Electrical Engineering Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for electronics and electrical engineering professionals, students, and enthusiasts. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Whats the standard for denoting the orientation of an LED (or diode in general) when printing a PCB? I'm drawing up a design for students to use in a course and want to make sure I'm not misleading them.

share|improve this question
why not just have the LED schematic symbol, facing the proper direction, printed on the silkscreen right besides the footprint? – Funkyguy Jan 11 at 19:02
I'm certainly no opposed to doing that, I'm more wondering if there exists some standard thats perhaps more official or widely used. – kaytea Jan 11 at 19:05
I usually show the outline of the part, and have a line drawn on it to denote the cathode side like in this pic robotroom.com/PCB/Silkscreen/… – I. Wolfe Jan 11 at 19:18
through hole or surface-mount? – W5VO Jan 11 at 21:48
My LED-backlit keyboard has a "+" next to where the long lead on the LED goes. This makes it a nearly-thoughtless exercise to replace them as they fail. – Andrew Morton Jan 11 at 21:48

Make a pad for the cathode square. This works even if your PCBs don't have silk screen. If you do have silk screen on the PCB, then draw a flat on the cathode side which would correspond to the flat on the actual part.

enter image description here
enter image description here (mechanical drawing for a typical T-1 3/4 throughole LED from datasheet)

Orient all diodes in the same direction. It reduce errors during manual assembly. This guideline applies to other types of polarized components too.

enter image description here
enter image description here

The PCB layouts above were sketched in ExpressPCB. Typically, the footprints for diodes that come in the libraries with PCB layout packages have some way of showing polarity.

related: How Should You Mark Your Diodes? (write-up in a free industry journal)

share|improve this answer

Usually the cathode is marked with a bar similar to what Nick Alexeev showed. But there is one simple advice: put a marking that matches the marking on the component!

If it's a round 5mm LED, draw the cut-off edge of the housing. If the component has a marking on its body, try to copy it to the silk screen.

Nothing is more irritating than non-matching markings. For example, I regularly use a 0402 LED with a "T"-shaped marking on its bottom. Unfortunately the cross-bar of the T is on the anode side. Always drives me crazy figuring out what the right orientation is...

share|improve this answer

I don't think there is a standard, but there definitely is some sort of convention. If you see a design with a diode and some sort of marking, then your best bet is that the marked side is a Cathode.

I tend to follow the Diode Marking Guidelines from Screaming Circuits and place a little diode symbol next to my diodes. Only in very tight layouts I will revert to a "dot" to mark the cathode.

Diode Marking Guidelines

share|improve this answer
Thank you! This is very helpful. – kaytea Jan 11 at 19:08
@kaytea Good to hear! – Armandas Jan 11 at 19:09
In the KiCad libraries, the SMD diode anode is marked with a wider or heaver silkscreen outline on that side. For through-hole LED's, a silkscreen line matching the flat edge is commonly seen. – rdtsc Jan 11 at 19:13
@rdtsc Really? Marking the anode on the PCB is quite unconventional, especially since most components have a "Cathode Band" marking. – Armandas Jan 11 at 19:19
Oops I meant Cathode. – rdtsc Jan 11 at 19:30

Screaming Circuits weighing in here... The closest thing to an actual "standard" is the cathode bar. The problem is that a fair number of people mark their diodes with a minus sign, which usually indicates the cathode, but not always. FLyback, Zeners, TVS and a few others generally have the anode on the negative side.

The biggest problem occurs with small surface mount LEDs. There is no standard for polarity marking on the part. Even worse, some part manufacturers have been known to use the same marking as both an anode and cathode indicator.

The diode symbol, if you can fit it, is about the only way to really get rid of this ambiguity. I've since updated the document referenced to indicate that "K" is more commonly used to indicate Cathode than "C", to reduce possible confusion with a capacitor.

Marking the Anode is not common, but some manufacturers do that, and some designers do when they've got common anode multi LEDs on the board.

share|improve this answer
Hi Duane, good to see you post here. Do you have a link to the updated document? – Armandas Jan 12 at 20:46
Armandas - Here's the lates version of the white paper: screamingcircuits.typepad.com/files/… – DuaneFBenson Jan 12 at 22:36
Thanks. The LED example from the blog is a nice addition to the paper. – Armandas Jan 12 at 22:44

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.