John's Basement on YouTube KiCAD Tutorials

I’m very new to KiCAD, started with version 4 (I’m pretty sure) several years ago, pulled a lot of hair out trying to acclimate to it’s methods, then set it aside in frustration. Kept up with forum post, though and also upgraded to Version: (5.1.6)-1, release build.

I was no stranger to single, double and 4 layer designs & builds from 30 years ago using Mylar and tape, B&W negatives, etc. but KiCAD, and the famous Eagle, was a whole new paradigm.

I would search for YouTube vid tutorials but none helped “crack the nut”, until I found John’s Basement KiCAD series on YouTube.

Thank you, thank you thank you to John for his KiCAD YouTube vids.

I’m almost finished with my first project, just beginning my 3rd re-visit on the pcbnew layout process and having much more success at it.

Schematic with symbols, symbol annotations and footprint assignments - Done
Netlist created and double-checked - Done
Electrical Rules check w/zero errors - Done (this was major hurdle but taught me a lot w/John’s vids helping)
Now starting the pcb layout process and as a result, refined some symbols and footprints in the process.

This is quite an amazing software package.

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To what extent did you try to study it beforehand versus just “diving in”??? My understanding is that we do not have wide + deep training material for KiCad 6. But this forum does a great job in my opinion, and I think I am one of those people who learns best by “diving in.” It sounds like maybe you are trying to do that and I recommend it.

Part of the “getting started” is starting your own symbol and footprint libraries. There is one issue to regret about “diving in”. If you decide that you want to change some of your global library symbols or footprints (or the organization) you may screw up older projects which used those symbols or footprints. Or…at least you will encounter errors when you “update symbols from library” for example. So I think you end up stuck with what you started with, unless you use all project specific libraries. That sounds like its own problem. But I am not sure how I could have avoided this issue.

I am sure that there are some differing opinions on what I have said, and I invite the discussion.

I’d bet “study beforehand” is used mainly by the inexperienced. EDA is a brave new world.
“Diving in” is probably used by the experienced. They know what they want on the screen, they just have to work out which button to push… but if all else fails, maybe then read the instructions :slightly_smiling_face:

Agree with the personal libraries comment. I initially played around with schematic and PCB a little then seriously started work on my libraries (I only use my own libraries for projects). Even that way, I eventually reorganized them twice before being satisfied.

Bobz- To what extent did you try to study it beforehand versus just “diving in”???

Bob and jmk, thanks for your insightful reply.

I spent months reading about various EDA programs, their functions & costs, etc. Then I came upon KiCAD, downloaded and installed it, read through its Help for many hours while watching YouTube video tutorials and “diving in” doing a schematic. Unfortunately, at that time my expectations were skewed by my prior (mid-1980’s) way of deriving the necessary documentation and artwork for making 4 layer PCBs, and my more recent experience with working with a few CAD/CAM programs (SketchUp, AutoCAD 2011, CamBam) related to mechanical drawings for CNC work and the use of Gerber files used by the CNC controller software, exporting/importing DXF files.

All of the basic “drawing” functions in CAD/CAM programs were similar, not identical, but similar in functionality and purpose, but KiCAD was a different animal altogether but in ye ol’ DIY mindset. It did have had familiar concepts to me, like symbols, schematics and netlists that we had and used in the old days, albeit in a different context, in the process for deriving the PCB artwork cells.

The greatest hurdles for me with KiCAD, looking back, was understanding the importance and use of either pre-defined “library symbols” in schematics and their associated “library footprints” and/or one’s ability to create your own symbols and footprints . I had used CamBam for drawing complex schematics for years, but every drawing object was either a polyline, circle, oval or text, etc…

For me, a confirmed DIY’er in many ways, a blend of “study beforehand” together with “diving in” is a common method I use when approaching something new that I’m interested in and committed to learn.

jmk hit it smack-dab on point. “EDA is a brave new world” that is the result of some brilliant evolution of computer-based methods and processes for creating PCBs.

The YouTube KiCAD vids I initially watched (in my vague recollection from 4 years ago) didn’t answer important issues that newbies to EDA or ECAD needed to know and comprehend. They seemed to be for those already acquainted to some degree w/KiCAD. And, I must admit that after this initial “taste” for what tutorial vids were out there, I didn’t spend much more time seeking out other YouTube postings.

For the record, I’m only blaming myself for my misunderstandings and false expectations with how to use KiCAD. No doubt, it is probably already written in KiCAD Help files but were I to be an entry level KiCAD’er again, here is what would have helped the most in “getting started”.

  1. ECAD (KiCAD that uses EDA standards and practices) is a process where Schematics are drawn by placing predefined electronic component symbols on a schematic drawing and connecting them with polylines to other component symbols such as power, ground, input and output sources. This includes the ability for one to create their own custom component symbols and footprints and place them in their own custom libraries for each.

  2. A schematic component symbol is a predefined “shape” with numbered, lettered, or named contact leads and includes many defined properties, one of which is a link to the component symbol to it’s predefined footprint “mounting pads” on a PCB as is necessary for the actual placement and soldering of the component on a PCB.

  3. Having well defined, updated and accurate component symbol and footprint libraries is like having a cold beer on a hot summer’s day.

  4. For an old-timer, getting familiar with the horde of today’s surface mount versions of common components like resistors, capacitors, diodes, ICs is a dedicated task in and of itself.

  5. P.S. There is much, much more to EDA/ECAD.


Great feedback!!!
Thankyou very much @AlecTron

Nothing else is that good! :smile:

I am also a fan of these tutorial series, promoted John’s playlist in several places several times. Also, it is not much difference to migrate to v6, after watching these videos. For anyone, looking for tutorial of kicad: Turn on this playlist, take two spare evenings, set playback speed to 1.75x and you will get more than a base of KiCad. There is no full screen face (:face_vomiting:) of youtuber in these series, only pure data with tips and tricks, and keyboard shortcuts (probably some changed in v6) to memorize! If recall correctly, John also showed there how to install Digikey library (one of the most useful thing to know for beginners).

@poco: The way John mention’s various keyboard shortcuts as he’s demonstrating KiCAD process helped me quickly learn/remember and use them. From my own experience in creating video tutorials, and as some of John’s vids show, it is not all that easy to talk while demonstrating key software application functions without making distractive mistakes. Seeing him make these unintended mistakes and how he quickly fixes them, I thought was also highly instructive.

I’ve wondered about how “ready-for-primetime” v6 is along w/what is gained in changing so early in this learning process. Are there any discussion link references on this?

Another one for shutting the doors, turning the cell phone off, and spending a few quiet nights or a weekend alone with KiCAD. I also watched the videos but they went at a pace that was difficult to keep up with while trying to replicate the steps. Still, “they’re better than a sharp stick in the eye”. As mentioned by Alec I had years of experience with Mylar and tape which made the transition relatively painless.

It’s an awesome platform to start with, and this forum is frosting on the cake.


Are there any discussion link references on this?

  • I don’t know (pretty selfish here) about news about “ready-for-primetime”. I am learning new features on the go, because I am using only nightlies.

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