Much fun til it gets old, especially

trying to match up 2 sides of a double side board.

Up on the yahoo kicad forum,

theyve been talking about Seeed Studios pcb fab service.

I just ordered some boards, 22$ for 10 4x4" 2 side boards.

Sounds promising. I m awaiting delivery.

throbscottle (author)2015-01-29

Well written instructable :)

Engg_suraj (author)throbscottle2015-01-29

Thank you @throbscottle :)

dhowes (author)2015-01-29

My only criticism of this is that using gloss coated photo paper in a laser printer will permanently damage the transfer drum, which will cost an arm and a leg to replace!

So not really a cost-effective solution......

dsearfoss (author)dhowes2015-01-29

transfer drums are part of the toner cartridges in most modern laser printers I buy my cartridges at Newegg when on sale before I need them for my HP P1102w lastest one cost me only 17$ VERY COST EFFECTIVE!!! CAN'T GET THAT ACCURAUTE WITH A PEN

dhowes (author)dsearfoss2015-01-29

That's actually only true of the new b&w HP printers, if you think about it then that's completely impossible if your printer uses more than one cartridge :~) As far as I know all the others keep them seperate, the closest you get is that some budget models combine the drum and transfer sheet in one unit.

They're good printers until something goes wrong. Sadly, that tends to happen after quite a short period......

Kinnishian (author)dhowes2015-01-29

A lot of people have had success with modern laser printers. Maybe it's a coincidence, or maybe the transfer drums use a lower temperature these days? Alternatively there should be gloss coated photo paper that has a higher melting point.

dhowes (author)Kinnishian2015-01-29

Actually, it's the opposite - older B&W laser printers can keep going for a time (although they do succumb eventually). Coated paper in a modern laser printer WILL damage the transfer drum, it is a cumulative process, and it will invalidate any warranty you have on your printer. I know this from the large number of printers I've been asked to repair, and dumped in the trash!

Kinnishian (author)dhowes2015-01-29

Ahhhh! Ok. I did not realize it was a cumulative process. I do know of a laserprinter that was killed in one go, and so I was under the impression it was a "melt onto the drum and kill printer, or not" sort of thing.

But I'm not particularly knowledgeable about printers, so I'll have to take your word that it's a cumulative process. Thanks! I'll save my printer :p. OSHpark usually works for me anyway...I wouldnt like to do vias :p

awelsh4 (author)2015-01-29

I like to use photo etching. Just print your circuit (not mirror) on regular paper. Using cooking oil, set the paper (this makes it translucent) then place the paper, printed side down onto the photo sensitive material.

Place the board under a UV light for about 30 minutes (time varies by paper / light source) or in direct sunlight for about an hour (time varies by season, time of day, weather).

Remove the board from the UV light, remove the etch pattern, the use steel wool to clean etching surface which removes the photo sensitive film.

No toxic waste material to deal with and much higher quality etch once you get the timing down.

faelenor (author)awelsh42015-01-29

Why not printing directly on transparencies instead of using oil? You'll get better results and need a much lower exposure time!

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