tutmenu- Menu of Kicad Tutorials

KiCadHowTo tutorials…

I'm sorry… the first one is a simple example. But you can't fly a fighter jet after a ten minute briefing. While KiCad delights me, and does wonderful work for me, it is a bit of a "fighter jet". Don't expect to complete that "simple example" quickly. However, if you persevere, I very much hope that you will come away with a good grounding in all of the basics. The exercise is broken up into multiple pages, to try to make things easier for you. If it is any consolation while you are trudging through them, consider how much work it was to write the pages. (Facebook "likes", mentions in forums, always welcome.)

Yes, this page is "dated"… the illustrations were done with a version of KiCad that is no longer (12/19) current. But the essence now is as it was then. Yes, some of KiCad's rough edges have been smoothed. New tools are available. But in 12/19, I loaded KiCad 5-1-5 onto a previously KiCad-less Windows 10 machine, and went through this tutorial, and it was still pretty much on target.

The Tutorials

(Note to self: se1main contains notes on conventions, etc.)

Start here- Simple example. I really hope that you will take the time to work through this huge tutorial. The time you spend will, I believe be amply rewarded. It will, I hope, set you on the right path, and save you the experience of many of struggling with things that you don't need to struggle with.

Optional second tutorial- We look again at "mapping schematic symbols to footprints, something central to how KiCad works. Not much "new" from what was in the simple example. But that was a big tutorial. It might be an idea to at least skim this optional tutorial. You never know what "But I thought…" moments might occur. Moments which could alert you to a misunderstanding. I also have to confess that I am not entirely happy with this tutorial, but crave your indulgence.

Power ports- and invisible pins. Don't miss the important "power flags" bit.

Multi-gate devices- e.g. 7400 (Using them, not designing them)

Custom Schematic Symbols and Footprints

Before you go very far in KiCad, you should begin creating own schematic symbols (component) and footprints. Being able to create them, and modify them to suit your wants, "takes KiCad to the next level". You will be able to do so much more, and you will be so much happier with the results of all your work when you can make your own schematic symbols and footprints. Making custom elements will also help you learn more about how KiCad works than you need to know "just" to produce a PCB, on top of other benefits.

(Before I go too far into this: You CAN edit the properties (things like the lines on schematic symbols and pad sizes on footprints) in a given project. Tweaks to the default values. That's easy. (A bit too easy, if you ask me… try not to over use this "answer".) What this whole "work in progress" section is about is something grander. It is about "adding words to the dictionary". Adding new (or at least new versions of old) schematic symbols and footprints to the environment. Things that mean something to you. Things that are just right for your projects, now and in the future.)

In passing: There is no reason to assume that for every schematic symbol there must be a complementary footprint. Sometimes there is. Sometimes not. Sometimes you will make a new schematic symbol, but use a "standard" footprint for putting it on the board. Other times, you will use a standard schematic symbol with a custom footprint.

Ironically, making custom schematic symbols and footprints isn't especially difficult. If you can make a schematic and a PCB, you can certainly make custom schematic symbols and footprints. But it is easy to go wrong, as you set about the tasks. And there's a very- easy- to- get- wrong task at the start of each "path" (One path each: schematic symbols and footprints).

The worst part of either task is getting certain things in place to establish your custom libraries.

Four "how to" tutorials are available so far already. They were written for KiCad 4-0-4, in February 2017….

In both cases, we end up with a library with a "starter" schematic symbol or footprint in it.

Once you have the libraries in place, the next skills you need are…

These "Making" tutorials are nice and short. They show you how to get a new schematic symbol or footprint started. It may not be doing what you want it to by the end of what's in the tutorial, but you will at least have something you can work on, bring to perfection. A bit like starting a new web page, if you build web sites.


  • Refining custom schematic symbols
  • Refining custom footprints

… Getting them How You Want Them. (Not hard… you probably don't need these tuts… but I will see what I see if I set about doing them!)

I've commended them elsewhere, but particularly in respect of reference material ("What are the parts of a footprint?") and tutorial, the "official" documentation that comes with KiCad is excellent. (Nothing like the bad official documentation that blights some open source projects.)

eeSchema, and PcbNew (at least, maybe other modules as well) each come with their own excellent manuals. You have but to click on the "Help" item in the menu bar and click on "Manual" in the sub-menu. For schematic symbol and footprint design, use the tables of contents to find the relevant sections. (Quite deep in each document.) They are nice, sensible .PDFs, already installed on your hard disk, if you used the default install.

See "Ch.11 Component Library Editor… 11.6. Graphical Elements, 11.8. Pin creation and Editing") and the PcbNew manual ("Ch.13 Footprint Editor… 13.2. Footprint elements".

Until I can write more for you here on schematic symbol and footprint design, there is a long tutorial I wrote years ago, not exactly applicable to today's KiCad, but still somewhat valid, may be useful on the subeject of custom schematic symbols and footprints. (Called "components" and "modules", respectively, in those days.)

Remember: There is no reason to assume that for every schematic symbol there must be a complementary footprint. Sometimes there is. Sometimes not. Sometimes you will make a new schematic symbol, but use a "standard" footprint for putting it on the board. Other times, you will use a standard schematic symbol with a custom footprint.

Other Good Stuff…

Encyclopedia: Terms defined, short essays on skills
FAQs… and answers

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