How to Choose the Right Color for Your PCB

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When designing a printed circuit board (PCB), choosing the right color for the board itself is an important decision that can impact both aesthetics and functionality. The color of the PCB serves several purposes – it can help distinguish different components or layers, serve as branding for the product, aid in visibility and inspection, and more.

With so many color options available, from basic green to flashy neon hues, how do you determine what PCB color is best for your specific design and application? This comprehensive guide examines the primary factors to consider when selecting a PCB color. Read on to learn strategies for picking the optimal PCB color for performance, appearance, branding, and other critical criteria.

Key Factors in Selecting PCB Color

Several key factors should be evaluated when choosing a color for your printed circuit board:

Visibility and Inspectability

One of the most important considerations is choosing a PCB color that allows for easy visual inspection during manufacturing and testing. Light, neutral colors like white, gray, and light yellow enable clear visibility of the board and its components. Dark colors can make it hard to see fine details, flaws, and other potential issues.

Aesthetics and Branding

Beyond inspection, PCB color also influences aesthetics and branding. Using company colors or logos reinforces brand identity. Vibrant colors can make the product more visually appealing and distinctive. Just be sure bright hues don’t hamper inspectability.

Component Differentiation and Demarcation

PCB colors can also help differentiate components and clearly demarcate sections or layers. For example, applying red solder mask to power supply areas helps identify them. Using different colors for top/bottom layers or analog/digital sections improves navigation.

Manufacturing and Testing Considerations

Certain PCB colors hold up better during manufacturing and testing. Dark colors tend to absorb laser energy during drilling and routing, generating more heat. Lighter colors reflect energy and stay cooler. High temperatures can impact performance.


colored PCBs are typically more expensive than traditional green. Special colors and prepainted boards add cost. Weigh color benefits against budget constraints.

Environmental Factors

Will the PCB be used in hot, cold, wet, or dirty environments? Some colors hold up better under extreme conditions. Black and other dark PCBs absorb heat; light colors deflect it.

By evaluating these factors, you can narrow down the ideal PCB color for your specific application.

Common PCB Color Options

Now let’s explore some of the most common color options for printed circuit boards and the pros and cons of each:

Classic Green

Green PCBs are the most common and affordable choice. The traditional green color stems from the chemical composition of the epoxy resin used on fiberglass boards. The downside is green can make inspection difficult and provides no differentiation.


Black PCBs provide an elegant, high-tech look. But the color can make visual inspection during manufacturing difficult. Black also absorbs heat, which can impact temperature tolerances. Use for low-power devices.


White offers maximum contrast and visibility, revealing flaws easily during inspection. It provides a clean, modern aesthetic. However, white can get dirty easily. Not ideal for high wear applications.


Blue PCBs are eye-catching and enable easy inspection. Different shades of blue can delineate components or layers. Light blue tends to work better than dark. Be aware blue solder mask may increase costs.


Red PCBs provide high visibility and help delineate critical circuits like power. Red works well for top layers but can make seeing bottom layer details difficult. The color is also associated with warnings and errors.


Yellow PCBs make it easy to see components and identify flaws. Different shades can enhance navigability. Yellow is associated with warnings, enhancing safety. But some shades have low contrast with metallic components.

Other Colors

Beyond the basics, custom colors like orange, purple, pink, and mixed hues are options. These niche colors maximize branding and aesthetics. But specialized colors can add manufacturing costs.


For enhanced visibility and demarcation, multi-colored PCBs use different hues for different layers or components. This improves navigation but also increases costs. Reserve for complex boards.


Prepainted PCBs feature a colored solder mask over the entire board surface, not just component areas. This provides bold, uniform color at added cost.

As this overview demonstrates, there are many color possibilities for your PCB, spanning the spectrum from subtle green to vivid polychromatic designs. Selecting the right hue involves balancing visibility, performance, branding, demarcation, and budget.

Best Practices for PCB Color Selection

Follow these tips and best practices when choosing a color for your printed circuit board:

  • Prioritize visibility and inspectability as a key criteria, avoiding colors that are too dark or cluttered.
  • Use lighter, neutral colors for complex boards requiring thorough inspection.
  • Reserve bright, flashy colors for simpler boards or low-criticality areas that won’t hamper visibility.
  • Consider heat absorption if the PCB will run hot. Dark colors absorb, light colors deflect.
  • Use red or orange selectively for power supply circuits, warnings, and errors to improve safety.
  • Differentiate top vs. bottom layers or analog vs. digital sections through color.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of specialized colors vs. cost and manufacturability.
  • For multilayer boards, use a “checklist” coloring system with a different hue for each layer.
  • Analyze environmental factors like operating temperatures, humidity, and dirt exposure.
  • Review industry examples of PCB coloring schemes for ideas.
  • Partner with your PCB manufacturer early in the design process to pick a color.

By following these best practices, you can select an optimal PCB color tailored to your specific design needs and application. A strategic use of color enhances utility, aesthetics, branding, visibility, and performance.

PCB Color Selection Process

So what does a methodical PCB color selection process look like? Here are the steps:

1. Determine Technical Constraints

First, identify any technical limitations that may constrain color options. For example, does the board generate significant heat that rules out dark colors? Do small components mandate high visibility? Let technical needs drive initial color choices.

2. Classify Board Complexity

Next, categorize board complexity: simple single-layer, moderately complex multilayer, or highly intricate dense multilayer? Level of complexity should guide light vs. dark colors.

3: Identify Critical Areas

Determine if certain circuits like power delivery warrant bright demarcation colors for safety. This may dictate use of red or orange hues in specific regions.

4. Consider Aesthetics

Evaluate aesthetic preferences, branding needs, target markets, and other appearance factors that may influence color selection.

5. Review Environment

Analyze expected operating environments and conditions to pick colors that can withstand relevant temperatures, humidity, UV, and contamination.

6. Gather Manufacturer Input

Consult PCB fabricators and assemblers for input on feasible color options and associated costs. Get their advice.

7. Make Initial Recommendation

Based on steps 1-6, make an initial color recommendation, potentially presenting 2-3 options supported by your analysis.

8. Solicit Feedback

Gather feedback from key stakeholders in the design process and incorporate input to refine choice.

9. Finalize Selection

Make a final color selection based on technical constraints, board complexity, aesthetics, branding, costs, manufacturability and stakeholder input.

This structured process ensures you make the optimal PCB color decision, backed by logic and research. It leads to a tailored color scheme matching design needs and capabilities.

Applying Color During PCB Design

Once you’ve selected a color, applying color during the PCB layout process is straightforward. Here are some key guidelines:

Soldermask Color

The solder mask layer controls the predominant color of the board. Assign your chosen color to this layer. Enable preview mode to visualize.

Silkscreen Colors

Use black or white silkscreen layers atop the soldermask for high contrast. Other colors can also work if visibility is maintained.

Routing and Drilling Colors

Set routing and drilling layers to dark colors for visibility against lighter soldermasks. For dark masks, make these layers white or yellow.

Layer Color Designations

Assign specific colors to key layers like power planes for quick identification during layout.

Highlighting Nets or Areas

Highlight certain nets or board areas with colors for visibility. For example, make all power nets red.

Follow any applicable company design guidelines or industry standards for PCB color coding. Utilize your selected palette for maximum benefit during layout.

Prototyping Different PCB Color Options

To gain full insight into a prospective PCB color, it is wise to prototype before finalizing your choice. Here are two recommended approaches:

Order Color Samples

PCB manufacturers can provide inexpensive samples or swatches showing exact soldermask colors. Review samples under various lighting conditions.

Get Color Test Boards

Have a small test board made in 2-3 top color candidates. Inspect closely and evaluate impact on visibility.

Both methods allow you to physically examine colors for visibility, appeal, branding alignment and more. The small upfront investment helps prevent expensive re-spins later.

Sourcing Colored PCBs

Finding a manufacturer able to deliver quality colored PCBs at a reasonable price is key. Here are top tips for sourcing colored boards:

  • Determine which capabilities are mandatory vs. optional so minimum requirements are met.
  • Clarify if colored soldermask, silkscreen, pre-preg or other elements are preferred.
  • Ask about available color options and associated lead times and costs.
  • Review examples of colored boards the supplier has produced.
  • Inquire about their color consistency and repeatability.
  • See if in-house masks or outsourced colors are used.
  • Opt for suppliers with demonstrated expertise in color PCBs versus generalists.

By clearly communicating needs and vetting manufacturer capabilities, you can source colored PCBs optimized for performance, aesthetics, and cost.

Designing for PCB Aesthetics

A colored PCB provides an excellent canvas for implementing an aesthetically appealing board design. Here are tips for the layout process:

Component Placement

Strategically position components to maximize visibility and design flow. Follow natural sight lines.

Balance and Visual Weight

Distribute components evenly across the board area. Create balanced visual weight.


Cluster related components. Use space and color to delineate functional groups.


Align components, text, and other features on common gridlines for cleanliness.


Add decorative elements like logos, symbols, outlines or background patterns. Integrate with color scheme.

Applying these design principles coupled with a well-selected color palette results in an attractive, refined PCB with branding impact.

Future Trends in PCB Colors

PCB color technology continues advancing. Some emerging trends to watch:

Gradient Colors

Gradient shifts between hues for smooth, visually striking effects. Adds cost complexity.

Color-Shifting Inks

Inks change color based on viewing angle or lighting. Enable dynamic aesthetics.

3D Printed Color

Direct 3D printing of PCBs allows mixing multiple colors within a single board.

Custom Multicolor

Advancing digital color management enables bespoke multilayer color schemes.

Infill Technology

Infill methods deposits color pigments into the laminate substrate for vivid hues throughout a cross section, not just the surface.

These innovations provide ever more opportunities to utilize color for branding, visibility, and unique styling. Expect the palette of possibilities to keep expanding.

Real-World Examples of PCB Color Usage

To illustrate effective utilization of color, here are some real-world examples:

Differentiating Board Areas

This PCB uses three different colors to distinguish analog circuits (blue), digital logic (green) and power supply (red):

Brand Alignment

This board matches the signature purple hue of a consumer drone product for branding:

Highlighting Safety Areas

Yellow soldermask is used selectively here to call out high voltage regions for safety:

Dense Multilayer Navigation

Extensive color coding on this 16-layer board aids navigation and assembly.

These examples showcase the creative ways PCB color can enhance aesthetics, branding, visibility, differentiation and usability.


Selecting the optimal PCB color requires carefully weighing visibility, performance, manufacturability, branding, demarcation, and cost tradeoffs. Following a structured selection process ensures the color choice matches technical constraints and design goals. Prototyping color samples provides valuable insight. Partnering with an experienced manufacturer enables procuring quality colored boards.

Implementing color properly aids inspection, navigation, branding and aesthetics without hampering performance and budget. With thoughtful design choices, PCB color can be leveraged to create boards that are both highly functional and visually striking. The expanding palette of color options allows custom tailoring to the unique needs of any product.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About PCB Color Selection

Q: What is the default or standard color of PCBs?

A: The standard and most common color of PCBs is green. This stems from the chemical composition of the epoxy resin used on the fiberglass laminate boards. Green offers cost savings but provides no demarcation or branding capabilities.

Q: Do certain PCB colors cost more than others?

A: Yes, colored PCBs often cost more than standard green boards. Specialty colors, custom colors, prepainted masks, and other color options can drive up cost. Mass producing monochromatic boards can reduce color expense.

Q: Can I have different PCB colors for top vs. bottom layers?

A: Definitely. Having different soldermask colors on the top versus bottom provides visual delineation of layers during assembly and inspection. This two-tone technique is recommended for complex multilayer boards.

Q: How durable are colored soldermasks? Do they wear off?

A: Today’s colored soldermasks are quite durable if properly cured during fabrication. They are resistant to abrasion, temperature, chemicals and wear during normal use. Some slight fading may occur over time with UV exposure.

Q: Is there an industry standard for using red, yellow, and other colors to denote warnings or hazards on a PCB?

A: While there is no official standard, common convention uses red for power and warnings, yellow for caution areas, and orange for exposed high-voltage regions. Following intuitive color conventions enhances safety.