What is the legend of a PCB?

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Introduction to PCB Legends

In the world of printed circuit boards (PCBs), the term “legend” refers to the text, symbols, and markings that are printed on the surface of the board. The PCB legend is an essential component of the PCB design process, as it provides crucial information for assembly, testing, and maintenance. In this comprehensive article, we will explore the various aspects of PCB legends, their importance, and best practices for creating effective legends.

What is a PCB Legend?

A PCB legend, also known as silkscreen or overlay, is a layer of text and symbols printed on the surface of a PCB. The legend is typically printed using white ink on a dark background, making it easily readable. The primary purpose of the legend is to provide information about the components, connectors, and test points on the board.

The Importance of PCB Legends

PCB legends play a crucial role in the manufacturing, assembly, and maintenance of electronic devices. Here are some key reasons why PCB legends are essential:

  1. Assembly guidance: The legend helps guide the assembly process by indicating the correct placement and orientation of components on the board.

  2. Component identification: Legends provide clear labels for each component, making it easier for technicians to identify and replace them if needed.

  3. Testing and debugging: Test points and other important locations on the board are marked in the legend, facilitating testing and debugging processes.

  4. Regulatory compliance: Some industries require specific markings on PCBs to ensure compliance with safety and quality standards.

  5. Branding and aesthetics: Legends can include company logos, product names, and other branding elements, enhancing the overall appearance of the PCB.

Types of PCB Legends

There are several types of PCB legends, each serving a specific purpose. Let’s explore the most common types:

Component Legends

Component legends are the most basic and essential type of PCB legend. They provide information about the components mounted on the board, such as resistors, capacitors, and integrated circuits. The legend typically includes the component’s reference designator (e.g., R1, C2, U3) and its value or part number.

Connector Legends

Connector legends indicate the type and pinout of connectors on the PCB. They help ensure that the correct cables or devices are connected to the appropriate connectors during assembly and use. Connector legends may include the connector’s name, pin numbers, and signal names.

Test Point Legends

Test point legends mark the locations on the PCB where technicians can access signals for testing and debugging purposes. These legends typically consist of a simple “TP” prefix followed by a number (e.g., TP1, TP2). Some test points may also include additional information, such as the expected voltage level or signal name.

Warning and Caution Legends

Warning and caution legends alert users to potential hazards or special handling requirements. These legends may include symbols like high voltage warnings, electrostatic discharge (ESD) sensitivity, or other safety-related information. They help prevent damage to the PCB or injury to the user.

Branding and Logo Legends

Branding and logo legends are used to display company logos, product names, or other marketing information on the PCB. While not essential for the board’s functionality, these legends can enhance the overall appearance and brand recognition of the product.

Creating Effective PCB Legends

Creating an effective PCB legend requires careful planning and attention to detail. Here are some best practices to follow when designing PCB legends:

Keep it Simple and Clear

PCB legends should be easy to read and understand at a glance. Use clear, concise text and standard symbols wherever possible. Avoid using overly complex fonts or ornate designs that may be difficult to read or interpret.

Use Appropriate Font Sizes

Choose font sizes that are large enough to be easily readable but not so large that they consume too much space on the board. A good rule of thumb is to use a font size between 8 and 12 points for most legends, depending on the available space and the complexity of the information being conveyed.

Maintain Consistency

Use consistent formatting, terminology, and symbols throughout the legend. This helps reduce confusion and makes it easier for technicians to navigate the board quickly. Follow industry standards and conventions whenever possible.

Consider Placement and Orientation

Place legends close to the components or features they describe, but avoid obscuring important elements of the PCB. Orient text and symbols in a way that is easy to read from the perspective of someone assembling or servicing the board. In general, text should be oriented horizontally or vertically, not at an angle.

Use High-Contrast Colors

To ensure optimal readability, use high-contrast colors for the legend text and background. White text on a black background is the most common choice, but other dark colors like blue or green can also work well. Avoid using low-contrast color combinations that may be difficult to read under certain lighting conditions.

Incorporate Regulatory Markings

If your PCB is subject to regulatory requirements, be sure to include the necessary markings and symbols in the legend. This may include things like the CE mark, FCC logo, or other industry-specific symbols. Consult the relevant standards and regulations to ensure compliance.

Test and Verify

Before finalizing your PCB legend design, test it for readability and accuracy. Print out a sample of the legend at actual size and check that all text and symbols are clearly visible and correctly positioned. If possible, have someone unfamiliar with the design review it to identify any potential issues or areas for improvement.

Common PCB Legend Symbols and Their Meanings

In addition to text, PCB legends often include standardized symbols that convey important information about the board or its components. Here are some common PCB legend symbols and their meanings:

Symbol Meaning
⚠️ High voltage warning
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) sensitivity
🔥 Fire hazard
☢️ Radioactive material
⚕️ Medical device
♻️ Recyclable material
CE European Conformity mark
FCC Federal Communications Commission logo
RoHS Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive

These symbols help convey important safety, regulatory, and environmental information at a glance, making it easier for technicians and users to handle the PCB appropriately.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

  1. What is the difference between a silkscreen and a legend on a PCB?
    Silkscreen and legend are often used interchangeably in the context of PCBs. Both terms refer to the layer of text and symbols printed on the surface of the board.

  2. Can PCB legends be printed in colors other than white?
    While white is the most common color for PCB legends, other colors like yellow or orange can be used for specific purposes, such as indicating high-voltage areas or special handling requirements.

  3. How do I ensure my PCB legend complies with industry standards?
    Consult the relevant industry standards and regulations for your specific application. Standards organizations like the IPC (Association Connecting Electronics Industries) provide guidelines for PCB design, including legend requirements.

  4. Can I use custom fonts for my PCB legend?
    While it is possible to use custom fonts, it is generally recommended to stick with standard, easily readable fonts to ensure clarity and consistency.

  5. What is the typical thickness of a PCB legend?
    PCB legends are typically printed using a thin layer of ink, with a thickness ranging from 0.0005 to 0.002 inches (0.0127 to 0.0508 mm). The exact thickness may vary depending on the printing process and the specific requirements of the board.


PCB legends are a critical component of printed circuit board design, providing essential information for assembly, testing, and maintenance. By understanding the different types of legends and following best practices for creating effective legends, you can ensure that your PCBs are easy to work with and comply with relevant industry standards. Whether you are a seasoned PCB designer or just starting, taking the time to create clear, concise, and informative legends will pay off in the long run, leading to more efficient production and higher-quality end products.