Introduction: PCB Flashing Tree Decoration

About: This is the official Instructables page for the YouTube channel Mechanical Max. For most of my projects, I make videos and post them on YouTube. Now, I want to share how to create my projects in a new format t…

In this tutorial, you will learn how to effectively make an electronics project. As an example, I will make a PCB with flashing lights from start to finish. All of the electronics run by themselves with no coding required. All you have to do is plug in the battery! Check out the YouTube video for this project as well:


  • 555 timer chip
  • 47 uF capacitor
  • 1k ohm resistor
  • 100k ohm resistor
  • 10x 330 ohm resistors
  • 10x LED lights (any color)
  • DC barrel jack and compatible 9V battery cord
  • Soldering iron with solder
  • PCB provided by NextPCB

Step 1: Generating Ideas and Research

When looking for a project to do, it's important to research what's already out there so you can learn from others. Since you are on Instructables, you probably already see the value in reading guides and using resources. As I am writing this tutorial, I want to help you with a wide variety of projects, while using this PCB as an example.

I started this project by learning about alternating circuits in my DE class, and I wanted to learn more about electronics that did not need to be coded like an Arduino. I started prototyping with basic components like transistors and capacitors, then I eventually found the 555 timer chip has everything built-in. It only took a few searches to find a schematic with alternating lights, so I breadboarded it and began to test different resistor and capacitor values.

Step 2: Testing Your Circuit

The more you can test your circuit before sending it to manufacturing, the better your board will turn out. I decided to use TinkerCAD because it was free and online, so I could quickly change the resistor and capacitor values to make sure the circuit works as expected. This step may not be necessary for every project, but it can save a lot of time, and give you access to components you might not have.

Step 3: EDA

Once you have your circuit down, you can begin PCB design! The first step is to search for all of the components you use and place them into the schematic. Take time to write down all of the components you use, and double-check to make sure you have everything! While making the schematic, the components do not have to line up how they would on the board, you are just creating the connections at this step. A few things you can do to check your work are:

  • Make sure all of the connections are made
  • Check if all polarized components are oriented correctly
  • Look at the footprint of the chip and see if it matches yours

Once you have the schematic done, you can now start placing your components on the board. For this project, I made a custom outline so the PCB would be in the shape of a tree. I then put all of the components on the base of the tree, and the LEDs like ornaments on the top. I had to remind myself to put the components on the right side so it matched with the silkscreen (markings on the board).

To check my work, I used the 3D view to see how the components would fit in real life. After another check, I was ready to send the boards to manufacturing.

Step 4: Shipping/Component Sourcing

After you finish your design, it's time to gather all the components for your project. Keep in mind faster shipping is usually better than a lower cost, so go with a supplier you trust.

Now you can export your GERBER files for your PCB and send them to a manufacturer. For this project, I used NextPCB for their high-quality boards and holiday discounts. If you want to use them for your next projects, here are a few links to their website:

Enter to win a $20000 coupon:

Register for $10 coupon & Free PCB boards:

15% OFF - PCB & 10% SMT Orders:

Step 5: Testing and Soldering

Now that everything has arrived, you can solder on your components and begin testing! In this project, despite my efforts of perfection first try, there was one error with my schematic. Thankfully, it was only my LED's being reversed, so I only had to switch which leads went into the marked holes. I go more in-depth in my YouTube video if you are interested in the trial and error process.

Just remember that PCB projects usually take time before you can make them without error, so be patient with yourself. It's better to try again than wonder if it ever would have worked. With coding and PCBs, your biggest breakthroughs are just a few steps away when you keep moving forward.

And that's how I made this year's holiday decoration! Thanks so much for reading, and this is my first Instructables article, so If you want to see more, leave some comments with questions and check out the YouTube video! Thank you!