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Just what is special about the resist pens used to draw directly on PCBs before etching? Would a permanent marker work as well, or some other kind pen or marker? Naturally I have in mind something cheaper but good enough. This is for one-off handmade projects, single or double sided boards only.

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A permanent marker will work but the finishing may not be that very great and you might want to give it a solder coat later. A resist pen just forms a thicker layer than a marker would do, giving it more isolation from etching chemical and a better finish.

I have used it couple of time If I am lazy for other long method where I get the circuit done on a PCB designer and get it printed on photo-paper etc. But for a good finish and a complex circuit I would suggest this method of etching is the best and reliable. I have been using it since years and never had a problem.

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It's mostly about how much ink they put down - certainly worth testing some standard permanent markers on some scrap material. Many shops that sell markers have testers you can try so maybe take a bit of copperclad with you & try a few.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ They also don't have water soluble inks \$\endgroup\$ – Nick T Nov 4 '10 at 17:00
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I used to get very good results with ordinary cellulose paint, applied with a fine paint brush. Thinning the paint a little with cellulose thinners helped if I needed narrow tracks. It worked better than the resist pens and was much cheaper.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm an artist too - perhaps acrylic paint will work? There's no shortage of it at my house, and I have plenty of fine brushes. \$\endgroup\$ – DarenW Nov 5 '10 at 22:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ It should be OK. Cellulose paint is probably easier to remove after etching. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller Nov 6 '10 at 16:44
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"pcbprt - Experiments in inkjet PCB printing" by pascal. Some inkjet printers can print directly CD and DVD. They can print on copper-clad FR4 to make reasonably good etch resist. The main trick seems to be baking the freshly-printed boards to dry out the ink and get the dyes/pigments to stick to the copper -- otherwise the water-based ink immediately washes off as soon as you drop the board in the etch tank.

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I've had success with some overhead-projector-transparency pens (remember OHPs? :). The dark blue and brown Staedtlers worked best IIRC, the purple one not very well at all - remember to use the "permanent" ones, not the water-based ones.

A bit of trial and error is the order of the day!

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