Introduction: Nice Looking Component Side Preview for PCBs

Picture of Nice Looking Component Side Preview for PCBs

This instructable will teach how to make a nice looking image of the component side of your printed circuit boards made with Cadsoft's EagleEagle. The process can also be easily adapted to other PCB Cads. The software tools needed are:

-MS Paint

Comparing the crude looking of the original green/blue/white image with the sharp look of the
salmon/white image one can see that it worths the effort!!!

Step 1: Exporting the Background

Picture of Exporting the Background

Open your board with Eagle PCB editor.

Click in "Display" icon at Eagle pallete and then in "None" button. Then reselect the following layers
- Bottom
- Pads
- Vias
- Dimension

Click "Ok" button and you'll see the blue and green image of the bottom copper layer with pads and vias.

Click in File->Export, then select "Image"

Now check the "Clipboard" and "Monochrome" boxes and set the resolution to 300dpi. Then click Ok


Step 2: Changing the Colors of the Background

Picture of Changing the Colors of the Background

Now open Irfanview and then press Control+V (or select Edit-Paste). You shall see the Black and white image of the board

Now go to Image->Pallete->Edit pallette... menu in Irfanview, then click twice in the white box to change the white color to the color that will appear as the tracks, pads and vias. I prefer to use the salmon color, (RGB: 255,128,128) for two reasons:

- First one is that this is the first of the so called "Basic Color" in the Color window that appears, then I don't have to remember which color I've used the last time.
- Second one is that this salmon color provides a very nice look either when seen in a computer display or in a monochrome printer.

Click Ok button and then double click the black square in Pallete entries window. This time change the black color to a white color. Click Ok Button in the Color select window.

Now the board image shall be salmon and white.

Now choose Edit->copy option in irfanview (or press Control+C) to copy the image to the clipboard.

Step 3: Pasting the Background

Picture of Pasting the Background

Open MSpaint and open the Attributes window by typing Control+E or by clicking in Image->Attributes. Change Width and height of the image so it's smaller than the board image. A 100x100 pixels is a good start.

Now type Control+V or go to Edit->Paste to paste the board image to MSpaint workspace. The Workspace now was resized to the Board image size.

Now, still in MSpaint, go to menu Image and unmark the Draw Opaque option.

Step 4: Exporting the Image With the Components

Picture of Exporting the Image With the Components

Now go back to back to Eagle and click the Display menu and select the following layers:
- Vias
- Dimension
- tPlace
- tOrigins

You shall see the black and white image with the components.

If you haven't arranged the Names and Values of the components you can do it now:

First select the Group button in Eagle. Then draw a square big enough to embrace all the board. This will mark a group wit all the components of the board.

Now click in the Smash button of Eagle. Then RIGHT click over the board to perform the Smash function in the whole group, i.e., all the components. Now it's possible to move the components as well as the Name and Value labels.

After the labels are properly organized, go again in the Display menu and unselect the tOrigins layer.

Go again in File->Export, Image and check the "Clipboard" and "Monochrome" boxes and set the resolution to 300dpi. Then click Ok button to send the black and white image of the components to the clipboard.

Step 5: Placing the Components Image

Picture of Placing the Components Image

Go to MSpaint again. Click in Edit->paste, to paste the Black and white board image over the salmon and white background.

Now type Control+I in MSpaint, or click in Image->Invert colors. Make sure that Draw Opaque option is unmarked in Image menu of MSpaint. You shall see now in MSpaint a nice looking board image, but there's one last step:

Type Control+A in MSpaint, or select Edit->Select All. Then Type Control+C (Edit->Copy) to copy the image to the clipboard.

Step 6: Finishing

Picture of Finishing

Go to Irfanview and press Control+V (Edit->Paste). Now select Image->Decrease Color Depth option in Irfanview menu. Now Choose 16colors to reduce the image size.

Now press S (or File->Save as) in Irfanview and select GIF and uncheck "Save interlaced" and "Save Transparent Color". Now give a name to the picture and we're done!


circuitpeople (author)2008-07-13

Another, perhaps simpler way to visualize boards is with Just output gerbers and upload them to the site. Also, they're working on a downloadable viewer that does really nice WYSIWYG images.

westfw (author)2008-02-10

You can do this more automatically if you have gerbview (gerbv?) (or perhaps other gerber viewers) installed. OTOH, installing and using gerbview is sufficiently obnoxious that it's not immediately obvious that this would easier overall.

danjovic (author)westfw2008-02-11

Another option would be to modify the color scheme of Eagle, to get, for example gray tracks over a white background and export the image straightly. I´ve tried this, but I can´t get use to route the tracks using a shiny background. (PS: I never use autoroute)

matseng (author)2008-02-10

Ok, that's nice if you like salmon/pink.

I prefer the 3D rendered look you get when postprocessing the eagle files with eagle3d and povray.

danjovic (author)matseng2008-02-11

The 3D preview is really impressive, but I think it´s more useful to preview how do the board will look after it has been assembed. The Salmon/White preview is intended to help you to assemble (and even troubleshoot) the board, showing the value and the location of each component. I use to print my drawings in a monochrome Laser printer and it looks very well.

matseng (author)danjovic2008-02-11

Ah, I see you mean now.... Your color reversed / lower contrast color combo is easier to use than the default. An idea: Maybe it's possible to do the color changes and layer settings in an ULP, and then just print directly from eagle? I really don't know since I've never written an ULP myself, maybe it's time to do that some day when I feel bored :-)

westfw (author)matseng2008-02-10

I keep waiting for someone to post an instructable on using Eagle3d. hint, hint.

matseng (author)westfw2008-02-10

Really? There's no Eagle3d instructable? Hmmm.... I might give it a shot...