Silk Screen - PCB Design Tutorial

When it comes to designing a printed circuit board (PCB), each PCB layer plays a crucial role in ensuring functionality, ease of assembly, and user-friendliness. In the previous PCB Technologies design tutorials we explained Soldermask Layer, Thermal Relief Vias and PCB surface finishes. In this tutorial, we'll delve into the final layer, known as the silk screen layer or overlay layer. This layer is adorned with letters, words, and symbols, serving as a guide for assembly, testing, and end-user interaction.

Understanding Silk Screen Layer Basics

The silk screen layer is the canvas for the informative markings on your PCB. It aids in component placement, identifies key features, and imparts crucial information to those involved in the assembly and testing processes. It's not just a visual element but an integral part of the PCB's utility.

Pen Width and Character Height

One of the key considerations in silk screen design is the pen width, often referred to as the stroke. The recommended maximum pen width without incurring additional costs is typically 6 mils. Additionally, character height is an important factor, with a suggested minimum of 50 mils for optimal readability. Using smaller characters may pose challenges in legibility, except in cases where space constraints demand smaller identifiers, such as on connector headers.

Achieving a Balanced Ratio

Maintaining a balanced ratio between character height and pen width is essential for readable silk screen characters. A rough rule of thumb is to keep this ratio between 6-10 to 1. This ensures that characters remain clear and legible without smearing into an indistinct blob.

Fonts and Point Sizes

Designing silk screen characters allows for creative experimentation with fonts and point sizes. Different design tools offer a variety of options, with some fonts producing small yet readable letters, while others may not be as effective. This creative aspect of PCB design allows for customization based on specific project requirements.

Incorporating Essential Information

Every PCB should include, at the very least, a unique board layout file ID name, clear identification, and a revision or date code. A straightforward board name facilitates easy reference and identification. This essential information ensures that anyone interacting with the PCB has access to vital details, streamlining the production and maintenance processes.

Practical Considerations

In the image below, you can see an example of the silk screen layer on a simple board. This highlights the practical application of the principles discussed in this tutorial. The clarity and organization of the silk screen markings contribute to the overall efficiency and user-friendliness of the PCB design.


Designing the silk screen layer is not just a technical requirement but an opportunity for creativity and optimization. By following the guidelines outlined in this tutorial, you can ensure that your PCB's silk screen layer serves its purpose effectively, contributing to a seamless assembly process and enhancing the end-user experience. Happy designing!


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