With KiCad you can design the PCB that YOU want!
Welcome to a collection of information and tutorials created to help you quickly become a fluent KiCad user.
(Site navigation tip: As you explore the web, remember that on many systems, e.g. with Firefox under XP, clicking with your mouse's wheel will open a link in a new tab or page. (You may also want to change a setting in your browser, so it jumps directly to any newly opened tab.)
"Chapter Zero": I haven't done a tutorial on the following idea for you, but…
If you just want a quick "play" with KiCad, it is quite capable of drawing a schematic showing one resistor, one diode, and one "wire" connecting one pin of the resistor to one pin of the diode.
You can then go on, and use other parts of KiCad to design a PCB for this tiny circuit.
Many important KiCad skills will be exercised along the way. Don't dismiss KiCad as "rubbish" if you don't succeed in this tiny project without help. If you were to sit in the cockpit of a jet fighter, and try to take off and immediately return to the runway, you wouldn't blame the fighter if you couldn't, would you?
Chapter One: A simple exercise to introduce working with KiCad:
LED, switch, battery. And "Naming of Parts"… Takes you from knowing nothing to having a basic foundation in the core skills, concepts, vocabulary. It really will repay you your time if you read this one first, so we share a common vocabulary for other parts of this "How To" site.
Chapter Two: Making your own. How to…
Make your own footprints or modules and your own components. Yes…. you really do need those skills. It isn't too hard… once you have things properly set up. And the tutorial tells you how to get there.
More advanced: Power ports- an important tool for your use.
This tutorial explores how you use devices with several gates in one chip.
If you want a taste of KiCad by watching someone using it, I can recommend the videos by Patrick Sébastien (The link takes you to his blog; the video clips are standard YouTube, so should run on most readers' systems.)
For the moment, that is much of what I have for you on this site at this time, apart from the "KiCad encyclopedia (and "skills" pages, indexed separately, below.)
There's a less well organized body of knowledge at http://www.arunet.co.uk/tkboyd/ele2pcbk.htm
(Among other things, there is some information about "setting up" on that page, information you won't find here.)
High on the "to do" list is to write a tutorial on the KiCad Project Design Cycle.
Why I like KiCad…
Free and multi-platform. Open source.
The KiCad tools give you lots of tools for rigorous testing that the PCB design and the schematic exactly correspond.
Good community support… and not new, not a passing fad.
An interesting comparative review for KiCad and Eagle is available at "BigMessOWires" (Great site name, don't you think?!)
My "Encyclopedia of KiCad"
In the course of doing these tutorials, I have become aware of certain terms which are key to your happy use of KiCad. In particular, watch out for the careful… and restricted… use of "component". I have created the following pages which are just quick definitions of things, clarifying… I hope… how the terms are used in KiCad. There is a comprehensive list of those "definition" pages, and…
Here are links to a few key terms from the "Encyclopedia"…
- Component... How that term is used in KiCad
- Footprints (or "modules")
- Libraries (two sorts… .mod and .lib files)
Answers to FAQs
A collection of "little bites" of KiCad help, in question and answer form.
(This section is a Work In Progress. I intend that the section will become mostly links to pages about buttons, rather than mostly just section headings!)
Brief notes on selected buttons…
Buttons present in both eeSchema and PCBnew
Notes on Skills
There is the "encyclopedia", above, for brief definitions of terms. The following are more extended pages, telling you things about basic skills KiCad designers develop.
- Block operations (Used in most modules)
- Dragging and moving devices (Used in most modules)
- File management (Where to put stuff. General issues)
- File management (Where to put stuff, .lib and .mod files)
- Panning, and zooming in and out
Also planned for http://KiCadHowTo.org…
Further essays on the details of schematic and PCB creation.
What you won't find here, for a while… but KiCad can do…
- Creating Gerber Files
- Creating 3D visualizations of what the PCB, with components, will look like, for example, for which I thank GeekWhiteNorth…
KiCad will create a PCB design for you. You can print it out, as ink on paper. Here's a guide I did for hobbyists who want to turn that into copper on fiberglass, without the equipment and expense of doing it photographically. Works fine for small boards. There are also notes there on paying someone else to make your basic board for you from the Gerber files KiCad can create.
Notes on adding libraries, including links to free Arduino components and footprints.
There are many, many links to various KiCad related things at KiCadLib.org's page
(Apologies KiCadLib…. I wish someone had written to "complain"… this has… /unintentionally!!!/ been a bad link for a long time!)
on iPhone, iPad, AppleTV, PC. It's free.