Drill holes don't show when printed

When I print a board layout using “real drill” in 5.1.5, the drill holes can be seen in the Preview application on my Mac, but they are very faint, and they don’t get any bigger when I zoom in all the way, unlike other lines in the drawing. When I print using my laser printer (a Brother HL-2340D; pretty common), they don’t appear it all. It seems like the drill holes must be drawn with lines that are too thin for some printers to print?

Edit: the solution was to choose “small mark” instead of “real drill”.

Have you tried using the “Plot” but instead of plotting to gerber, plot to PDF. Then print the PDF file(s) with no scaling? (I’ve had issues with the “Print” function in KiCad.)

When using Plot I get a separate PDF for each layer. I’m not sure which layer the drill holes are supposed to be in, but they seem to be there in the solder mask layer.

Drill holes are only on copper layers. Here is a sample of one board that I reverse engineered last year.
Copper layer:

Solder mask:

Are you planning on making the boards yourself?

If not then you will work with gerbers and export a so called drill file. The drill file is not a graphical file! It just contains coordinates and drill commands. This means that the gerber viewer is in charge how to show them to you. Some show them as circles with the drill size while others simply show a “target” symbol.

No the drills are not on the mask layer. The mask layer contains the cutouts for the solder mask not the drills.

I just wanted a nice printout for my own reference and to share online. I’ve ordered the board from OSH Park and they take a kcad_pcb file.

Despite what you say, I do see the holes I expect in F_Mask.pdf and not in F_Cu.pdf.

16buttons-F_Cu.pdf (20.8 KB) 16buttons-F_Mask.pdf (17.5 KB)

Overlay the mask layer over the copper layer. You will notice that the “holes” on the mask layer are way too large for them to represent the drills (check the layers in kicad. You see the mask layer there as well. It will be much more clear to you that this layer is not the thing that defines the drills)

But I don’t see the mounting holes at all in the copper layer. At least in the solder mask layer, I see where they go, even if they’re not the right size.

As mounting holes are non plated, there is no way to see them in copper layer plot.
If you need to see the position of the mounting hole in YOUR plot, place a via in center of mounting hole.

Okay, that makes sense, but I think this is getting off the subject. I just wanted to report that the drill holes (in this case, non-plated mounting holes) don’t show up properly when using “Print”, not “Plot”. I guess there are workarounds.

My workaround (and, it makes most sense to me/my-projects) is to Edit the footprint and change the diameter’s of the Graphic on the Courtyard (Comments and other Layers I want to have more accurately represent the features).
In fact, Different parts have the Graphics on inconsistent layers (e.g. MountingHole has graphic on Comments and Courtyard). I Use Comments exclusively for Comments!!!

Below image shows:
• Original MountingHole/Graphic
• Edited (reduced diameter of graphic on the parts default layer (didn’t bother to change that)
• Screenshot of the Printed board (just used ‘File>Print’)
• 3D View of PCB

Also, I changed the thickness of the Lines (and text) of the Courtyard - screenshot… Shows nice and dark now.

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The courtyard layer has a specific reason. It is used for DRC to check that you can mount the part that is connected to the footprint. The fab layer less so but i would still suggest it to have the nominal size of whatever you mount on there.

In the case of a mounting hole i really suggest that the fab layer holds the nominal diameter of the screw head (or whatever is mounted there) and the courtyard layer is slightly larger than the screw head plus whatever tool you need to fasten it.

I think the larger circles on the courtyard and Cmts.User layers are supposed to be about not putting other stuff too close to the drill hole, to leave room for a bolt or nut.

Looking at the MountingHole_2.1mm footprint in the standard library, it seems to represent the drill hole as a pad, showing up on the copper and solder mask layers. Putting it on the copper mask layer doesn’t make sense to me since there is no copper there, but presumably it’s a convention? I also wonder why, if there is copper in the footprint, it doesn’t show up when printed?

… Quick upshot…

I construct work-arounds to meet my needs - I CNC Mill my PCB’s. And, I seldom consider how/what others do/did (been an Engineer for 50yrs!!)

I use the same mountinghole you reference (2.5mm, 3mm and 3.5mm) and there’s no need for me to tweak as I indicated previously.

However, after posting above, I thought about it and offer another option:

  1. I could’ve used as simple Pad part but, for this example, I opened the S-PDIP part and set it to 1row, 1column. Thus, one pad.
  2. Double click and edited it - deleted All the graphics except the pad. I set the Hole to 3mm, set the Pad to 3mm.
    Saved/exported the new part.
    Loaded it onto the board… Results below… The two grey circles are two of them and, because they are made from Thru-Hole pad, the result is black-filled on the Print (and, would be drilled as part of the normal drilling process).

Are you certain you know what you are doing? If you mark a pad as through hole then it will result in the drill file for plated through holes! Which means your manufacturer will not be happy with you. (And i would argue manufacturing takes precedence)

You CAN NOT see holes that are not plated. What you print/plot is COPPER.

  1. as said, I make my own PCB’s. Thus… I am my own manufacturer.

  2. When, in the past (perhaps before you were born) and used fab houses, my drawings contained manufacturing notes.

You ask, “Do I know what I’m doing?”
Answer: After 50 yrs of engineering (with degrees, patents, stuff flying is space and implanted in human bodies), I may not know what I’m doing but, haven’t heard complaints.

Below image shows two parts on pcb and quick milling setup in CopperCam (did not Horiz. Reverse it for this show&tell). Did not make any traces…

What you see is a BarrelJack with slots for flat tab-contacts and a Nokia 5110 LCD.

Thus, as said, it’s for my own needs. If what I’ve posted helps others to do something, great…

There is no such information in the post where you suggest to use plated through hole type to represent a non-plated hole.
If you include a disclaimer for something like that, then it is clear (Something like “danger this might not work if your PCB is produced by a modern fab”). A disclaimer at least adds a slight chance that a reader will not misunderstand your advice and use it in a case where it is inappropriate. Especially as the “i make my boards at home” usecase is really a minority at this point in time.

I just double checked with my system. Non plated holes show up as a faint circle if i select “real drill” for drill mark in the print dialog. If i select “Small mark” then they show up as a thick circle. And if i select “no drill mark” then i get a filled circle even for Mechanical (non plated through holes).

It seems to me the outer size of the circle always is the same size as the pad size (which should be equal to the drill size for non plated holes as that size is required for DRC as well). The drill mark selection only influences how large the “hole” is within that circle.

Tested with KiCad 5.1.5 under linux with the footprint MountingHole_2.1mm

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I did point out it’s a thru-Hole/pad.
Commonsense should suggest S-DIP contains plated… and I clearly said a 'Thru-Hole pad.

I’m done…