Making PCB's With Windows Paint
Courtesy of Harry Lythall - SM0VPO for this idea.

When I first started with electronics I began soldering components on stripboard. Most of you probably know it, among other names, as Matrixboard, Veroboard, Perfboard, etc. You may recognize it as a board having (usually) 1-tenth-inch spaced, pre-drilled holes and copper strips attached to the rear of the board (see below).

View of front/rear matrixboard

This is still ideal for making prototype circuits but it does have obvious limitations. Nowadays I design all my circuit schematics and PCB artwork using nothing other than the Micro$oft Paint program included with Windoze! - "How?", I hear you ask - "Easy!", say I - Just read on for a detailed description...

First, you must have the following four files on your hard drive:

  1. Grid.bmp
  2. Pads.bmp
  3. Symbols.bmp
  4. Overlay.bmp

To do this simply place your cursor over each image in turn (below) and right-click with the mouse.
In the following pop-up menu, select 'Save Picture As...' then choose 'BMP' format and your chosen directory.
eg: C:\PCB\Grid.bmp.

PCB Grid template

PCB Pads template

PCB Symbols template

PCB Overlay template

OK - Now you have all the necessary files to draw your own schematics and PCB's.
Let's begin...

We need to have two (2)
instances of MS Paint

For copy/paste to work,
we have to select,
in both instances, these
icons (shown with arrows).
Select these icons for copy/paste

Select the colors black and white for the left and right mouse buttons respectively.. Have the Color Palette on view (CTRL+A).
Set the attributes to 2-color black & white (CTRL+E)
Left-click the color Black; right-click the color White.
NOTE: For clarity purposes, the Palette shown here has the attributes set to 'Color'.

  1. Start a first instance of MS Paint and load the file: 'Pads.bmp'
  2. Start a second instance of MS Paint and load the file: 'Grid.bmp'
  3. In both instances be sure to have the attributes set to 'Black and White'
  4. Return to the 'Pads.bmp' and, with the mouse, drag a selection around, say, the Component pad.
  5. Right-click in the selection and choose 'Copy'.
  6. Return to the 'Grid.bmp' instance, right-click anywhere on the screen then choose 'Paste'.
  7. Drag the selection and place over one of the dots in the grid.
  8. Click the mouse outside of the dragged area. The pad will now be in place.
  9. If any of the pad orientations are wrong, click on 'Image' and from the pull-down menu select 'Flip/Rotate'. From here you can select horizontal, vertical or angle orientation. Make sure just the component you want is selected or else the entire screen will be re-orientated.
  10. When you have all the pads in place, use the tracks and corners to complete the artwork.
  11. It's a good idea at this stage to add some text. Not only can you personalize your PCB but it also helps as a simple reminder which way around the artwork should be on the copper board..

To see an example, we'll design a pcb for a simple pre-amplifier one stage at a time.

The pre-amp schematic.
Pre-amplifier example circuit

First copy/paste all your pads to the grid template, remembering at this stage to draw your design as though looking from the component side. Adding the pads to the Grid template

Adding the tracks to the Grid template After the pads we add the
tracks and corners...

STEP 3 color all the tracks black...
Selecting the Color Icon Tracks now colored black
Note how I've dotted-in where the verticle tracks meets the horizontals - this gives a more neater finish.

Finally, remove the unwanted dots with the tool icons shown below.
A good tip is to use CTRL+PG UP / CTRL+PG DN for zooming
in / out of a particular area.
Selecting the Eraser icon Selecting the Pencil icon

At this stage I usually add some text to the artwork. This makes it easier to define which way to place the artwork on the copper board before the etching process - we don't want a mirror image of what the design should be!
The completed example PCB Selecting the Text icon
The final artwork without any dots. Remember to reverse any text before printing.

Finally, the following picture is with the attributes changed to 'Color' (remember to save with a different file name!). Fill in the pads and tracks with a bright color from the Color Palette to give a 'see-thru' appearance then populate the board with the components from the Overlay bitmap. Of course, you don't need do this but if you intend putting your designs on your Webpages it helps readers to see where each component will be. The completed PCB with component overlay

All my schematic diagrams are also drawn using the same copy / paste method. This time copy from the Symbols bitmap file and paste to the Grid template. As you get more confident with the way things work you'll probably find it better to paste to a new black & white file. - ie: not the Grid file.

For straight lines between connections simply click the Line icon - this has five different levels of thickness. I use the thinnest 1-pixel option for normal line connections and the middle option 3-pixel for ground rail connections.

Incidentally, If there's any components you don't see on the Symbols or Overlay bitmaps then simply draw your own with M$Paint... Have fun!

Scrolling line

Best Regards... Pete