I am trying to make a pcb using the toner transfer method. The problem I have is that the toner does not transfer completely so i cannot proceed to etch it.

I am using glossy paper, a laser printer, and I have polished and cleaned the pcb before ironing it.

I add some pictures to see if anyone cal help me out.

There are parts that the toner doesent stick at all: There are parts that the toner doesent stick at all

And some parts where it sticks poorly: enter image description here

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ How do you remove the paper from the PCB? By Pulling? Try to put the PCB with paper into water for a few minuter and rub the paper away. Try this with normal paper or thin one like from newspaper. And your flatiron or whatever needs more temperature. \$\endgroup\$
    – auoa
    Jan 30, 2017 at 10:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @auoa I'll try with normal paper and by soaking the pcb. Maybe hot water? \$\endgroup\$
    – jagjordi
    Jan 30, 2017 at 10:27
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ The toner transfer method does not work with all papers and all toners. You need to experiment a bit. There is even special paper for this on ebay. \$\endgroup\$
    – PlasmaHH
    Jan 30, 2017 at 10:30
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ You realize you're paying yourself pennies per hour trying to make crappy PC boards yourself, as apposed to using one of the many prototype PCB services out there, right? The reason I say crappy is you won't get plated holes, finish over the bare copper, solder mask, or silk screen. So now even more of your time is spent making your own vias, slower building of the board, and dealing with the screw-ups that happen as a result of not having printed legend and solder mask. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2017 at 12:15
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @OlinLathrop It hardly takes 20 mins to print a circuit to a PCB. You can get a decent quality print with toner transfer. Although homemade PCBs don't have plated holes or soldermask, but it's the quickest way to prototype and also cheaper. prototype PCB services takes ages to arrive. And with that cost i can make like 20-30 boards whereas companies only send you 3 copies. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2017 at 13:27

3 Answers 3


If you heat the toner it will melt. Take the printed paper and put it on an iron for clothes, see if it melts. There is another method, use acetone mixed with isopropyl alcohol. It requires no heating. But the acetone must be pure, not mixed with water. It is very important to heat and press it uniformly(heat), or press it uniformly(acetone method). Use warm water to remove the paper. Let the water completely soak the paper.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, I juet tried the method that you proposed using acetone and alcohol and it seems to work great but when I remove the paper it seems that a small lqyer of paper remains stick to the board and I cannot remove it by rubbing. Any idea on how to remove that last coat of paper? \$\endgroup\$
    – jagjordi
    Jan 30, 2017 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is ok to leave it there. In the beginning I used vinegar to remove all paper, but the solution corroding copper corrodes paper as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – user114883
    Jan 31, 2017 at 7:49

Getting toner transfer to work well can be tricky. Here are a few things that you can try.

  1. Try a different glossy paper. Don't bother with magazine and news papers they don't work very well.

  2. Check and remove if you have set a "toner saver" option in your printer.

  3. Set the "maximum density" in printer settings.

  4. See if the print on the paper is dense. and doesn't look faded.

  5. Try a different printer if above three options don't work.

  6. Make sure you've set maximum temperature in your iron. or try a different iron if you think that can be a problem.

  7. Apply uniform pressure to the board. DON'T slide the iron over. It has a slight risk to "smudge" the print.

judging by the looks of your print. It's either the toner lacking in the print or proper heat is not applied to the board.

print quality should look something like this.

enter image description here

  • \$\begingroup\$ the problem is that i don't own a laser printer, i have to go to a ahop to print my circuit and they onlybhave one type of paper and thwy are not willing to use any paper diferent than what they already have. They say it might berrak the printer so I'm trying the method suggested by @La Conquista \$\endgroup\$
    – jagjordi
    Jan 30, 2017 at 18:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @jagjordi You'll probably need to buy a printer. These shops usually use maximum toner saving features and low quality, non genuine toner (at least where I live). Also, they won't print in any paper you give to them (and I think they are not wrong, imagine if a unknown paper breaks their printer...). Besides that, you will need to test a lot before getting ok results. I only was able to get good results after buying my own printer. Also, the special yellow glossy papers on ebay and chinese sites gave me the best results. Another great tool is a heater press (modified printer) instead of iron. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 31, 2017 at 11:35

This can be very frustrating, indeed. I tried heat with an iron and also a hot laminator to no avail. For what it's worth, here's what worked best for me:

  • Print the circuit on 70# litho that is coated on one side. A good print shop should know it will work safely in laser printers. They may know it as it 70# C1S Gloss Text. Print on the glossy side. Other papers may work as well, as long as the surface is super smooth.

  • Create a softening mixture of 2 parts rubbing alcohol to one part undiluted acetone.

  • Clean the board with #0000 steel wool or emory cloth, and wipe clean with pure acetone or alcohol. If you touched the toner on the paper, use a damp paper towel to wipe it with alcohol.

  • Place a paper towel down, and lay the copper clad on it, copper side up.

  • Have the transfer sheet ready, and drip some softener on the board so that it covers 1/2 to 3/4 of the surface, and quickly spread it around with a finger to fully coat.

  • Place your transfer, toner side down, on top of the "puddle" of softener, making sure it is in full contact, but "floating," and wait about 10 seconds.

  • Now, press down on one edge a little firmly, and gently smooth the rest of the sheet. Some fluid will run out of the edges, and the sheet will become slightly transparent. If you can see the pattern through the sheet, it is probably wet enough to transfer. If there are non-transparent spots, just add a drop of softener, and spread it around.

  • Now, lay a folded paper towel over top and press straight down firmly, but not too hard, with the palm of your hand. This is the real trick. Too light, and it will not stick to the copper. To hard, and the toner will spread. It took me about a dozen tries to get the "feel" for it. Be patient, and start with smaller boards to hone the technique.

  • Remove the board from the towels to dry, and go and get something to drink. When you return, smell the board. If you no longer smell the acetone, it's time for the next step.

  • Submerge the board into a tray of water and leave it for about an hour. Sometimes it's less, but allowing this much time will ensure the paper is good and soaked, and will eliminate the variable. Check it every ten minutes, and you will get the idea of how it looks when it's actually ready.

  • After the hour, peel the paper off from one corner. You will get almost all of it off, and then have to remove the remaining pieces.

  • Hold the board under warm running water, and gently rub the remaining paper away with your finger tips. When you are done, there will be a layer of paper remaining on the toner. This is fine.

  • Etch using your favorite method, and clean the toner off with straight acetone on a towel.

The trick is getting the right amount of pressure, and being patient. Most of my problems with this method were related to those two issues. That, and understanding that the paper coating will remain on the toner. Knowing this, I have also used regular printer paper successfully, but the fact that it is not the smooth "laser" paper caused it to be a little rough to be usable. Since I got the technique down, 9 out of 10 of my boards are perfect.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It has to be worth mentioning that good ventilation is required, along with no naked flames and no sparks, when the solvents are around. Copious amounts of water should suffice to extinguish fires as the solvents are completely miscible with water, but you can't put out an explosion. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 28, 2017 at 18:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you apply the presure? I often get some of the ink to move because I think I'm not applying the pressure properly. \$\endgroup\$
    – jagjordi
    Mar 28, 2017 at 18:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Always try to press straight down. I use the tip of my fingers to "seat" the transfer. Once I have it in place - I lay the paper towel over it and use the "meaty" part of my palm to apply more even pressure. Push, then move to the next spot, and repeat. I do this from left to right, then back again. It's easier while standing, but the pressure you can apply while sitting is about the right amount, but the up/down motion is more difficult. Sometimes it slides if I'm not careful, and I just wipe it clean and start again. Remember, it took about a dozen tries to get the feel for it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jay
    Mar 28, 2017 at 19:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I use the same method. After applying the transfer medium(glossy paper from FedEx/Kinkos works the best for me), I clamp it between two old prototype boards, the kind that have lots of holes, let it sit for a couple of hours and then drop the board into a container of water for a while. after the paper comes off, I'll rub it gently to remove any film. Then I take my hot air gun and run it over both sides, I get good adhesion this way. \$\endgroup\$
    – GB - AE7OO
    Dec 6, 2019 at 8:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

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