Superior Software for Designing a Blue PCB, or Any Other Color Circuit Board

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: January 9, 2020

No matter what color you decide on; blue PCB or other, Altium Designer is the PCB design tool of choice that you need to get the job done.


For any solder mask need, count on Altium Designer

The color of the circuit board is determined by the color of the solder mask that is used during manufacturing, and there are a lot of colors to choose from. Traditional green, red, and even blue are just some of the colors that are available for use. For some, the color of the circuit board may have a specific meaning. Red may indicate a prototype board, while others may prefer blue colored boards for mounting against an LCD. Another purpose for blue PCBs is to give greater contrast to silkscreen labeling.

Whatever the reason is for the color of the solder mask that you will use, you will still need a versatile PCB design CAD system that will give you the most control over your solder mask layers. You will need to be able to adjust your solder mask for different manufacturers, and for different methods of manufacturing. You will need manual solder mask editing capabilities and batch editing features as well. To get your circuit board successfully through the assembly processes, you need PCB design tools that will give you the control you need over your design. You need Altium Designer.

More Details About Blue PCB or Any Other Color Solder Mask

Solder mask prevents the application of solder onto the areas of a printed circuit board that it covers. It will also protect metal from exposure which could cause oxidation, and it will keep solder from forming little bridges between metal that shouldn’t be shorted together. Not only are there different colors of solder mask that can be used, but there are also different types of mask material as well.

Different solder mask color means different soldermask materials are intended to satisfy the requirements of whichever industry the circuit board is being designed for through the assembly process. There are also different methods of soldering the board which could have an effect on how your design your solder mask. Wave solder for instance may require different sized pad shapes than reflow solder.

Solder Mask and Solder Processes for Your PCB Design

Whether it's integrated circuits or some simple PCB fabrication, knowledge about your traces, copper, parts or components, and the fab house you’ve sent your data to will be necessary. Knowing more about solder mask materials and the application that they are intended for will help you to design a better printed circuit board.

Screenshot of AD19 manufacturing rules in blue PCB

The manufacturing rules menu for setting up solder mask clearances in Altium Designer

What You Need to Create Quality Solder Mask Images

Solder mask images are created on their own layer in the PCB design tools in order to give you the most control. The individual pad shapes are set up in the footprint library part with the ability to expand the shape individually as needed. You also have the ability to change the pad shapes according to a rule in order to batch change the solder mask pads. Another important feature is the ability to manually create or edit shapes on the solder mask layer in order to satisfy any unique requirements of your PCB design.

It is also important to be able to verify the work that you have done on the solder mask in the design with manufacturing rules checking. Altium Designer has a complete set of design rules checking (DRC) as well as manufacturing rules checking (MRC). These rules will be looking for solder mask clearances as well as solder mask slivers between pads.

The Tools You Need to Create Superior Solder Mask Images

From manual editing capabilities to automatic batch edits, Altium Designer has the features you need to create your solder mask images.

Screenshot of AD19 3D layout with blue mask in blue PCB

A 3D layout in Altium Designer with the solder mask rendered in blue

Powerful PCB Design Software

A good solder mask is only as good as the design it is intended for, and here is where Altium Designer will help you to create a perfect printed circuit board design. Starting with the schematic Altium Designer provides you with a suite of tools that will take you all the way through library creation, circuit simulation, PCB layout, signal integrity checking, and finally manufacturing output files. Altium Designer’s feature rich PCB layout tools give you the latest enhancement to help you design HDI boards with micro vias and intelligent routing tools. Creating the perfect solder mask image is only part of the final output files, and Altium Designer helps you with the rest as well with automated tools for drawing creation and file generation.

The Strongest PCB Layout Tools You can Find

The solder mask is only a small part of the complete PCB design, and Altium Designer gives you a host of other tools and enhanced functionality to take care of the rest.

Not only does Altium Designer give you the best PCB design tools from start to finish, but you also have the best tools to work with to create the solder mask image that you need no matter what color you decide on.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 2500+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

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