What would you do if you wanted to make your boards visually appealing?
Visual Appeal is one of the most important factors when marketing a product. This is where PCB art design comes in.
PCB art design is the practice of putting high quality visual designs and patterns on a circuit board.
These can be simple things like text and logos of a company, or more advanced patterns like pictures and vector graphics.
1、 Why you Should Put Artwork on Your PCB
1.1 Visual Appeal
Everyone wants their boards to be visually appealing. The easiest way to do this at little to no additional cost is by putting artwork.This artwork can be lines around the components or graphics which are appealing.
You can also experiment with different silkscreen colors and board colors.
Imagine you are a company and would like to put some form of branding or your logo onto a PCB.
In this case, designing a board with artwork on it is the best way to go.
Almost all popular products have their company logo on the boards. This is becoming a common practice today and is the top use of PCB Art.
1.3 Open Source Boards
Open source movement has become very popular these days. There is one important characteristic that exists on every open source board. And that is the open-source logo.Most to all open-source boards have this logo on it, and to put this logo onto your board, you need to know how to design PCB art.
When putting warning signs like a "hot, do not touch" sign on board, designing the symbol and putting it on your PCB is the best approach.
1.4 Premium Justification
Finally, one of the most underlooked factors is premium justification.
Consider that your product to be sold is a bare PCB without an external cause. In this case, if you put artwork on it and make it visually appealing, then you can justify a higher selling price.
Since additional hardware doesn’t cost anything during fabrication in most cases, the extra money made is pure profit.
A customer might be willing to pay 2$ extra for a board that looks much better visually.
2、Design Tips for PCB Art
2.1 Art Using Silk Screen
The most common way to put any art is by using silkscreen. This means putting your graphics or text on the silkscreen layer.Different PCB design software uses different approaches to this method. A common one is importing a bitmap image into your software, the software then converts it into silkscreen art.
The silkscreen is usually white in color or black in case of a white PCB. So the contrast of any design on there is high.Sometimes, a custom silk screen color like blue is also available.
2.2 Designs using cutouts
The second approach to PCB art is by using board cutouts. Board cutouts put as both a thermal and visual design element.
This method is only viable for primitive shapes which are large enough. Outlines of large alphabets are one possibility.Board cutouts need to define on the mechanical layer of your design. The cutouts should comply with the specifications the manufacturer can process. There are certain limits on minimum width and tolerances.
2.3 Exposed Solder Mask Art
A more advanced way of putting art on your PCB is by using the solder mask layer.
Removing the solder mask on a board exposes the bare copper underneath. This gives a nice metallic feature to any art feature on the board.
This method is suited for brand logos and text on aboard.
It must note that the solder mask layer is negative. Any features that are present on the solder mask layer will remove the mask in that region. So the designer should always keep this in mind.
2.4 Board Solder Mask Colours
The final design tip is to use and experiment with different solder mask colors.
Most design facilities offer multiple color choices. Green is the most common one. Others include Blue, Red, Yellow, Black, and White.
These colors can then be combined with different silk screen text options to provide a good contrasting effect.
However, sometimes, the other colors may cost more. Using a custom color should be a last resort since it results in a more expensive product.
More details on solder mask here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solder_mask
Image 1: A PCB with red solder mask
3、Require Specific Attention to the Artwork Parameters
3.1 Silkscreen Resolution and Sharpness
Silkscreen sharpness is an important factor in all designs. There is a big variance between the silkscreen resolution of different manufacturers. If the resolution is not good enough, your PCB art will show up as blurred.
So it is crucial to go with a manufacturer that has high resolution and sharpness for the silkscreen.
3.2 Gold Plating Options
When it comes to making a design good looking, sometimes spending extra money is required.
This is where going for a gold plated finish on your board comes in. The gold plated finish looks visually stunning and also makes the board resistant to corrosion.Most manufacturers will have an option termed “ENIG” for gold plating.
Image 2: A Gold Plated PCB
3.3 Custom Solder Mask Finish
Lastly, a few new types of surface finish for the solder mask are now available. One of them is a matte finish. This is a non-reflective finish and goes well with certain designs. The other option is an extra glossy finish that is highly reflective.
4.1 PCB Rulers
These are very common among most hobbyists. A PCB ruler is like a regular ruler, except it makes out of PCB. They also have extra measurement features like different hole sizes, component sizes, and trace widths.
Sometimes they also have components like LEDs and a small battery on them.
PCB Rulers are purely a product intended as a design idea but have become very popular recently.
Most standard PCB rulers are about 15cm or 30cm in length and have multiple component footprints as references.
Image 3: A PCB Ruler
4.2 PCB Business cards
As PCBs have become cheaper in recent times, a new concept of making business cards from PCBs has emerged.
These are like regular business cards but made out of PCB material. They are a good example of a product with PCB Art.
Since a business card has to be attractive and visually appealing, extra attention to PCB Art Design Guidelines is necessary.
Image 4: PCB Business card concept
4.3 PCB Front Panels
PCB front panels are boards that are present on the outside of a product and are visible to the customer.
So naturally, these boards incorporate a lot of PCB art and design elements. A good front panel is simplistic and yet good looking. Sometimes spending extra money on design elements for a PCB front panel goes a long way in attracting customers.
4.4 General Products with Artwork
Finally, most products have some form of PCB Art on them. Even a board with the company logo on it qualifies as PCB Art.
This shows that PCB art is an important feature in all boards, even those that are not directly visible to the end-user.
A seminar video on PCB Art can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbkvza8cKQE
5、What OUR PCB Offers
1. Variety of Solder Mask Options
OurPCB is available in a variety of solder masks. Choices include red, yellow, blue, green, black, and white. With matte finish options for black, green and blue.
Customers can choose from any of these colors according to their needs.
2. High-Resolution Silk Screen
OurPCB also offers to manufacture for panels containing multiple PCBs, the customer can provide their panel design, and we manufacture. This is perfect for high quantity boards.
3. Online Quotation System
Finally, OurPCB also has an online quotation system that automatically calculates the price of your PCB after you upload your Gerber files and input the required data.
This results in a very fast order generation time and causes your board to manufactured in the shortest possible time.
Image 5: Multiple PCB Panels with V-Groove lines
PCB Art adds a lot of value to a circuit board and makes it more visually presentable and attractive.It can use as a premium feature for premium products as well as for selling small production size collectibles.