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Topic: etching pcb at home (any suggestions)? (Read 28154 times) previous topic - next topic


I dont hav e any problrm with etching the problem is that the toner is not trnsferred onto the copper clad Board :(


Jan 15, 2011, 03:29 pm Last Edit: Jan 15, 2011, 04:17 pm by Fenrisulfr Reason: 1
Hi there

If non of the toner is transferring then either it's not a laser printer that printed the image, used the wrong type of paper, the iron wasn't hot enough or the copper clad has a 'film' or chemical layer that is interfering.

I use matt or semi matt photo paper with an iron set to somewhere close to the polyester setting. Lots of pressure needs to be applied to aid good transfer. I actually use a laminator I converted with a cloths iron thermostat to do the transfer now.

I take it you are cleaning the copper face? I use fine wire wool then wash the copper with hot water and detergent before drying.

I started doing my own 2 years ago and have never had a major issue that a sharpie wont fix.

Hope this is of some help.

EDIT: Read the thread properly. Iron temp is favourite.


Jan 15, 2011, 05:54 pm Last Edit: Jan 15, 2011, 05:58 pm by pwillard Reason: 1
If if you get really lucky, you might find a used Heat Laminator at a local 2nd-Hand (thrift shop) like I did.

I was able to get a used GBC Creative Laminator for $14.00 and now I know that I get nice even heat transfer for the toner.  I pass the paper and board though the laminator about 6 times in close succession and have nice even results.

And as almost all tutorials recommend, rough up/clean your copper surface.  (I use a fine wire brush or very very fine grit sandpaper) and the paper I use high gloss photo paper. I have had good results with generic cheap gloss photo paper as well as with HP GLOSS paper, but I've noticed that the HP paper does have some plastic in it... so you need to test if it that paper works for you.


Hi Pwillard

I don't want to drag this thread to far off course. But, do you find it difficult to remove the emulsion layer when soaking the paper off the boards when using the high gloss?

I used gloss paper for my first few boards and it was hellish to get off. That's why I now use matt or semi matt photo paper now. It all comes of really easily. I can even, carefully, use a pan scourer to clean the last remnants off to clear the 'through holes' for better etching. The scourer is the type on the flip side of a sponge not a metal pad.

Also, my friendly local printers, did some test prints for me on heavy weight gloss paper that they use to do fancy fliers on for other clients. This paper is very cheap and the results were as good as photo paper and soaked off even easier.




Fenrisulfr, can you tell us exactly what type of paper you use? I've tried several different types of paper (magazines, circulars, and three different inkjet printer papers) and have not had the degree of success that's needed to etch a board successfully. If you've got a system that works, please share the details with us!


You should use the thin glossy magazine paper, along with copper plate rubbed with sand paper and washed with acetone or citric acid to remove any moisture on it then you should heat the copper plate for about some seconds say..50-60 and then put your print out down,Also use the LASER JET printer's only or the photocopier print out's only and note to keep the PCB STRAIGHT (or else the print inside would get on board and the sidelines will remain)
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Jan 17, 2011, 01:06 pm Last Edit: Jan 17, 2011, 01:47 pm by Fenrisulfr Reason: 1
The photo paper I have at the moment is -

HP 'Everyday photo paper'. It is semi-gloss (I think I called it semi-matt earlier) for inkjet. It is 170g/m2.

The gloss paper at the printers was also about 170g/m2. It reminded me of the stuff used on 'up marked' magazine covers.

There is a knack to using a household iron. I struggled bravely on with it for a couple of months. It is probably the most intensive part of the process. The iron needs to be moved around. But not by 'skating' pick it up and place it back down. Overlapping where it has just been. Apply plenty of pressure.

Make sure the edges of the PCB are de burred as if left in place it may stop the iron putting enough pressure near the edges leading to poor adhesion.

Pre heating the PCB first with the iron is also a good move. I do have a tutorial posted up at the projectdalek site (I'm a mod there shhhh) If you want I could post it in a new topic? It was written based on my first efforts.

My very first attempt, which was to build a prototype voice mod on, went perfectly, 100% even, using the TT on photo paper. Previously, and at much expense, I had fought with the 'press n peel blue'. This was very hit and miss with regards to the PnP crinkling at the edges during transfer which smeared the traces or left gaps. This may be purely down to not having the knack but I was up and down the temperature scale trying to cure this issue without success.

Local printers are also more likely to let you use your photo paper in their machines as the PnP needs to be attached to a normal bit of paper to act as a carrier to ensure it passes through the printer without mishap. Also if your not using the whole sheet it's pricey or just fiddly cutting out the piece you need to stick to the carrier. with photo paper you can be a bit wasteful for the price.

Obviously I have moved on with the conversion and use of a laminator but the basics are all the same.

To date I have made, in the 2 years since my first efforts, around 40 PCB's and probably a few more than that. I have a page set up now, waiting to print, with about 8 PCB patterns on it. ;D




Wow! I had the exact opposite results with the HP everyday photo paper. It melted all over my circuit board and left a complete mess.

I had my iron on the hottest setting, and did pick up and move the iron as you say. I probably had a total of 2-3 minutes of time with the iron on the board.

I wonder why our results are so different?


Jan 17, 2011, 06:09 pm Last Edit: Jan 17, 2011, 06:14 pm by Fenrisulfr Reason: 1
There is a possibility that the toner had a different make up. This may account for it but don't quote me =D . Using an iron I did on occasion have bad spreading of some tracks so there is a trade off on heat and pressure to resolve it I would think. It's all down to practice in the end to get that 'knack'.

I dread my laminator breaking........In fact I have a spare stashed away ready to modify and press into service  ::)

I should say that from time to time there are minor imperfections that I have to use a sharpie to fix. But usually only a minutes work at worst......so far. But I do expect to have a total screw up some time that will require a full clean down and restart at some point.




Hmm.. Lets see what happens to me !  ;)


I recommend a laminater as well.
I also use magazine paper stuck to normal paper with masking tape.
Also some laser toner is better than others.
I use a samsung laser printer.

Ive had very good results and also with double sided boards as long as Im very careful with alignment.
I tape the paper to the copper clad with masking tape then run it through the laminator at least 6 times.

Heres one of my better ones:



Jan 17, 2011, 08:39 pm Last Edit: Jan 17, 2011, 08:41 pm by Fenrisulfr Reason: 1
Samsung home printers seem to get referred to, in the hobby circles, as a very good make for doing TT prints .

I like your board BTW and in reference to your being able to 'publish' your PCB pattern I think your OK if it's not for profit.

I use PCB Wizard for my board design. I have an official disk I bought from maplins which runs under WINE in Linux. I also have a 'broken version' which runs off my USB stick. This makes it easy for me to take the stick to the printers with the file to be printed as well. So the printer inserts the stick on his PC fires up PCB wizard and opens the file to be printed.

I have no printer at all so this is a great help to me. I have also drawn up some 22mm diameter PCB's for LED arrays using 'The Gimp'. This allowed me to rotate the LED's to 'non- standard' attitudes. That is not just vertical and horizontal. I draw them up twice size then scale, convert to a PDF and off to the printers again.

If this link works you can see the words on the PCB to.

Some of the lettering is only 1.5mm high if that. I am fairly constantly surprised with how much closer I could make things....it's just having the nerve to do it. Using the 'if it ain't broken, don't fix it' mode of thinking  ;D




Right now I'm using "STAPLES" Photo Basic Gloss Paper with good results.  ...and I agree... A laminator is the way.  I had variable results with an ironing method.


My Laminator is a 'texet A4'. cost me £10 sterling. The modification was removing it's thermostats and replacing them with the thermostat from the iron I was struggling with. I really need to get a thermometer as well as there is a fine line between working and the rollers starting to smoke slightly =D




I was using the HP everyday paper Glossy.

Don't make the same mistake I did! The glossy HP paper will melt all over your board.

I found that HP "Presentation Paper 130g" (HP part Q2546A) works wonderfully well. Highly recommended, although it appears that this may be a discontinued product. At ~$15 for 300 8.5 x 11 inch sheets, it's economical as well.

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