Guide to DIY PCB Etching

Having reached the stage where I can plot a mirrored image of my PCB, I now want to move to making the real thing. I figure on laser printing the plot and transferring the image to bland PCB material by ironing. I have a couple of (rather primitive) YouTube Videos on the subject - enough to scare me about things like special glossy (ink transfer) papers and UV paint. This makes me acutely aware of what I don’t know.

Is there a guide (something like a sequel to Getting Started in KiCad) someone is game to recommend. Preferable a PDF I can download (for free :innocent:).


There surely must be plenty of those around, so I typed:
I had a quick look at the website. Apparently you can etch PCB’s with vinegar. Results look good too.
(Note: Common household vinegar is usually only 4% vinegar and 96% water).

You can also ask for help in the Yahoo group, “Homebrew Printed Circuit Boards” at Homebrew Printed Circuit Boards Yahoo Group .


You’re right. Google and the like turn up a zillion wannabe tutorials. Sadly, I have yet to find one that gets more precise about the printing paper required than suggesting I tear a page out of a glossy magazine. I didn’t see anything duckduckgo turned up which even mentioned UV paint protection. That’s why I asked if there was someone who was prepared to recommend a tutorial.

I have submitted an enrollment to the Yahoo homebrew board group. I guess they’ll send me approval in a day or so and I’ll ask some questions there.
In the meantime: What paper do I use in the laser printer to get clean toner transfer?


Is OSHPark a candidate? I’ve used them for years. You can just upload a KiCad board file (*.kicad_pcb) and they will auto-quote it. I believe the charge is $5 / sq. in. for three (3) copies of the board (2-layer, 1 oz Cu). First-Class postage to the US is included. About 12-day turnaround. They have other options for medium runs, more layers, and thicker copper.

I have no interest except as a user.



OSH Park includes free shipping to anywhere in the world. Although it will take longer to get to other parts of the world, since it ships from the US.

I agree, there’s not a lot of reason to make PCBs at home anymore, unless you just enjoy doing it. OSH Park is great for smaller boards, and the Chinese fabs are good for larger boards.

I should have also mentioned OSHStencils. When I have more than a few surface-mount components, I’ve ordered solder-paste stencils from OSHStencils with good results.

It’s slightly more work than for the PCBs ( You have to generate the Gerber file - usually using File -> Plot, selecting Gerber, and Selecting F.Paste only. Then upload the generated file.

[As far as I can tell, the two services are not related. PCBs come from Oregon, the Stencils come from Utah - both in the US.]


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I have been pleased with the product and service from OSHStencils.

A stencil is MUCH faster than laying down dots of solder paste. Perhaps more significantly, you get a more uniform, repeatable, application of paste.


This video from Big Clive is an excellent tutorial in home etching.

Some people may get bored when he is stirring some liquid for 5 minutes, but I really like the detail and how you can see the developing and etching process in real time instead of fancy sped up video.
I’m a bit dissapointed that he skipped the end of the etching process.

I really liked the dry film method for putting an etch resist layer onto bare copper, but before that, unfortunately he is not too explanatory about the type & brand on which he printed the PCB design.

But if you want it “for free” then you’ll have to put in a bit of effort to cobble a method together from bits and pieces for a method that works for you personally.

About the soldering of smd parts:
I’ve had good success (Resistors and capacitors) with first putting a bit of solder on all the right sided pads, then solder all the resistors / capacitors on one side, (one hand the soldering iron, other hand good quality tweezers for picking up the components), and then soldering all the other sides of the Resistors / capacitors.

That is an interesting alternative to the toner-transfer I originally aimed for. I am getting the feeling that that might not work too well these days (advances in printing technology mean less toner used to transfer). One of the fellas at a Men’s Shed I go to used the laser profiler to blast black paint off the coppered board to get the required pattern. That sounds interesting but first I have to master getting a PCB design to do the job,

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