PCB Design Thread

Figured I’d start a PCB design thread, where we can swap ideas and help each other out with design challenges.

Some useful links:

PCB Design


KiCad EDA - Freeware, open source PCB design suite. Commonly used in the mechanical keyboard community.

Stormbard’s KiCad footprint repo - Has Cherry MX and other basic footprints commonly used with PCBs.
Ai03’s MX-Alps hybrid footprint repo - Has nice Cherry MX/Alps hybrid footprints. Useful if you’re planning on offering more switch compatibility with your project.

There are other good footprint repos floating around. I don’t have links atm, but people can suggest/post more.

Deskthority Wiki - KiCad PCB Design Guide - A basic dive into keyboard PCB design.

Ruiqi Mao’s PCB Design Guide - A better, more in-depth guide for a basic mechanical keyboard PCB.

Other PCB Design Software

AutoDesk Eagle - Not free, but is very capable. Has a canvas limit within the free version that’s smaller than a 60%+ PCB, but for smaller macropads etc. it works great.

skullydazed’s Footprint Repo for Eagle


Github - QMK Firmware - Commonly used keyboard firmware, very easy to implement for basic designs with web-based tools.

QMK Configurator - Online QMK firmware configurator for existing boards (ones pushed to the QMK repo). Can compile .hex files.

KBfirmware - Online QMK firmware configurator and .hex compiler. Useful for handwired boards.


yeah i really need to start making pcbs

I’ve used kicad but sometimes things get a bit frustrating

it doesn’t seem to just easily work like other programs

kicad is definitely finnicky to start. I for one really dislike the library management. I’ve migrated to Altium so I’m not super well-versed on kicad atm, but someone like @donutcat could probably give guidance. I know his PCBs are all done in kicad.

There’s def people way better at Kicad than I am, but I’ll help where I can.

Autodesk basically killed Eagle with that subscription model for advanced hobbyists, those who needs more than the free version has to offer but doesn’t have a reason for a high monthly payment to access the features the paid versions have. :frowning:

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Thanks for this, it’s like a neat quickstart.

I’ve been meaning to look into making keyboard PCBs as a hobby and an opportunity to learn more about electronics so this is neat!

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I remember going with Eagle back before the Autodesk days and being heartbroken that there was a 100x100 canvas area.

For most hobbyists that is enough. Not so much for custom keyboards. :frowning:

Yeah, I’d struggle a little bit to put a ScrabblePad in 100x100 :stuck_out_tongue:

Can we get Skully’s libraries in the OP @hineybush? It’s got some awesome footprints. GitHub - clueboard/eagle_libs: Eagle device library used by Clueboard

Yep I can add that.

i think i was told by haata there are a lot of libraries from the mech keys discord design page,…links to git hub libraries

don’t remember the exact info

I think you should add that you can use eagle for free with the students license for 3 years.

I’ve been using Autodesk Fusion 360 for my keyboard’s PCB. It’s much more manual, but it’s definitely worked for me. It is free for hobbyists, but it’s a full CAD/CAM package, so you have to basically do everything that Eagle does manually. I glanced at Eagle, but yeah, that price tag for keyboard-sized boards is a show-stopper.

Tweeted by Dave Jones, from the EEVblog, about half an hour ago:

@AltiumDesigner have been deliberately crippling Circuit Maker all these years?

BUSTED: Altium deliberately crippling Circuit Maker? - Page 2

What say you @upverter ?
(Circuit Maker is to become Upverter Desktop, & the crippling code is set to remain)

The post on the forum is here, containing more details.

Never used Circuit Maker before, and I don’t think I ever will after that.

I’d also say a link to QMK’s discord may be a good idea. There is a specific hardware channel in the discord server, and a lot of people willing to help out.

Here are some interesting PCB repos:


If you’re a student, you get Eagle for free. I recommend it, it’s very easy to learn and to use. I think KiCad has more features, though.

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I’m not a student for over a decade now… :no_mouth:

I want to take on a new keeb project for the summer and I’ve decided I want to make a PCB. I’ve completed a couple of handwired builds, so I thought I would try something new. I’m not oblivious to the steep learning curve of KiCAD, nor manufacturing costs (minimum orders, etc.), but I’m willing to take it one step at a time and see where it goes.

My first question for all of you is if I conceptually have the idea correct. Basically, for a given layout, I want to solder switches, diodes, and a Teensy++ to a PCB, very much like @rockydbull 's Catch22. This is basically the same concept as handwiring but with less me squinting to see if I soldered wires together properly, yes?