Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Simple technique to make PCB using laser printer and household iron.

I use this simple heat toner transfer method for quick home prototyping.
This method works because it employs physical properties of laser printer toner.
Basically, toner is a mix of a black pigment and very fine plastic powder.
While paper is being heated by fuser inside printer, plastic particles melt and stick to paper.
Now, if we attach paper to flat surface and apply heat to paper so temperature of paper exceed toners melting point, plastic melts and sticks to adjacent surface.

All chemicals used in PCB manufacturing should be available at electronic hobby shop or can be found in internet stores.
There's list of product distributors at manufacturer's web site



To make my prototypes I use printer HP Laser Jet 1012 and glossy laser photo paper from Staples (item 651611).
Other option is to use glossy magazine paper or backing paper from sticky labels.
Some printers are designed to use toner with very high melting point so not every unit is good for this method.
Success is a matter of experiments and experience. After some practice it's possible to make tracks 10 - 20 mil wide.
If you don't have laser printer you can use xerox to make copy of your artwork. Since xerox employs laser technology it should work the same way.


  1. hello. do i need that specific brand of photo paper?

  2. I've experimented with different types of available photo paper for laser and jet printers and this particular brand's delivered the best result. Pack contains 100 sheets and this paper works good on aluminum too.

    Of course you may find your own combination of laser printer-paper-iron that gives you better result but you need to try it yourself.

  3. Thank you very much for your great posts.

  4. Very nice tutorial ! I searhed on the internet and find good and bad tutorials about making pcb's, but yours is te best.

    Step by step and good explanations!

    But I remained with the biggest and stuppidest missunerstanding. That plate that looks like copper, is made of what ? PCB ?

    Where I cand find it ?

    Thank you very much! Waiting for your answer.

  5. @Norbert Mezei

    PCB stands for printed circuit board and it's manufactured from copper clad board which is thin copper foil laminated onto non-conductive fiberglass board.

    PCB is made by etching copper layer to form conductive traces to electrically connect electronic components.

  6. I need to make a simple board. Can I just use a sharpie to draw my lines?

  7. Yes, I always use sharpie with fine point to correct toner transfer mistakes or manually make tiny PCBs.

  8. You can buy copper clad board with no photoresist and get a etch resistant pen (I have a Size F from Steadler and available from Maplin) and you can draw direct onto the clad board and the Ferric Chloride won't eat away at the pen lines, use a green kitchen scrubber to rub off the pen after etching and washing and you have a workable board BUT!!! you have to be precise when drawing IC sockets resistors and caps you can be a little inaccurate but IC's are a tricky or your holes won't line up.

  9. Hello,Is there an alternative to using liquid tin in the end, it's very expensive where i live (close to 150USD),

    can i follow the same process for photoresist based pcb....

  10. Alternative way is to "tin" board manually by applying molten solder all over copper area.
    At first clean copper tracks with red pen eraser to remove top oxidized layer, then cover PCB with liquid flux and use fine solder wire and soldering iron to "tin" copper. After you've finished, check PCB for possible solder bridges.
    This method works for any kind of PCB.

  11. Great info about how toner makes prints. I never read such detailed information however this post is new and very valuable experience for me.

  12. wich software do you use to make your PCB? And thank you very much for this great tutorial! The best I've seen.

  13. I am very enjoyed for this blog. Its an informative topic. It help me very much to solve some problems. Its opportunity are so fantastic and working style so speedy. I think it may be help all of you. Thanks.

  14. Very Nice !! I'm Trying this Today , i'll report later :)

  15. How can you make the holes to where the pins go through? because it's propably to small to do it with a drill?

    1. To drill 0.8 - 1.2 mm holes in PCB I use miniature drill press or manual Dremel tool with flexible shaft.

  16. What is the temperature ? I tried this method with poor result. Dont know what i am doing wrong ? The traces end up broken or too large? Any hints?

  17. Temperature should be set to maximum.
    I think your problem is uneven pressure and too thin paper.

    If toner doesn't stick to PCB then copper is contaminated or not enough heat or pressure was applied.
    If track is to large then too much pressure for long period of time was applied.

    Good result is a matter of practice. Try use different paper.