Picture of (Mostly) easy PCB manufacture
This is an easy way to create your own PCBs at home. The method is based on the "5 Bears" process (which is itself based on Tom Gootee's process). I've added a couple of refinements.
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Step 1: Create your design

Picture of Create your design
Start out by laying out the PCB traces & pads with your favorite CAD or PCB design program. I used Pad2Pad, mainly because I found that program pretty easy to use, and it's free for download. You're supposed to use Pad2Pad to design a board, then send the file to the company for manufacture. Instead, I use this design to create my own etching mask.

Unfortunately, you can't export p2p files into other formats. So, I printed the board layout to a PDF, then opened the PDF into Illustrator, which allowed me to clean up & fine-tune the design and separate it into layers. This technique is for creating single-sided PCBs, so I made two masks: One for the copper traces & pads, the other for the silkscreen. You need to print out a mirror image of your masks -- you'll see why soon -- but because the traces go on the back of the board, you can print those out normally. The silkscreen mask should be printed out in reverse.

I use 2pt lines for most of the traces; that comes out to about 0.028".
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Mr. Stealth5 years ago
Where do you get the board? What kind is it? An in-depth explanation would be nice.
guerroloco (author)  Mr. Stealth5 years ago
It's an ordinary single-sided copper PCB "blank" from Radio Shack. You could get it from any of the usual online electronics parts places, for example

sir,i want to know that pcb is used in the printer right,? but how to make it i really have very less knowledge about the pracitcal experiment please let me know how to start and how to perform this all.

Ok. Thank you. I want to build the Ironman Arc Reactor by Honus and I need to know how to make my own PCB. You did a very good job at explaining this. Well done.
prajwal.vs7 months ago

how to make PIR security light's PCB ?

R-A7 months ago

Thanx for the tutorial.

How would I print a white / blue layer on the PCB side, like you see with most commercial boards?

cooldharap8 months ago

how to print mirror image ?

guerroloco (author)  cooldharap8 months ago

Depending on your graphics program, there could be a setting in your "print" or "print setup" dialog, like this:


thank u sir for your immediate reply !

FoamboardRC made it!1 year ago

Hey thank you very much for the i'ble! I made my very first PCB 2 days ago, and this one is my second board but it wasn't so great. I didn't read your i'ble all the way through and I didn't quite remove all of the paper that was in between the traces. I left a very small layer of paper. Unfortunately because of that lots of the copper that was in between the traces didn't etch :(. Well next time I will do it right!

One question, I am using double-sided copper (that's all radioshack has) and I wanted a pointer on making a silkscreen on the other side. So for the circuit, you DO NOT reverse (flip) it? But on the silkscreen you do? How do you align them up well?


Your technique seems excellent, but is there no risk of damaging the PCB if the silk screen and the traces must be on the same side of it?
yaly3 years ago
Hi you drilled after applying the etcher my dad is a professor in physics and told me that the etcher's little particles some of them penetrate the toner and make the copper under it fragile so he tells me to drill before etching try it and tell me please reply soon.
dviraj004 years ago
hey,guies i have a confusion that how many PCBs i want to build this plz help me in this...............
i.c.rhodes7 years ago
How would you go about converting a schematic to a pcb layout manually, with no software. I would like to teach students how to do this before they go on to using layout software.
what guerroloco says is very good advice personally i use pad2pad because of its simplicity of use to hand draw a pc layout, try positioning connected components next to each other to save time and hassle to make "extensive" traces also color in a ground plane to save on etchant hope this helps
guerroloco (author)  i.c.rhodes7 years ago
If it's a simple circuit, I re-draw the schematic several times until I have a version that has no crossings. If it's more complicated, i'll use a schematic layout software (like ExpressSCH, that lets me move connected components around. It might require running connections between terminals (or "through" or underneath components -- see U1-U8 in my picture to see what i mean). The goal here is not compactness or even relative position of components, it's just good topology with fewest crossings (which would require jumpers). I also try to move similar off-board terminals close to each other (for example, power supply + and -). Once I have a design with the least number of crossings, I'll use a PCB layout program, add all the components, arrange them more-or-less like my improved schematic, and connect them. At that point I can move them closer together, rotate, shorten/simplify trace routing, etc.
OK what was the chemical you used to etch the copper?
It's ferric chloride, commonly available at Radio Shack or any of the online electronics stores. It's kind of nasty stuff. This guy has an instructable that suggests a more benign solution (haha):!--A-better-etc/
yeah its reusable u gotta get rid of ferric chloride after using it and its "toxic" so theres this whole big deal about it, involving going to hazardous waste facilities. this stuff should be better...
bman225 years ago
I just wanted to let people know, there are much better ways to do the toner transfer than photo paper. It has failed pretty much every time for me. After reading the comments I tried numerous things. I tried taping wax paper to plain paper (it works OK if your laser printer doesn't melt it to a crisp), magazine paper (its a little tricky to keep the printer from jamming), and the best thing I have found is the waxy side of avery labels. I didn't even need water, it just peeled right off leaving the toner perfectly in tact. If you use a lot of them around the house (we do) stop throwing away the backing, because they are perfect. no melting, no jamming, and easier than photo paper. Also, does anybody know where a good Instructable on the actual etching method is? I know this toner transfer method fine, but I have never etched a board, because I could never get the transfer to work. all of them just say etch it in ferric chloride. I have that, and a container, but I need a good Instructable on exactly what to do.
jamilm95 years ago
Seifpic6 years ago
I'm not sure why, but this is the best 'make your own PCB' Instructable.
vdr206 years ago
I used hp glossy paper. When I iron the paper onto the board half of the toner stays onto the board no matter how long I iron it on fior. What do I do?
collard416 years ago
I feel sorry for all of you out there that have to use this method, hard and laborous (did i spell that right!). i go to school and what we do is print out the design on a special type of tracing paper (high quality) and then put it in a UV exposure box with the board, (the board has photo resist on it). and then just dunk it in an etching tank, i cant remeber what chemical we use, it isnt ferric chloride. it takes about 10 mins and then you take it out of there and put it in the special rinsing tank. i dont bother to put a silk screen on because i can just refer to the schematic and layout. i dont use eagle i use Proteus. it costs about £1500, but the school paid for it. it is much better and easier to use. but then it is what professional companies use.
buiocchi6 years ago
what is the importance of dipping it into the etching liquid?
Etchant essentially eats the copper off of the PCB. The point of doing the toner transfer is so that certain areas of the copper-clad PCB are covered up by toner (a permanent marker does the same thing), and thus protects the copper from being eaten by the etchant. Afterwards, you just use the fingernail polish remover (acetone) to clean the toner/marker off of the board, which reveals the still in-tact copper below it.
sha40966 years ago
I have tried with two Laser printers. The first one, the HP LaserJet P1005 has a great toner and will easily transfer in less than a minute of ironing using paper from magazines. However, the toner tends to melt and you must not press too much when ironing otherwise you will loose details. The second printer, the Brother HL-2000 has a toner which is more thermal-resistant. It is also more prone to paper-jamming. So set the printer settings such that the highest paper thickness is activated. Ironing is more difficult with the Brother toner, I found that the best way for small PCB was to leave the iron on top of the paper and leave for 5 minutes without moving the iron. Heat is the way to go if you want to transfer with Brother toner.
nickjohnson8 years ago
Very tricky. I tried this with a used iron bought from the salvy. Even at the highest setting, it's probably not as hot as it should be... First time, I tried no more than 3 minutes, and very little transfered at all. Next, I tried a total of 7 minutes and most of the design was trasnferred, which I touched up later
Hi nick, nice I found yr words here. You see I am trying to find PCB with Iron layer and not copper. You know how and where to find it?? Appreciate yr advice - roger
nickjohnson8 years ago
Is there any good way to agitate or heat the etching solution? I was thinking of using a glass container with a halogen lamp against it, or to put the whole thing on a turntable.
Constant agitation is virtually essential. You can use a brush or a stick to move the board around or to move the etchant over the surface(s) of the board so as to always have some fresh etchant on the copper, and therefore homogenise the dissolved copper.

If the etchant is hotter, it will work better (ferric chloride). But don't make it over about 80deg C, or the fumes could start eating into the copper wiring in your ceiling light (probably not). Or your health may suffer from breathing it in.

Ammonium persulphate apparently needs to be in a window zone of temperature.

As for the hydrochloric acid and hydrogen peroxide method.... Apparently it can become an exothermic reaction and provide heat to itself, eventually exploding... So I wouldn't overheat that, if possible!
sumit3817 years ago
Where can I buy this copper board? Is it available at hardware stores like Home Depot, Lowes, etc? And how much do these boards range price-wise? Is there any specific name for this board that I should ask for when I go to the store? Thank you for your help.
Dodgy sumit3816 years ago
It's called copper clad fibreglass sheet, or blank PCB or FR-4 with Cu coating, or other names you may choose to make up. There is also a phenolic or SRBP type, which is older and sometimes still used today. There is also the type that they use in China for cheaply made TVs & VCRs, and most consumer items not needing a flame retardant ability. Their holes and egdes are punched, and the boards are often very flexible, and not reliable if flexed, but hey, they cost them a lot less than the high quality fibreglass PCBs (UL: 94-V0 or FR-4)
You won't find them at hardware stores, but electronics shops.

Price, about Aust./US$5 for a small board to $80 for a very large double sided, these are rough prices.
This will give u an idea of what's around. Farnell has locations all around the world.
guerroloco (author)  sumit3817 years ago
any radio shack will have these, or you can order online from digikey, all electronics, and hundreds of other vendors.;_X_6%22#34;_SINGLE-SIDED_PC_BOARD_.html

Thank you for your reply.
Gut Danke, this tutorial very good. Danke!! Saludos desde Guatemala!
Swartzkip7 years ago
Im new to al this, but as far as i understand the only thing holding of the eching solution back is the toner from the printer. So you should use a paper that leaves al the toner on the bord. (correct?) A other instructable uses "baking paper" (stuf you use in the oven so that baked goods dont stick to the plate) to transfer designs on tshirts. Maybe that wil work too.
Fritzk97 years ago
On Step 6, you can save a lot of wasted time soaking off the paper backing by printing your PCB pattern on Toner Transfer Film (TTS) instead of paper. TTS film is a thermoplastic film that has a water soluble backing which releases it in about 30 seconds when dipped in water. See details at under Direct Etch. You can purchase TTS film from Digi-Key ( for $14.95 for a 10-sheet pack (Digi-Key stock # 182-1003-ND). Once you've used TTS film, you'll never go back to paper.
LordSTITH7 years ago
I printed to the backing sheet of some Avery's labels. Worked great, the paper popped right off when I tossed it in a little cold water. It worked almost too well to believe. I want to see how wax paper works, though, because getting labels purely for PCB making is a tad expensive. I'd like to take my boards to the next level, though. I have a silk screening frame and I want to play with doing a silk-screened documentation layer, but before that I'd like to coat the board in whatever that green insulation is. Anyone know anything about the stuff?
mrpiggss7 years ago
i just tried something and wanted to pass it along. i used HP glossy photo paper and copied onto it with an ordinary toner copier, ironed it on and it popped off leaving the toner behind. i did soak it for a few minutes in cold water. it's the HP photo paper with the real photo backing. it's thick stuff and it works like magic. no real soaking or peeling off layers of paper. i bought the paper at miejer. just thought i'd pass this along. i have 6 good boards in a row of the first try!
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