So, you might be wondering why there are different colors on your PCB? Or you are torn between which PCB colors you should opt for your board? Well, we got you covered.
In this guide, we are going to highlight the color classification of PCB boards, why there are different colors, and what are the differences between different colors. We are also going to discuss the ideal color for most circuit boards.
We are also going to shed more information on the probable problems you will encounter with the PCB colors that you choose. Ideally, we hope by the end of this article, you will be in a position to purchase, customize, and design the most suitable PCB board. With that said, let’s get started.
What is the PCB Color?
To understand what PCB colors is, we need to be aware that the pigmentation you see on a PCB isn’t the actual color of the first board. It is a covering placed on the FR-4 PCB Material. The color seen on every board is as a result of the color of the solder mask that protects the bare copper wires on the board.
The choice of the color of the solder mask or solder oil should be in such a manner that it has excellent contrast to the overlaying copper wires and they are easily identifiable. The colored layer protects the copper wires from short-circuiting. It also creates a layer of protection from everyday wear and tears to the board caused by climatic stress or any other likely cause of damage to the board.
The Type of PCB Colors
2.1 Solder mask color
PCBs come in different colors, the most common is green. Yet, there are blue, yellow, white, clear, black and purple PCBs just to identify a few. So, what is the main idea behind the PCB colors? Well, the color choice of every board differs and will generally boil down to the personal preference of the designers, not unless the consumer has specific requirements.
(green is the most available color of solder masks for a long time)
2.2 The significance of color PCB
As mentioned before, the primary role of these PCB colored coating is primarily for protection. It protects the board from external factors of wear and tear while keeping all the PCB Material well secured on the board.
Also, another essential factor that the PCB colors bring is the aesthetic factor on the board. There are some uniquely colored boards, like pink, for example, that would be very pleasing to look at if that is your color of choice. They break the monotonous and ordinary green color of the PCB.
Color Classification of Solder Mask
When it comes to colors, it is two-way traffic. What the designers think is the best choice as well as what the consumer think works well for them. Let’s see how some of the PCB color fair in the PCB word.
3.1 Blue circuit board
Coming second to the green circuit board in popularity, the blue circuit board finds its way in many PCBs. The contrast between the color and the copper wires makes it easy to assemble and do repairs.
(A blue colored PCB board)
3.2 Red circuit board
The red circuit board is one of the bold and professional PCB colors that designers choose. They also offer a high contrast in the planes, traces and spaces within the board, making it easy to spot any damages on the board instantly. It is also useful when using magnification when trying to identify issues that need the help of magnification on the board traces.
(an example of a red PCB)
3.3 Black circuit board
The black circuit board is one of the most complicated circuit boards. Actually, with the blackboards, it becomes almost impossible to differentiate between empty spaces, planes, and traces. So, you need to tilt the board across a beam of light to inspect it.
Though on the flip side, if working with a different silkscreen, the pads become very well defined. It makes it easy to identify the spots but also if correctly marked.
Apple is known for using black PCBs for their boards in the manufacture of iPhones and MacBook.
(A sample of what a black solder mask looks like)
3.4 White circuit board
The white circuit board is the worst selection of your solder mask since it doesn’t showcase any contrast at all. So, if you though a black PCB is tough to work with, try the white. Even over a beam of light, the contrast isn’t easily visible.
(It is hectic working with white solder masks on your PCB)
Though, with the use of silkscreen usable on the black PCB, you can create contrast with using duller colors on your silkscreen.
3.5 Purple circuit board
The purple color isn’t a standard or common color that you would find on a PCB. Depending on your manufacturer, you might be required to pay a premium for this color choice. With the purple PCB, the contrast is high, and the overall workability is improved.
(A purple-colored PCB)
3.6 Yellow circuit board
The yellow boards are spectacular to work with, and it is still a surprise as to why most designers don’t opt for yellow for their solder mask color. Yellow offers greater detail of contrast between empty spaces, traces, and planes. It stands out similar to the green color mask with the efficiency and ease in workability
(The variation on the yellow PCB is perfect to work with)
3.7 Green circuit board
And we have the green circuit board. It is the universal color of a typical PCB and has been so for very many years. To understand why it has been a favorite among many designers, we need to find out why the green in PCB is easy to use.
Why are Printed Circuit Boards Usually Green
When the thought of a circuit board crosses your mind, the color is green. Why has this been the preferred color over the years?
4.1 Green can reduce visual fatigue
The green color isn’t as bright as the pink or red color. Also, when it comes to PCBs, most manufacturers’ go for a dull shade of green. The color choice isn’t sore to the eyes for most designers and can work on the board for longer hours as compared to brighter colors that might not work well for them.
(It is comfortable working with the green solder masks)
4.2 Physical advantages
The contrast levels are another critical factor. You get higher and visible differences in the empty spaces, traces, and planes. So, when it comes to inspections and repairs, it becomes easy to identify a problem and get it sorted immediately.
4.3 Facilitate mass production
The green color has been around for a very long time and has been the universal color code for PCBs. With this in mind, the resources available to produce it becomes widely available and easily accessible to PCB manufacturing plants in large volumes. Since this is the color most people use, it facilitates mass production.
4.4 Lower price
With its mass production, the availability becomes more, hence reducing the prices by far. So, when you want custom colors for your solder mask, you will have to pay extra for it. The affordable prices of the green solder mask make the green PCBs a standard color on most circuit boards.
How to Choose the Right PCB Colors
So, how do you select the ultimate color for your PCB board? And why green.
5.1 Combined with PCB product considerations
Green stands out to be one of the natural colors to work with for your solder mask. Generally, it is the thinnest of all coats with a 0.1 mm thickness layer. It has also been optimized over the years to work well with most PCB components while making it easy for assembly and repairs on the board.
5.2 Considerations for matte and glossy surfaces
Whether to opt for a matte or glossy finish is entirely an aesthetic choice of the designer. Both work perfectly well, with the glossy finish more reflective and appear to have a hard shell-like finish while the matte is having a porous like finish and a darker feel to it.
5.3 Price and batch considerations
When selecting the color of your solder mask, green will always top the list. It is very affordable of all the colors and widely available in huge batches. It is also easy to get a good bargain from a manufacturer.
(The choice of color is dependent on the designer or consumer)
The Difference Between Different PCB Colors
When it comes to the differences between PCB color, nothing is outstanding that your color choice does to the functionality of the boards. Instead, it is at the assembly and repairs that you really will have a hard or easy time with the contrast of the board and the PCB components. Though, still, there are some minute notable differences.
6.1 Cost performance
When it comes to costs, the green is way cheaper and a definite pick for most designers and entrepreneurs. It is a widely accepted color in the PCB world and would be of much cost-effectiveness to your project.
(The green solder masks is readily available and at affordable prices too)
6.2 Functional differences
Apart from the assembly or repair, the functionalities of the solder mask are all the same whichever color you choose. The primary purpose is to provide a coating for PCB components, regardless of the intensity, all solder masks should be like this.
6.3 Likely problems in the printing process
Irrespective of the PCB color, a likely scenario while printing is the ink viscosity being low, making adhere poorly to the board. You need then to increase the concentration of the ink. Even though this is the most common, here are a few likely to encounter;
1. High silk screen pressure
2. Bad squeegee
3. Difference in distance between the screen and the printing surface
How to Choose the Right PCB Colors Supplier
Choosing the right PCB color supplier has a lot to do with how consistent they are. You need a supplier that is well established and has a clear understanding of PCB color. Knowing that PCBs are the core unit of any electronic material, you need to have a supplier with the knowledge in applying the solder mask correctly.
And when it comes to this, WellPCB does it best. We have a great understanding of how to handle PCBs and which colors work well in which devices. We will not only provide but also advise you on PCB colors and suitable contrast.
( look for a well-established supplier, one with the experience and knowhow)
It is our belief now that you have fully understood why there are various colors to a PCB board and why the green color is the most common of all. We also believe that we handled all your worries and concerns brought about by the different PCB color.
With that in mind, feel free to reach us for all your PCB color supply quotations, and we will help you with the masking of your circuit board to your color of choice.