Simple PCB program to make small circuits and buy prototypes

George Korper

I would like an easy program to makes PCB's  from my small projects that I ugly construct. Then maybe order a few on the web. Any ideas?  I usedI used to draw on copper boards and etch but that was years ago.


Colin Kaminski

This is really easy now. The hard part is setting up a library of parts. I use KiCAD and Eagle depending on the project. I would recommend picking one and sticking with it. The workflow is you draw the schematic and the wires are turned into Nets. When you go to the PCB layout you move the components around and the nets stay attached. You then start replacing the nets with PCB traces. Components don’t have to be connected on the PBC if you name the nets the same on two connected components. 

once you are done the program will generate all the files needed to go to a PCB house. You submit them online and you will get an instant quote. Keeping the PCBs small saves money. 

Here is a Eagle file showing a complex but cheap board:*kuvfm4*_ga*MTg3NTE3NzIzNS4xNjc4ODQ1OTA4*_ga_NEXN8H46L5*MTY3ODg0NTkwOC4xLjEuMTY3ODg0NTkzNS4wLjAuMA..

I have been using lately but there are a lot to choose from. You can even get them to build the board. 
Colin - K6JTH


I use Eagle which you can get free from Autodesk for hobbyist use. Probably not “simple” but very full featured (it even has an autorouter). The board files from Eagle can be sent to OshPark to have PCBs made. They’re very reasonable, minimum order of 3 boards, and they show you what your board will look like right after you upload your file.


William Smith

Check out KiCad, there’s a bit of a learning curve but once you get it it’s a dream to use. 

OshPark will make boards from KiCad files dirrctly for a few bucks. 

73, Willie N1JBJ

On Mar 14, 2023, at 10:16 PM, JeepGuy <kg5zmg@...> wrote:

I use Eagle which you can get free from Autodesk for hobbyist use. Probably not “simple” but very full featured (it even has an autorouter). The board files from Eagle can be sent to OshPark to have PCBs made. They’re very reasonable, minimum order of 3 boards, and they show you what your board will look like right after you upload your file.


Trystan G0KAY

The key word in George's request was "easy" I believe.

Brian George

Hi George,  I have spent hours over the years looking for a simple PCB program. Perhaps it is just my ageing grey cells but I personally found  KiCAD, Eagle and many others quite difficult to use.

I would highly recommend Sprint Layout 6.0 by Abacom. It is very intuitive and perfect for your intended use. 

Good luck with your projects!

Brian G3ZOH

George Korper

TNX for posts. Starting tutorials on YouTube and having fun! 
I do wonder why QST an CQ haven't run more on this. 

Hey headquarters I know you read these posts.....sounds like a topic
worth doing. 


I use ExpressPCB ( for all of my projects.  Download their free schematic capture and PCB design programs, which are very easy to use.  I usually use their "MiniBoard Plus" format board which is 2.5" x 3.8", four layers with solder mask and silkscreen.  These boards are about $90 for three PCBs.  That's just about $30/each if you go in with a couple of buddies.  The photo is of one of these boards that I designed to add peak-reading capability to my Bird 43 watt meter, although this one is a two layer board (less expensive) because is was such a simple design.

Bob Parr

Would anyone be willing to help me design a very simple board?  like an Arduino and 4 or 5 connectors (I like to have components easy to swap)?  I will eventually learn to use one of these as I think I would have fun making some, but just don't have time to get up to speed.  If so, please find my email on QRZ,com.


Paul WB6CXC (tech-blog:

KiCad is actually pretty easy to use, and it comes with a decent component library.  I'm a retired electronics engineer, not a PCB layout expert, but it didn't take long to be pretty comfortable with KiCad.  I'm using the latest (V 7.0.1) and it keeps getting better.  I built my own library, and use almost exclusively surface-mount devices, but the default library has through-hole as well as SMT parts.

A friend uses OshPark for his PCB fabrication, and I understand that they are pretty reasonable.  I use JLCPCB (in China) and it couldn't be easier or cheaper.  I just zip the KiCad-generated Gerber and drill files, upload the zip to the JLCPCB website and within a couple of days they have the boards made.  Quick shipping is pricey, but it you can wait a couple of weeks it can be quite inexpensive.

For example, I just had five of these boards fabricated for a total of $7.  That's $1.40 per board (four layers, but there's hardly a difference if you go with two layers.)  Slow shipping cost me $8.59, and that was for this board and another one.  I've sent well over a dozen board designs to JLCPCB and the quality has always been excellent.

This image is from the KiCad 3D viewer.  I ordered the bare boards from JLCPCB, and I assemble them here.  JLCPCB also has an inexpensive assembly service, but you need to use the parts they have in stock (they do have a big inventory).
Paul Elliott - WB6CXC

Paul WB6CXC (tech-blog:

BTW, that board is a five-output clock distribution buffer, that I will use to provide a 10 MHz GPSDO clock to various pieces of test equipment, and to some modified QDXs (used as FST4W beacons / receivers.)  It can take sine or square clock inputs from 1 to 100 MHz.  It's got a fancy circuit board faceplate, also designed in KiCad, and fabricated by JLCPCB (10 pcs, $6.61 total).  This is way cheaper than having a custom aluminum faceplate made, and it holds up extremely well.

As you can tell, I like KiCad!
Paul Elliott - WB6CXC


There’s no mention of EasyEDA in the earlier comments.  I like it because it includes a huge parts catalog with photos.  I found it difficult to find the exact parts I wanted when I used Eagle in the past.  EasyEDA seems to include many of the parts found at Amazon. 

EasyEDA ties directly to JLCPCB.  My last order was $2.00 for five boards plus postage.  I received the order here in Canada in nine calendar days.  

Note:  I found it helpful to study Han’s 2 sided board layout!



Hi George,

I have been using DipTrace for over 20 years and have found it to be quite intuitive.  There is a free version available which can be used to design smaller boards of up to 200(?) connections.


I agree with this post about DipTrace!!!! It has a schematic capture program, and will convert to a board layout which can be modified, and importantly can create a Gerber file to send out to a manufacturer. Also has very good tutorials on how to use it. I made a small TDR project right out of QST, sent out the Gerber file and got the PC boards back working great all with no experience at all!!! They even connected me to a nearby manufacturer to sent them the Gerber file!

Ron Carr

I recently was looking for a free program and tried a bunch of them.  I find learning someone else's software sometimes very frustrating.  So keep that in mind.

DipTrace:   I found this useful and I may use it again.  Finding the part you want in a large database is frustrating. The autorouter seems to produce many design rule errors that need to be fixed.

KiCad: It was a 1 gig download, I didn't install it.

Eagle:  I started with the tutorial which was a bad start.  It was totally outdated and nothing worked as described.  I loaded and played with an example circuit.  I clicked and clicked to select a part without success.  Apparently there is a handle somewhere that you need to click on.  The autorouter was fun.  It seems to be designed to reduce the need for vias.

EasyEda:  I played with it as much as I could without signing up.

Express PCB:  Easy to use but does have some brain dead features ( like parts that need to be ungrouped, pins assigned and then regrouped )   Boards are very expensive and only after ordering will they give you the gerbers.

FreePCB:  A completely different paradigm.  Does not have schematic capture. I think this works well for simple circuits.  Instead of finding parts in a large database, you search for footprints in a small database.  You can put a resistor in a capacitor footprint if you want to.  The footprint wizard works well.  Good pdf documentation.  Instead of making a netlist, I just add parts, connect with ratlines, and route manually.  I didn't try the 3rd party autorouter. 

Peter Ayearst

I use KiCad. It's free, open source, and actively supported.  There are no restrictions or limitations and there's a ton of videos online. UDemy offers online course for a reasonable price as well.

73, Peter ve3poa 

Jim Allyn - N7JA

One word:   KiCad.

Paul Christensen

>”One word:   KiCad.”


My preference after using KiCad:  DipTrace


Paul, W9AC



Giuseppe Marullo[iw2jww]

Kicad, period.

However, you would need some effort. No one solution will work for you if you don't, either Kicad or Altium and everything in between.

Ask for advice, it is easy once you get the philosophy behind it, it is a tipping point.
For me, it was about the fact that a device is completely separated from its package.
At first, it seemed just a weakness, then it become an advantage.

Couple it with:
- Oshpark site,
- a utility or two for importing 3d models and such,
- oshstencils site,
- LTSpice(I never tried to spice from Kicad directly),
- FreeCAD if you have a 3d printer and you are in business.

I am a beginner but if I could help I am available to show how to do it with a confcall(CET timezone).

Giuseppe Marullo

On March 17, 2023 6:33:55 PM GMT+01:00, Paul Christensen <w9ac@...> wrote:

>”One word:   KiCad.”


My preference after using KiCad:  DipTrace


Paul, W9AC



Paul WB6CXC (tech-blog:

On Fri, Mar 17, 2023 at 11:27 AM, Giuseppe Marullo[iw2jww] wrote:
FreeCAD if you have a 3d printer and you are in business.
I use FreeCad to make very simple 3D models for KiCad components. FreeCad is definitely *not* intuitive (for me, anyway), but I am able to create simple shapes with it (cylindrical donut for a toroid core, stacked blocks with castellated cutouts for some GPS modules).  These are essentially shape placeholders, but they look better than an empty spot when I use the 3D PCB rendering to inspect my work before sending it out for fab.

I am amazed by what some people can do with FreeCad (or other modeling tools), but even my clueless beginner self can get a useful design from it.

But most of my KiCad 3D models come off the internet.  DigiKey and Mouser have links to the various CAD models, some component vendors have them, and there are repositories of submitted models elsewhere on line.
Paul Elliott - WB6CXC