Laying out first PCB in ExpressPCB = Frustrating

Thread Starter


Joined Feb 2, 2008
I can't help but feel like I am playing that old 80's video game "TRON" where you have to drive around in a scooter that traces a line behind you while another guy drives around in his scooter that traces a line behind him and the goal is to get the other guy to crash into one of the traced lines. That is how I feel trying to route traces without crossing another trace. Is there some trick to this other than trial and error?


Joined Apr 17, 2011
Vias. :)
If there is a technique to it, I can't quite describe it. I use EAGLE at work. It does have an autorouter, but it tends to be a :) So, to my boss' chagrin, I prefer to route things manually, at least important things, like power and signal traces. Simple little things, like running power to a bunch of pins of a resistor network, I will leave to the autorouter. Fortunately most of what we work with isn't terribly complex - or else I'm sure we'd use something more advanced than EAGLE.

It's been awhile since I've used ExpressPCB though...does it have any sort of groundplane option now? I generally will lay down the groundplane first, which takes care of a lot of interconnects in one fell swoop, and then do as much routing as I can on the other side, briefly hopping vias down to the groundplane's layer in order to get past something, and then got back up in order to keep the groundplane largely unbroken.

But as for the whole Tron thing, yeah, it can be a bit like that sometimes. There might be a lot of ripups and retries. Sometimes you have to juggle around components a bit to find a good way of routing them. (I actually find it to be a bit entertaining though, but then, to give you an idea of how my mind can work, this is what my cities usually looked like in SimCity4. Very orderly and efficient. ;))
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Joined Mar 24, 2008
I used to use Paint to lay out PCBs. It is indeed a real pain, but even with the advanced tools it is still a PITA.

Basically it is a puzzle whose correct answer is what works. I don't like doublesided PCBs myself, so I use jumpers for those knarly areas that won't work out.

I currently use PCB Express. It uses vector graphic approach. It is still a pain, but slightly easier. The catch is you have to draw a schematic in PCB, which is another major pain. The good news is it will compare your schematic to the PCB drawing and high light what pads need connected to each other.

Still, it isn't easy. I've been doing a PCB for the last two weeks, almost finished. When I started seeing the black background and yellow dots when I closed my eyes I had to take a break for several days.

Why not post your schematic? We'll see what we can do. One you have the schematic program down it really isn't that hard, and we might be able to save you some time and skull sweat.

Thread Starter


Joined Feb 2, 2008
Why not post your schematic? We'll see what we can do. One you have the schematic program down it really isn't that hard, and we might be able to save you some time and skull sweat.
Thanks! I was hoping to do just that. I am giving it my best attempt at getting everything routed out correctly. The circuit I am building is a bit ambitious probably for a first timer but it just happens to be what I want to build. TI has a two sided circuit already built and they will release the gerber files for it but the track clearances were too fine to use the toner transfer method. I wasn't able to change the track clearances or make the pads bigger with just the gerber files so I figured I would try to design the pcb from scratch. I am hoping to make it single sided.


Joined Apr 20, 2004
It's a matter of learning. It does get easier with practice.

Before CAD, the layout was on paper, using 2X templates. When done, you placed plastic film over the penciled layout and use black tape and rundown shapes for the traces and components. A trip to the drafting store for a 1/2 size negative, and you were ready to expose boards.


Joined Aug 3, 2007
I use DipTrace, it's really easy. Just place the parts where you want them to be on the PCB, then with one click of a button it calculates all the traces.