Cheap Toner Transfer Paper?


In the near future (maybe this summer?), I plan on trying out my hand creating a PCB (for what, I don't know - maybe for the high-power servo controller I am working on) using the "laser printer toner transfer" process.

In most of the online how-to's I have read regarding this process, the author invariably reccommends using glossy magazine paper as opposed to commercial transfer paper options. This makes sense, and such magazines can be found everywhere, as trash usually.

So I am sitting here, going thru my mail, when instead of tearing up and throwing away a stack of "ValuPak" coupons, I realized they were composed on (fairly thin) glossy paper, and I just happened to remember the reccomendation about glossy paper for PCB etching...

Has anyone here successful used such thin glossy paper? Have I been throwing away what I should be saving?


I use uv light it's alot better :). When I did use toner transfer old magazine glossy paper worked alright. I have my uv light box I made posted here somewhere. Toner transfer is okay but once u do uv you'll won't regret it.

you can find a ton of books like this at thrift stores, mostly glossy paper, and dont rif something meaningful or valuable

chris mitchell:

You know, I had often noticed these PCBs in UV protection bags, as well as some developer and such, and wondered what UV had to do with PCB making, but now I understand. I took a look at this article:

Which was very informative and helpful in understanding how the process works; it looks like something that if you created the right jig, you could create really acurately registered double-sided PCBs, something I have heard is difficult with the standard toner-transfer system.

Hmm - now here is an idea; kinda a hybrid system. What if:

  1. First, when you design your PCB, design into the pattern registration marks just slightly outside the border of the actual PCB edge; marks on each of the four corners, of a plus-symbol (+), would be perfect. If making a dual-sided PCB, these marks should line up in such a manner that traces and thru-hole vias (I think that's the word) line up exactly. Also, design the PCB pattern so that you have a set of "cut-here" lines to allow you to cut out the pattern accurately with scissors or (preferably) a small paper cutter.

  2. Print out your PCB patterns; the paper being printed on should be glossy, but not have a dark colored surface (white space is preferable). If printing two patterns for a dual-layer board, verify the alignment of the patterns after printing.

  3. Cut out the pattern(s) - one again, using scissors or (preferably) a small paper cutter, and if you are making two patterns for a dual-layer board, verify the alignment of the patterns after cutting.

  4. If making a single sided board, place the pattern between two pieces of clean picture frame glass, and clamp the sandwitch together with metal binder clips.

  5. If making a dual-sided board, place the patterns back to back (with the PCB toner pattern facing out), and align them accurately. Use a heat resistant tape to hold them together, then place them between two pieces of clean picture frame glass, and clamp the sandwitch together with metal binder clips.

  6. Heat this sandwitch in an oven set to 350 F/176 C, for 3-5 minutes, then turn off the oven to let it cool. Remove the cooled sandwitch from the oven.

  7. You should be able to remove the clips, and then soak the paper off the glass panes with room temperature or cold water, which should leave the PCB pattern on the glass panes.

  8. If doing a single-sided board, place and align the PCB on the glass, with the copper clad facing the toner pattern, after removing it from the UV protection bag/backing (registration marks will help), and put the other piece of glass over it. Clamp it together with the metal binder clips.

  9. If doing a double-sided board, do the same thing, except use the registration marks printed outside the PCB edges to help accurately align things. When the glass/pcb/glass sandwitch is assembled and aligned, clamp it together with the metal binder clips.

  10. Place the whole thing inside the UV light box for whatever time is needed.

  11. Remove from the UV light box, and continue with the steps to etch the board, etc.

I think these steps would make for a reusable setup, rather than having to spend a $1.00 US a sheet for the transparency paper; if you messed up somewhere, the toner is likely easy to remove from the glass (acetone would probably work OK for this job); there are of course more steps doing it this way, so if you had a cheap source for the transparency paper, it wouldn't make sense to do - I haven't had any luck though finding cheap transparency paper for a laser printer.

Do you (or anyone else) think the above steps could work? It seems plausible, based on what I have read; but the proof is in the pudding, so to speak...


its plausible but DAMN, at work we just use transparency film (specialized roll type stuff, but goto office depot for standard letter sized stuff) that can be laser printed

make a light box, exactly as it sounds, or more to the point a high powered UV box either via florescent (like 20$ worth o crap at light bulb depot) or led (which is cool and all but expensive)

print masks and drill and pin them for both sides

if you want to cut stuff just laser print onto cardstock, xacto it out and apply spray paint ;D

You know, I had often noticed these PCBs in UV protection bags, as well as some developer and such, and wondered what UV had to do with PCB making, but now I understand.

Those are whats called positive sensitized boards (I havent yet found negative like what I make). The reason why I like UV better is because it can do some awesome traces that the transfer couldnt do (and the fact that some traces on transfer method can come off). What I do is print a negative in which the lines, wires, etc, are clear not darkened because of the film I use. Say you wanted to duplicate a design: When you use overhead projector paper (I use 3M bought from office supply store) you can use that over and over again. Positive sensitized copper clad is more expensive than just buying copper clad boards. What I did is bought a CRAP load of single sided copper clad off ebay for wayyyy cheap and bought some 3M negative film resist. The cost is probably 30 bux but I can make SEVERAL boards and if I do mess up on a board all I have to do is let it sit in some drainage cleaner and it lifts the film off the board compared to when you use positive sensitized youd throw away the board and start all over on a new one.

I followed the instructable on the uv led light box. I have enough fiberboard to make about 2 more boxes... If you decided to do this, I could build you one for basically free (I'm a nice guy :P) and just pay for the resistors, glass, leds (you get 200 of them).

I'd have to get some pictures and show you how its made but its almost exactly like the one on instructables and can do double sided boards.


The reason I don't like the transparency paper method is because it seems extremely expensive, especially if you screw up and don't notice it until you print and align it; at least with glass and paper, you can reprint, wipe the glass with solvent, and try again. I priced some transparency paper (with the idea of making my own laser printed quad-encoders for some slot-type optical sensors I have), and it was running around $1.00 a sheet (for laser printer transparency paper). I just wanted to throw out another option that could be used that was cheaper, if slower.

chris mitchell:

Thanks for the tips and such - I will definitely keep that idea in mind, because I did notice those boards were pretty expensive; using regular PCB material and film resist would definitely be cheaper for prototyping.

I will also keep your offer on the lightbox in mind, though I am pretty handy - I was actually kinda thinking of using cheapo halogen work lamps with their glass plates removed (the plates block UV - you can easily get a "sunburn" from one without them); they do throw off a ton of heat though, so you would have to have fans for that idea. Or, maybe I can find some UV LED "grow panels" on Ebay (or a supplier of 100/200 LEDs and resistors - did that once for some white LEDs, so I have a supplier there - I just don't relish wiring up that many LEDs!).

I am not at the point, yet, of needing to do this - like I said (here, or on another thread), I won't need to until maybe this summer or something. PM me, let me know what you would charge to build one, I will keep it in mind...



yea but you can usually wash toner off with acetone

It took 168 LEDs, Like 56 resistors I think. There are 3 LEDs in a series if I can remember with a limiting resistor. And yes it's bright and you don't want to look in them cause it will burn your eyes. I could cut the fiberboard for you and send that. All you'd need to do is glue the pieces, solder LEDs, install glass and cut some foam. And run a power source to the panels.