In this instructables i will be teaching you how to etch a PCB using Toner Transfer Method. This method is one of the easiest and cheapest method for printing PCB at home for your hobby projects.

I have inserted the video of PCB Etching using toner transfer method. Please do check it out.

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  1. Copper Clad Board
  2. Ferrous chloride ( PCB Etching solution )
  3. Dry Iron Box
  4. Permanent Markers
  5. OHP Sheets Or Photo Paper
  6. Acetone (Nail Polish Remover)
  7. Plastic or Glass Container
  8. Kitchen Scrub

Tools Required:

  1. Drilling Machine
  2. Hexa Blade
  3. 0.8mm - 1.0 mm drill bits
  4. Adhesive Tape
  5. Scissors

Step 2: Preparation of Clad Board

Copper when exposed to air forms a oxidation layer. Start the process by rubbing the clad board using kitchen scrub. You can also use Stainless Steel brush. Rub the board until the oxidation layer is removed and the board should look very lustrous (shiny).

Caution: Do Not over do this process because this may degrade the quality of PCB by decreasing the strenght of copper layer.

Step 3: Printing the Circuit Design on OHP Sheet

Print the circuit design on the Transparent OHP Sheets using LASER JET PRINTER . This process does not work using Ink Jet Printer. Do not mirror the Circuit Image while taking the printout.

Now paste the printed side of OHP sheet on the copper side of the Board. Secure it using the Adhesive Tape( Gum Tape). Make sure there are no air bubbles or dust while laying down the printed OHP sheet.

Step 4: Toner Transfer to PCB ( Transfer of Design on PCB)

Set the dry iron box to maximum temperature. The prepared PCB is kept on a flat surface and press and hold the iron on PCB for about 20-30 seconds.

Then rub the surface of PCB using the edge of Iron for 1 minute. Apply heat evenly on the Board for uniform transfer of toner ink from OHP to Copper layer.

This is the most fun part of the entire process but you have to be very careful. Do not over heat the board for long duration.

After that allow the board to cool down for a while(1 minute) in cold water. Once the board is cooled down, slowly remove the OHP Sheet very carefully.

If there are any lines missing, just mark the line using a Permanent marker.

If you don't have access to laser printer you cab design the whole PCB using permanent marker only by just drawing the required circuit lines in copper board.

Step 5: Etching Process __The Most Exiting Part :)

For the etching process follow the following steps carefully_

Safety First- Wear your eye protection, hand gloves and move the whole apparatus to well ventilated area.

  1. Take a plastic or glass container.
  2. Add required amount of ferrous chloride ( about 2-4 spoons) and dissolve it using 20-30 ml of cold water. U can also use the concentrated ferrous chloride directly on the board.
  3. Now dip the prepared Copper Board in the Solution.
  4. Keep agitating the mixture until the unwanted copper is dissolved into the solution.
  5. After this process the copper protected by toner ink is Undissolved and the rest is dissolved into the solution.
  6. Once its done rinse the PCB in water and dry it.
  7. The ink can be removed by using Acetone( Nail Polish Remover) or by using kitchen scrub.
  8. After this the PCB is ready for drilling.
  9. this process takes about 5-25 minutes depending on the concentration of solution.

CAUTION: Do Not use Metallic spoons and containers as the ferrous chloride is very corrosive and can dissolve almost all metals. Carry out this process in well ventilated area and do not inhale the fumes.

Step 6: Drilling and Finishing

The toner ink is removed and the board is again rinsed in water.

Then drill the holes for pads and vias according to required size using power drill or hand held PCB driller of your choice. The standard drill size for low power application is 0.8 mm or 1.00 mm.

Use solder flux while soldering for better performance and to avoid messing of excess solder as we have not applied Solder Mask on our PCB. The flux increases the affinity of solder towards copper.

Congratulations!! You have successfully printed a Circuit Board using toner transfer method.

If you come across any doubts please let me know in the comments section. I will try my best to help you out.

Published on :10 December 2016


Sandesh Hegde (a.k.a THE TECHNOCRAT)

Email: sandesh.hs1234@gmail.com

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    21 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Important remark: In my opinion, if you print out "the copper side", you SHOULD mirror your image before printing, because when you put toner side to the copper, it will be mirrored back. To make it clear, print out anything with characters on normal paper. Now, take this sheet of paper and put it on glass surface, i.e. window glass to see thru paper. Your characters will be now correct.You have to put your print out with toner side to the copper clad and you are looking THRU printout. If you will not mirror your image before printing, your drawing with transferred toner will be wrong!

    And that what you see, it will be transfered to the copper clad.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Hi thanks for the comment.

    In EAGLE CAD software, the bottom layer(in blue here) of the PCB is already mirrored with respect to the TOP VIEW.(Whatever you see on the Eagle screen is top view...like you are holding a pcb and viewing from the component side).

    You will have to mirror if you have designed the top side PCB.


    2 years ago

    Hi and thanks for your help I have a problem with finding the right paper for this project . Do you have a brand or model number of paper you have used that works well. I am using the Iron on method with MG Chemicals Ferric Chloride etch

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi, you can use any kind of OHP(over head projection) sheets or the paper used for printing photograph.
    Here is the example : http://www.amazon.in/Desmat-OHP-Sheets-Pack-100/dp/B019I9Y6OY



    2 years ago

    Good instructions, but I do not understand why people use the horribly messy Ferric Chloride as an etchant when a 1:3 (by volume) mix of Hydrochloric Acid (Also known as Muriatic Acid) and Hydrogen Peroxide (3% solution available at most pharmacies). I thought everyone had switched to this much cleaner etching solution, and one that can be used several times, by simply adding a little peroxide before usage.


    2 years ago

    why remove all of the unused copper?

    I remember boards where the ground pad (or unused copper) remained.This would reduce copper waste and reduce ferrous chloride waste.

    Yes, it would increase toner waste and acetone waste.



    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    You can also leave the unused copper part according to your wish. Leaving the copper also increases the strength of the PC board. That all depends on your design.


    2 years ago

    Great post. Have tried this technique several times over the last couple of decades with limited success. I'll try it your way next time and see how it goes. I just reverted to one of the online companies where you can design it on their site and they'll send the board to you. A good way to go but it costs a bit.
    Really liked your post but would like to add a couple things all of us techie types should be careful of.
    Most importantly is getting chemicals on our skin. Even the finger nail polish remover. Acetone is quickly absorbed and is damaging to the liver. I know everyone ignores that but always wear some type of synthetic gloves when doing that. You'll be grateful you did in 30 yrs! Avoid fumes too as best you can!!!
    Same goes for the etch. Carful on the skin.
    Disposal. That's a tricky deal and an annoyance. If you can't do it the best way try to heavily dilute it before dumping.
    We gotta care of our health and the environment!
    Thx for reading this book. Haha

    2 replies

    2 years ago

    Nice instructable. Couple of points (well, 3)

    You don't want the iron at maximum temperature, you just need it hot enough to make the toner melt and stick. You have to experiment to find what temperature it needs to be but try between 80-100 deg. C. The reason is that when it's too hot the toner spreads out to the sides so your tracks look lumpy. It doesn't apply with your OHP sheets, but if you use paper it also makes the toner melt into the pores of the paper so it doesn't come away as effectively.

    I've tried glossy paper from flyers and magazines, inkjet photo paper, normal printer paper, and cheap Chinese made yellow "toner transfer paper". I've never tried transparency sheets like you, but I got some for another purpose recently (dry film method) and find them a bit expensive to use for toner transfer.

    The yellow transfer paper works best. It has a very thin plasticky film which sticks to the toner and makes it a bit more sealed. The worst thing was normal printer paper.

    When you clean the board it's better to use very fine abrasive "wet and dry" paper, such as 1000 or 1200 grit. Use small circular motions with a bit of detergent, then wash off with lots of water. It works much better than side-side motion. The board can be too shiny, and the abrasive paper leaves a better surface for the toner to stick to (like when you glue something).


    Reply 2 years ago

    Yes you can use glossy paper like photo paper or magazine paper as well.. You may have to soak the paper for about 5-10 minutes before you peel of the paper after iron (toner transfer)


    2 years ago

    Nice post. Making PCBs should be mandatory for every electrical engineering student. Besides being fun and educational, every step of this process carries over into advanced chip manufacturing process.