Introduction: DIY Customized Circuit Board (PCB Making)

Picture of DIY Customized Circuit Board (PCB Making)
Today I'm going to show you how to make your very own customized PCB (printed circuit board). All you need are some materials and tools like a: PCB board, A bottle of Ferric Chloride, A mini drill, A small container, A bottle of thinner and Some plastic tweezers. Making your own circuit board only takes a snap, what you need is 30-45 minutes of time. I thought of posting this Instructable since there are only few articles out here in the site about making a customized circuit board

It is so easy even a 12 year old kid can make one !!!! ^_^ !!!!!

P.C.B. (Printed Circuit Board)

What are PCBs ?

PCB (Printed Circuit Board) is used to mechanically support and electrically connect electronic components using conductive pathways, tracks or signal traces etched from copper sheets laminated onto a non-conductive board. Components are connected through the conductive material below a non conductive board, the common conductive material used in packaged PCBs are usually copper, since copper is cheap and common.

Why Use Customized PCBs Instead of Ready Made Project Board?
First, because the board will be more compact because your design as well is made to be compact. Second, it's more convenient to use, since you can decide where to put space on your board. And last, the board will be stronger unlike those ready made project boards are full of holes everywhere, making ready made boards weaker.

How Do We Make Them ?

Usually you print your circuit design indirectly to your board, you print it on a glossy paper, photo paper or magazine paper. Let me remind you that before you print you should use a laser printer or a photocopying machine, using of inkjet printer will not work. After you had printed your circuit board design you will iron the printed design over the copper side of the PCB, ironing it above the copper side of the board will transfer the ink, from the glossy paper to the PCB board. The ink serves as the protective layer to cover the copper part that shouldn't be etched. Then after transferring the ink to the PCB board you will have to dip the PCB board to a etching solution like Ferric Chloride for 15 minutes. After etching it you might have to rinse the PCB board with water to remove the etching solution. After rinsing it you should remove the remaining ink with thinner, to uncover the uneched copper part. After removing the ink you will need to dill holes for your components to be soldered on the board. And last but not least just solder your components of your customized board and your done!!!

How does the procedure work?

Since the etching solution only works with metal and not with ink, you transfer ink to the copper side of the PCB be so that a certain pattern on your PCB board gets etched and the inked part doesn't

The video below is not mine!!

Its the courtesy of javapda.
The Peel n Press paper mention can be substituted with a magazine paper or photo paper.


Step 1: Tools & Materials

Picture of Tools & Materials

Here are the tools and material that you are going to need.

- Mini Drill (Dremel)
- Flat Iron
- Laser Printer / Photocopying Machine
- Latex Gloves
- Eye Protection

- Etching Solution (Ferric Chloride)
- PCB Board
- Fine Tipped Marker
- Ruler (optional)
- Magazine Paper / Glossy Paper
- Plastic Tweezers / Plastic Straws 
- Small Piece of Cloth
- Sanding Paper

Where To Buy: (click on the material to see where to buy)
- PCB Board
- Ferric Chloride 
- Sanding Paper
- Dremel
- Plastic Tweezers
- Latex Gloves
- Eye Protection
- Laser Printer

Step 2: Making Your Circuit Board Design

Picture of Making Your Circuit Board Design

If you already have a PCB layout then there's no problem you can just skip this step and go to the other one, you might as well write your design directly on the board, if you don't have plans doing the printing method. Before you make your own customizes PCB board you should first design your own PCB layout. You can can make your own PCB layout by using a decent PCB designing software. For me the best PCB board design software is Eagle Layout Editor, but for people who are looking for a less complicated software can use Microsoft Powerpoint.

Here's the link for Eagle Layout Editor download:

Step 3: Printing Your PCB Layout

Picture of Printing Your PCB Layout

When you print your layout be sure to use a Laser Printer or a Photocopying Machine, Inkjet Printers wouldn't work since its ink is soluble with water so it won't transfer its ink on the PCB board. Use any kind of glossy paper, magazine papers would do.


What Paper Should I Use:
- Photo Paper
- Magazine Paper
- Glossy Paper 

What Printer Should I Use?
- Laser Printer
- Photocopying Machine

Step 4: Ironing the Printed PCB Layout

Picture of Ironing the Printed PCB Layout

Use a laundry iron to iron your printed PCB layout to your board. Ironing the printed layout transfers the ink from the paper going to the PCB board. You need to set your iron's temperature to the highest setting if your paper is thick but if not, set it to the medium setting.

Step 5: Rubbing the Paper Off the Board

Picture of Rubbing the Paper Off the Board

You need to soak the board to a container of tap water for about 2-5 mins, or you can rub it will you expose it on running water from the sink. Be sure to wait until the paper on the board becomes soggy, then rub it gently so the ink wont get removed when you rub the paper off the board. 

Step 6: Sawing the Excess Board & Sanding It

Picture of Sawing the Excess Board & Sanding It

Saw the excess board with a metal saw. Next you need to sand the edges to smoothen the board with sanding paper, kindly use the finer so you will have a finner finish.

Step 7: Cleaning the Board & Restoring It

Picture of Cleaning the Board & Restoring It

Even though you have rubbed the paper off the board there will still be excess paper left on the board, remove it using a very sharp object like the tip of the cutter, the point of a sharp compass or a tooth pick. When you had rub it off or you had sawed the excess board, some of the inked areas had been remove unintentionally, you should restore it with a marker and a ruler.

Step 8: Etching the PCB Board

Picture of Etching the PCB Board

There are different variety of etching solution but the most common is Ferric Chloride. Get a plastic container, never use any kind of metal container. Pour th etching solution on your plastic container. Leave the PCB board for about 30-45 minutes in the container. After for about 30-45 minutes remove it from the container, leaving it for a long time will etch the ink protected area so please remove it when it's done.

Step 9: Rinsing the Board

Picture of Rinsing the Board

Rinse the PCB board with tap water, after etching it in the solution. Be sure to wear glover when cleaning it. It is advised to use plastic tweezers, please do not use metallic materials like pliers or your tool will end up like mine's, its rusty.

Step 10: Removing the Left Ink

Picture of Removing the Left Ink

First you should brush the remaining ink with laundry soap after etching the board to expose the copper part of the board, or you could clean it with a small piece of sanding paper (fine) while give it its shiny finish.

Step 11: Drilling the Holes

Picture of Drilling the Holes

Drill the board with a mini drill a dremel tool will do. After drilling it rinse it again with water. Be sure to drill it on the copper side, since the copper layout will be your guide where to drill.

Step 12: Your Done !!!

Picture of Your Done !!!

Your Done !!! ^_^ !!!! 

Be sure to clean it before you solder the components.


joespicnictables (author)2011-12-05

I think I might try this! Never tried etching a PCB board...

ASCAS (author)joespicnictables2012-06-08

Try it, its fun!

cyberviper42 (author)2012-04-05

Good instructable. You've got the right blend of pictures and text.

Just from a principals point of view i would use a glass container for the etching process rather than a plastic one. Glass is less likely to react with chemicals. Even if Ferric Chloride doesn't react with plastic, having a good glass container is useful for other projects.

ASCAS (author)cyberviper422012-06-08

Thank! I'l use glass instead.

agis68 (author)2011-09-10

thanx for this instructable...

lourens01 (author)2011-09-05

Just what I've been looking for. Great for once-off projects.
Good job. :)

profpat (author)2011-09-05

nice ible! hope people out there will like it too!

matt.e.jenkins (author)2011-09-04

I always wanted to try this. Thanks for the step-by-step. Great Job!

dex3844 (author)2011-09-04

Was looking for an instructable just like this one - Thanks big time

Mr. Scruff (author)2011-09-04

great. just what i needed. Thx!

simbu.rm (author)2011-09-03

Very good work.....

icekid (author)2011-09-03

Nice Job !!!! Works great :)))

PeterC319 (author)2017-07-02

Great instructable thanks! For those wondering though, I used EasyEDA for making my circuit! It was really easy and you just search for the exact part you are going to use and then insert it onto your board. No need to measure everything. You can also order your PCB from easy eda if you finally have the circuit exactly how you want and want a professionally done board.

tclayton (author)2017-04-10

Exactly what i need! Ive been doing such complex circuits on that hole punch lroject board and its aweful. I cant build more advanced stuff until i learn this so thankyou for a straight forward tutorial. Im curious about eagle cad, is it hard to use? Where did you learn about it?

GonN1 (author)2016-11-23


aberope (author)2016-10-20

Thanks a lot for this instructable, I finally got the way of making it so nice ^^

Errol1951 (author)2016-06-28

I have wanted to do this for a long time and you have given some great advice

Thank You

ASCAS (author)2011-09-04

It took me about 5 hours to make this ible. But everything is worth it !!! :))

sahmada (author)ASCAS2016-04-09

Great job dude! :)
But you must mention that you have to mirror it horizontally before printing it. So your typed words won't be reverse.

AdrianP56 (author)2016-04-05

Could you tell me the detail on ironing? On what state it is considered finished?
I've tried it 4 times but some parts are not inked.

Aethelstan2000 (author)2016-03-30

I am going to give this a try. What is the narrowest tracks you would consider as viable?

paulbrandt (author)2016-03-19

Thanks very much, you did an outstanding job! I guess 70 years old is not too old to learn, I am going to get me the equipment and start making some boards.

BramR1 (author)2016-03-01

I'm planning to make my own PCB with your tutorial. I was wondering though, can you reuse the laser printed image? I don't have a laser printer, and it's not so handy to print 500 of them at the laser printer shop.. Thanks for the nice tutorial!

BramR1 (author)2016-03-01

I'm planning to make my own PCB with your tutorial. I was wondering though, can you reuse the laser printed image? I don't have a laser printer, and it's not so handy to print 500 of them at the laser printer shop.. Thanks for the nice tutorial!

RANJITH GANDRA (author)2015-05-11

shall we use common printer

Toner printer will do.:)

vama89 (author)2016-02-08

Hey thanks for posting this! Just getting into electronics right now and was curious how these circuit boards were created. This answers it!

kamhagh (author)2015-11-12

I tried to do it, it wouldnt dissolve no matter how much i waited, but the ink was almost compeletly dissolved, i used powder! Until i made a new one in a bigger container and it got etched in line 15m or less! But the ink was already gone from last one so i had 2 tracks slightly disconnected on my main board and almost all tracks disconnected on the heater one (maybe with just a permanent marker!) But the smily guy was still there xD

TechincalBoy02 (author)2015-10-19

does Eagle Layout Editor need to install ?

AndriesS (author)2015-10-09

Looking awesome, sure going to try this. It's a cheap way of making pcb, but just one question, glossy magazines don't go in to my laser printer and i guess it will burn the paper, help me with that please.

set2Xplode (author)2015-10-02

I wish I could make this but dad doesn't really do electronics - can't find anything on the list in the shed ?

tobyscool (author)2015-08-01

Does Alexan(Philippines) sell PCB board? How much?

n2963p (author)2015-07-12

A comment was made below about drilling after etching. If
you drill after etching, the drill may catch the copper and rip the pad
off the fiberglass board. Drilling before means the copper is more
substantial and stable, and won't pull up as easily.

If you do want to drill after etching, make the drill holes in your layout smaller. That way, the drill tip can find the center of the hole easier and you won't have to use the punch. If you drill before and use the punch, the smaller hole mark will help you identify the center of the hole and reduce the risk of getting off center.

Also, try a scotchbrite instead of steel wool. The steel wool introduces dis-similar metals and may cause corrosion. The scotchbrite won't do that and it works just as well.

soujeem (author)2015-07-12


tclayton (author)2015-06-14

Awesome i always wondered how this was done, definitely gonna invest in materials for this, seems way more efficient than trying to solder loopy wires

galeb (author)2015-05-09

On step 3 you show both the paper and the PCB as the same, you need to print the mirror image so that when laid down on the PCB the image will be what you want printed on the PCB

YdorR (author)2015-05-08

Mr AbAk (author)2015-01-10

Nice Guide...

MushfiqS1 (author)2014-12-26

Excellent! Here is a series of tutorials for those interested in learned Eagle. Check it out:

Divergence (author)2014-12-22

Is there a way without a laser printer or photocopier? Because I don't have either

akashg1 (author)2014-11-23

this is really good Video. I hope I am going to do it in the first go with some amount of success. Thanks for sharing! I am keeping this page in my reading list.

akashg1 (author)2014-11-23

This is very good! I too am going to try something similar. Thank You very much for sharing. Hope mine will be sharable in first go!

Strickster (author)2014-01-08

Great instructable, I'm just not sure about a 12 year old working with acid...

AlwaysTrippin (author)Strickster2014-11-16

Well, I was 11 the first time i tried acid, and I turned out alright.

pfred2 (author)Strickster2014-04-15

Yeah I was 13 before I etched my first PCB. People start younger and younger these days.

TiagoS1 (author)2014-09-19

Great tutorial :-) You should consider drilling after etching tho.

vak52 (author)2014-07-13

Awesome! This helped me out a lot

Dnoel4 (author)2014-06-30

Great! Thanks! Very helpful!

shakespeare1212 (author)2011-09-04

Um, you think, maybe there's a chance this will ruin your metal drain pipes? Yes, I think so. I would rinse it in a large tub of water, and then pour the substance into a large plastic jug, and take it to a hazardous waste round up. OR pour a lot of baking soda into the ferric acid to nutralize it. I am not a chemist, but I think these points are valid, an lab techs / chemists want to chime in here?

try out HCl ( about 30%) and H2O2 ( 3%) in 1:2 ratio and never worry about the drain, as you don't need to throw it away.ever.

About This Instructable




Bio: Hi I'm Angelo! I am a 18 y/o college sophomore taking my majors in BS-ECE at the DLSU. I use my course as ... More »
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