Introduction: PCB Etching Using Laser Printer

Picture of PCB Etching Using Laser Printer

The goal of this instructable is to share my experience in making PCBs using a Laser Printer
If you are really into electronics and robotics, then you must MUST make your own PCB's.

Introduction to PCB etching using toner transfer method

In the following technique, I use a solution of hydrochloric acid (Muriatic acid) and Hydrogen peroxide and drop my copper board into it. Within a blink of an eye, you find that the board has etched and your circuit is ready to conquer the world.
If you feel that the instructable is summerized, feel free to check out the complete documentation and a video tutorial in my site:

Materials required:

Copper Board
Laser printer
Fine sand paper or Kitchen Scrubber
Muriatic Acid / Hydrochloric Acid (HCL)
Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)
Thinner / Acetone
Plastic container
Circuit diagram
Electronic or Hand Driller
Fine Drill Bits (0.5mm and 1mm)

Step 1: Paper and Printer Selection

Picture of Paper and Printer Selection

Paper selection

Selecting an appropriate paper is your first step in making a right selection. Glossy photo quality paper or even a glossy thick magazine sheet would do wonders

Printer selection

I have used a printer to transfer the circuit diagram onto the copper board. If you are using a sharpie or a marker, go ahead with it. I haven't tested it, but I guess it should be OK.
Set your printer to output maximum toner and printer your circuit on the glossy paper

Step 2: Preparing the Board and Transferring Toner

Picture of Preparing the Board and Transferring Toner

Preparing the Copper board

Normal Copper board availabe at your radio shop would be good enough. Use a kitchen scrub or a fine sand paper and rub surface until you feel it is clean. DO NOT over do it. Once done, clean it with water and a clean cloth and avoid touching the surface

Transferring toner to board

This step is not as complicated as the title says. Switch on your cloths iron and turn it to its highest setting. Place the printed paper over the board and start moving the iron over it for 2-3 minutes. Now drop the board into a mug of water and peel off the glossy paper.

Step 3: Etching and Removing Toner From Copper Board

Picture of Etching and Removing Toner From Copper Board

Etching the board

Mix Hydrochloric acid to Hydrogen peroxide in a ratio of 2:3 and drop your copper board into it. Within 5-10 seconds, you can see the copper removed from the board and tracks clearly visible.

Removing Toner

Wash the etched board thoroughly in water and then use acetone or a nail polish remover and clean the surface so that the toner is removed and copper tracks are clearly visible.

Step 4: Drilling the Circuit Board and Soldering Components

Picture of Drilling the Circuit Board and Soldering Components

Drilling & Soldering

Once the toner is completely removed, use a hand driller or an electronic drill and drill holes into the board to mount the components. Place the components and solder them across.

You are ready with a complete professionally (almost) looking circuit board. If you have all the tools and parts in hand, the entire process takes less than an hour.


Muriatic Acid is dangerous. Hydrogen peroxide, although not dangerous, still gives your skin a burnt effect. Be careful with these solutions

If you succeed or in case of any doubts, share your comments.


Adambowker98 (author)2012-10-22

Could you just use a etching solution from RadioShack instead of doing all that 2:3 mixing?

ArifSae (author)Adambowker982016-09-10

nope, its expensive. and often not found in many locations. I live in large city but still i find it difficult, due to decline in hobbyists.

ArifSae (author)ArifSae2016-09-10

also if we can get etching solution, so can we get products ready made :P here goes the diy spirit out o window haha

By the way, visit the site and you would understand what  I mean with all those simple and easy for anyone to do tutorials :)

I could have, but I did not. The intention of my site is to show everything from scratch. I could get an arduino and get away with all the mess. I can get the boards printed with a manufacturer and keep cool. But that is not the intention of the site.

I guess you would have got the point by now. :)

Azraelsrebellion (author)2013-01-15

Great instructable thank you! I wish I had listened about the magazine paper. I tried using expensive photo paper first and it took serious effort to scrub all the left behind paper. The old magazine paper just lifted right off after a min soak. No problem. Kicking myself for not trying it first.

ArifSae (author)Azraelsrebellion2016-09-10

150gm glossy paper works like charm too.

mykiscool (author)2014-05-18

So, can you use glossy paper from magazines that already has print since the ink is dry, or do you need fresh paper? Your picture shows a magazine with print.

ArifSae (author)mykiscool2016-09-10

yes can use.

batmat (author)2011-10-27

Very well.
I don't fink way form (Glossy photo quality paper can be used for etching.)
I never thought could be done this way. Pretty simple. Too bad I do not own a laser printer, but as was thinking of buying one, as my epson are already getting old, so I'll try the business with pleasure. I will test with someone who has a laser and then I will buy a certain one or exchange. Who knows ...

ArifSae (author)batmat2016-09-10

can get it out from print shops for cheap

Robotplatform (author)batmat2011-11-08

That is exactly what I did before purchasing one. I tried it from other printers and once I was confirmed that it worked, got one.

batmat (author)Robotplatform2014-06-17


tomc53 (author)batmat2014-06-16

Rather than buying a laser printer, consider an office supply store to print (<10 cents per page) or your local library. Unless you are going into mass production, of course... ;)

batmat (author)tomc532014-06-17


ezhilabhi (author)2014-10-14

Can we use magazine paper which has already been printed on?

ArifSae (author)ezhilabhi2016-09-10


nfarrow (author)2014-04-08

Just wondering if it's possible to use electrolysis process rather than acid for the etching?

baelza.bubba (author)nfarrow2015-01-22

In my experience, using the electrolytic process rather than acid etching is a short path to frustration. The copper would need to be connected to the anode for each separate pad and trace ... when the copper has gone into the solution, there will be gaps in the design where positive voltage wasn't passing through it.

ArifSae (author)baelza.bubba2016-09-10

Here are my observations from living in Pakistan:

1. either
its ,more diluted vinegar or hydrogen per oxide. the process is NOT 10 -
20 minutes long, but takes hours. which in result causes poor tracks as
toner transferred plastic begin to dissolve or drop off. Conclusion;
Poor method for my usage.

2. Better: use electrolysis in salt water solution. BUT it leaves dust like structure behind, perhaps not fully etched.

BEST OF BOTH WORLDS. I used electrolysis to remove access copper from
pcb than used vinegar method (1) to remove the little dust like

Worked like charm.

ArifSae (author)ArifSae2016-09-10

my result with above method

Abhishek KumarV (author)2015-11-09

how glossy paper used in the laser printer it is not acceptable...plz guide me

ArifSae (author)Abhishek KumarV2016-09-10

150gm thick paper works. got it from printer few days ago

Adarsh_tronix (author)2013-11-24

Is there any reason in particular for avoiding Ferric Chloride for etching?

ArifSae (author)Adarsh_tronix2016-09-10

expensive and not easily available at some places.

This is much easier to dispose and can be reused over and over.

See this instructable for more info:!--A-better-etc/?ALLSTEPS

manicmonday (author)2015-09-12

Do you know if bubble jet ink will work?


ArifSae (author)manicmonday2016-09-10

laser jet ink has plastic in it. the main element

LawrenceH8 (author)manicmonday2016-02-14


ALISHAB10 (author)2016-05-11

After doing etching same as described above i am nt getting the conductivty . flow is not continue in the circuit . how to make the circuit continue so that i can get conductiviy..

ArifSae (author)ALISHAB102016-09-10

look closely, there must be broke tracks (thin lie hairline) better to use magnifier. Now use solder to bridge the gaps. check all tracks with multimeter for continiuety

HirenV3 (author)2015-10-12

What is glossy paper thickness

ArifSae (author)HirenV32016-09-10

150 gm glossy worked well for me

It dosent matter how thick the paper is

kitsypaws (author)2015-12-30

It took a while to get right but it worked great after. Thank you!

HirenV3 (author)2015-10-12

Sir we use only glossy paper,which is olternative of glossy paper and i would like to know that can i use the thin glossy papaer instead of thick glossy paper.

HirenV3 (author)2015-10-12

Sir we use only glossy paper,which is olternative of glossy paper and i would like to know that can i use the thin glossy papaer instead of thick glossy paper.

kshitizv3 (author)2015-02-05

hey, can i use inkjet printer instead of laser printer?

No. The way a laser printer works is that it creates a layer of toner that adheres to the paper, and then uses a fuser to heat that layer up and bind to the paper (kind of like melting it). By using glossy paper, we prevent it from being able to really dig into the papers porous fibers, which allows us to later heat it up and transfer the print onto another surface.

Inkjet, on the other hand, just sprays ink onto the paper and does not utilize heat to cure it to the paper. Even if we could transfer the ink onto the copper board somehow, I suspect that A) You would get a blotchy mess, and B) It would probably wash off immediately defeating the purpose of this process entirely.

I hope that is of some help - even if it is 4 months late. :)

Just to clarify (as it might not be obvious to everyone), toner is the laser printers equivalent of ink.

allsparkunleashed (author)2013-01-01

we should use only glossy photo paper?? cant we use ordinary a4 size paper..??

Glossy paper is used so that the ink would melt on heating and get transfered on to the board.I seriously doubt if you could achieve the same with ordinary A4 paper.

You most certainly can use plain A4 paper, I've had lots of success with it.

That's weird because it never worked for me.The ordinary paper absorbed the toner so well that it didn't melt on heating.

I've tried the cheapest paper from Coles with lots of success. To be fair, the paper alone isn't all of the answer. I've had more success by changing the toner settings on the printer (Brother HL-2130) to a darker print-out and my iron to Cotton setting (the hottest setting). I am lazy and have a short attention span, so I only iron for 2-3 minutes ... but I move the iron around a lot. Also, I am a bit obsessive with cleaning the copper thoroughly first - hot water and mild soap, rub until dry, rub-down with isopropyl alcohol, rub until dry ... then iron. I would certainly recommend persisting with cheap paper because it's, well, cheap.

Points noted.Thank you baelza.bubba! and yeah,cheaper the paper,the better it gets .But for me it is because of the ease with which cheap paper can be peeled off the board,once the toner is transferred.The costlier ones require greater time and effort since the paper's quality tends to be better.So it's a win-win situation for cheap papers.Yay!

I thoroughly agree, Ardash_tronix, I once tried with some expensive heavy GSM paper that was supposed to be the ducks guts, it turned out that the paper had a thin layer of plastic on it which made it impossible to remove from the PCB without acetone ... I learned my lesson that day

"There is no better teacher than experience "

ezhilabhi (author)2014-10-14

Can we use magazine paper which has already been printed on?

jon_r_pawlik (author)2014-05-29

One Chinese eBay seller offers "10 Sheets SZ A4 Heat Thermal Transfer Paper For PCB Circuit Board Iron Prototype" for about $5 USD shipped in buy it now auctions. With patience you may win an auction for as little as $0.06 USD shipped. The sample results look encouraging.

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