pcb mask color

 

Colors are an indispensable part of our lives – each represents a different meaning. This is no different when it comes to Printed Circuit Boards. The vibrant rainbow of colors brings welcomed variety and individuality into the world of electronics. Where would the maker community be were it not for the wide availability of colors?

What are the effects of the different colors?

The color of a PCB is actually the color of the solder mask or solder oil, a lacquer impregnated with pigments that protects the bare copper traces. Actually, the color of the solder mask largely has no effect on the performance of the boards after assembly. There are a few considerations that may impact the design or production of the boards, though.

The greatest impact is the effect on the visibility of the features of the circuit board – for example, green solder mask has good contrast between the areas under the solder mask oil with and without copper. You can easily see the traces with the naked eye, whereas for black solder mask – you have no idea. That does little to impair the popularity of black solder mask however.

Why are most PCBs Green?

Good question, we believe this deserves it’s own article.

 

And now we have tried to resolve the most burning question of all:

Which is the most popular solder mask color?

Seeed Fusion PCB fabrication service offers 6 different PCB colors for its customers. Since November 2016, we slashed the additional costs for different colors for all standard FR-4 PCBs, so you can pick any color your like for free. So, to find out which color is our customers’ no.1 choice, we have analyzed the data for all orders placed since then. In addition, we recently ran a poll asking you which color is your favorite. Let’s see if the people’s favorite matches actual order data. We have also compared the popularity of the colors for our top 7 countries: USA, Japan, UK, Germany, Australia, Canada and France. Here are the results:


pcb color order poll

Green wins!?

From actual order data it seems Green is the most popular color, but in the favorites poll, green ranks 3rd – what’s going on here? Well, it makes sense. Green solder mask performs better when it comes to soldering fine pitch components compared to other colors. Another key reason is possibly because Green is the default color. Some people may not care about the color of their PCBs so long as it works, particularly, say for industrial use or prototyping. Even in a completed electronic device how often do you even see the circuit board?

Other interesting things we have found – Japan orders have the highest percentage of Green boards, while Germany ordered the least. It seems Germany prefers the non-standard colors much more than any other country.

So what if we exclude Green from the equation? Then this is what we get:

 pcb color excluding green

Black is back – or was it always number 1?

Here we can see that the sales match the popularity polls with Black being the clear winner, followed by Blue, Red, White then Yellow. This ranking is repeated on national levels except in Japan and Australia, where blue narrowly nabs first place.

pcb color black v blue

Other interesting things we noticed:

  • We thought perhaps national colors could have influenced ratings, notably, Canada’s orders the greatest percentage of red boards by quite a margin, but contradictingly, Japan has the lowest percentage of red boards.
  • Poor yellow. Sunny Yellow boards are outstandingly unpopular despite the fact that Yellow is the only color option for standard flexible boards. Which means were it not for flexible boards, Yellow would be even more unpopular. It’s not that bad, is it? At least Japan think so. The greatest percentage of yellow boards ordered go to Japan.

Visually, Black is possibly the worst color for visual inspection of the traces, so what makes black so cool and yellow so unpopular? Let us know why in the comments. Meanwhile, why not try all the colors for yourself and see which one you like best. All color options are FREE for Seeed Fusion PCB orders. If you want something different, try Matte Green or Purple in the Seeed Fusion Advanced PCB service. What colors would you like to see available?