How to make your first PCB with simple DIY PCB etching method?

This is probably the simplest way of making a PCB at home. Although with this method the board will not look nowhere near to the professionally made ones, it will do its function. Also, because it involves drawing the traces by hand, it is mostly suitable for making PCBs where bigger SMD or Through Hole components are used. For small components you will have to use either UV method or cut the PCB with a CNC router.

Table of contents

  1. Materials
  2. Drawing or printing PCB tracing on a paper
  3. Redrawing traces on the PCB
  4. Etch-proofing the traces
  5. Etching the PCB
  6. Cleaning the board
  7. Drilling the holes
  8. Soldering the components
  9. Testing the board
  10. Summary
  11. Some my old boards made with this method


  • PCB with copper layer
  • Nail lacquer with some small brush or a special pen (Aliexpress)
  • Acetone
  • Etching solution (Sodium Persulfate)
  • Gloves, respirator, eye protection
  • A container to keep the etching solution (a glass jar is sufficient)
  • Drill with drill bits
  • Soldering equipment

Drawing or printing PCB tracing on a paper

First of all, you need to have PCB traces to be drawn or printed on a piece of paper. You can do it by hand by placing the electronics components on the paper and drawing the lines connecting their pads as you need.

PCB view drawn on a piece of paper

Alternatively, if you want, you can use a CAD program (such as KiCAD) to draw the schematic, tracing and finally printing the PCB view on a paper. In either way you will have a reference view which needs to be drawn on the PCB’s surface.

In either way, you will need to keep one thing in mind – if you are placing components on the top layer (usually SMD components), then you draw the traces as you see them, if components are placed on the bottom copper layer (usually through-hole components), you will have to mirror the tracing view, so the connection is correct.

Redrawing traces on the PCB

When you have your PCB view, you will have to redraw it on the actual PCB. Before doing that, you could also cut the PCB to the needed size with a saw.

Use a simple graphite pencil. Now, there are several methods, how you can redraw the image. Probably the best approach is to mark where the parts pads should be and then draw free hand the traces connecting needed pads.

To precisely mark where the pads need to be, you can put the parts on the board and outline the pads from the real parts on the PCB. Another way is to put the same peace of paper where you have drawn or printed the tracing view on the PCB’s copper layer and mark the centers of the pads by pushing some sharp tool (pointy screw end could also be used) through the paper into the copper layer.

Having the pad marks on the PCB, you can connect them together using pencil according to the tracing view.

PCB view drawn on a Copper board

Etch-proofing the traces

The pencil graphite won’t protect the traces from being etched, so you need to cover the board with some thicker covering. For this purpose, a cheap nail lacquer can be used. You will also need some kind of small brush to cover the PCB with lacquer.

Nail lacquer used in making PCBs
Brush used to draw the tracing on a PCB

There are also some special “anti-etch” pens, designed to be used for the PCB etching. So, you can use your preferred tool.

PCB anti-etching pen ink

After covering the traces, the PCB should look like this:

Drawing the traces on the board with a brush and lacquer
DIY PCB with already drawn traces

Etching the PCB

For PCB etching I use Sodium Persulfate. It comes as a porous solution in a small bag which needs to be solved into water. In should be easily found in your local electronics shop. It needs to be mixed with water according to the instructions.

PCB etching solution - sodium persulfate

Etch the PCB in well ventilated room. Use protective gloves and glasses when working with chemicals. It is your own responsibility to keep yourself safe! Also, these chemicals are not edible.

It is best to drill a small hole somewhere in the board which will be used to hang it inside the etcher.

Board hanging in the etching solution

The etching solution can be used several times. When it gets older it takes more time to fully etch the board. Heating the solution to <50 °C (122 °F) might help to speed up the process. When the solution is new it will take up to half an hour to fully etch the PCB.

Cleaning the board

After you have the board fully etched, you will have to take it out from the etching solution and rinse under running tap water. You can also use some soap.

To clean the nail lacquer or the special pencil marks, you will need to use acetone. Again, work in well ventilated room and take all safety precautions! You can put some acetone on the paper towel and brush the lacquer/pencil marks.

After the cleaning you should be able to see the copper traces:

DIY board after etching and cleaning with acetone

Drilling the holes

If you have some through hole components or pads where some wires need to be soldered in, you will have to drill the holes inside the PCB.

Probably the cheapest method is to use a regular handheld drill and some HSS (in other words – regular) drill bits. Drill bits should be of 0.7 – 1.5 mm diameter. Most likely, 1 mm drill bit will be sufficient for most parts. Although 1 mm is quite thick drill bit, it also does not break as easy as the thinner ones.

PCB after covering with solder and drilling the holes

When possible I personally us my DIY Drill press which makes it easier to drill the holes.

Soldering the components

The next step is to finally solder all your components. Before doing that, you can also cover the traces with solder, so it will be easier to solder the parts into the board.

There is not a lot to write about, you just need to take a soldering iron, some solder with flux and solder the parts in.

Fully assembled home etched PCB

Testing the board

Finally, when you have fully soldered board you should test if it works as intended.

Testing DIY etched board


So, here you are – quite simple method, how you can make yourself a PCB in you home environment. Although the board won’t look like the professional one, it will work, if drawn/made correctly. And this is the most important thing (a working PCB) especially when you are just starting in whole DIY electronics hobby.

Some my old boards made with this method

Finally, I would like to share some photos of a PCB which I have made like 10 years ago. It was made using the same method mentioned in this post. The board is a simple DIY ATmega16 development board. There are not a lot of components on the board, but it had lots of holes which took like at least an hour to drill and handful broken drill bits.

The first board is ATMEGA16 development board which I have used to learn MCU programming:

Atmega16 DIY development board
Atmega16 DIY development board top hand drawn
Atmega16 DIY development board bottom hand drawn

The second board is a Serial-ISP programming board with MAX232 IC. It was used to program the same ATMEGA board shown earlier.

MAX232 selfmade serial COM RS232 AVR ISP In System programmer
MAX232 selfmade AVR ISP In System programming board top
MAX232 hand drawn AVR ISP In System programming PCB bottom

Although these boards will never win beauty contest, they still work without any issues.

Subscribe to a newsletter!

Was this page helpful?