Why Are PCBs Green? Why Green PCBs Are Better Than Alternatives

Why are PCBs green? Have you ever wondered about it?

We’re out to demystify why most PCBs have the green color. We’ll also list the other alternatives and highlight the natural color behind all standard FR-4 circuit boards.

Therefore, if you’re a DIY hobbyist looking to understand more about the color of circuit boards and their relevance, join us in this article as we reveal it all. 

What Is the Green Part of a Circuit Board?

Most people think of the green color as the actual color of the circuit board. Nonetheless, it’s a superficial layer called a PCB solder mask.

During PCB design and manufacturing, a PCB undergoes silkscreen printing, which is key in applying the green solder mask. 

So why do PCB manufacturers apply this solder mask color? The primary aim is to shield the electronic materials beneath from substances such as dust and moisture.

The layer is also handful during soldering, whereby it curtails the flow of molten solder to unintended parts. 

So Why Are Circuit Boards Green?

ICs on a green PCB. 

ICs on a green PCB. 

Here are some reasons green is the primary color for circuit boards. 

It prevents visual fatigue.

This aspect may not be so crucial in today’s PCB manufacturing, but earlier before, it was common for manual checking of the boards for flows.

It was the cardinal reason behind the choice of green, as it helped the inspection process. 

But why is the green color in PCBs very important and standard? 

  • Primarily, this is because of the friendliness of the color to our eyes, meaning that you can work for long on green PCBs without the threat of eye damage. 
  • Also, you can quickly identify defects from the green PCBs as the color allows for excellent contrast. 

Green is Superior

The conventional popularity of green color PCBs and the excellent performance of their circuit boards makes the green color superior. As mentioned earlier, this is due to the ability to quickly identify defects during the inspection. 

This feature is critical, especially when dealing with significantly small form factor circuit boards. The smaller the electronic device, the smaller its PCB and the harder it becomes to identify faults. 

Low-Cost PCBs

Earlier, we highlighted that silkscreen techniques are most famous for applying solder masks on circuit boards.

This method favors green pigment as it is easy to use, especially in cases where bulk circuit board manufacturing is necessary. 

Again, most electronic device manufacturers are used to the green-colored resin, so they may be reluctant to work with others without the green tint. 

Solder mask materials are green.

Glass epoxy and chlorine are some of the main solder mask ingredients, and they both feature a green color. Hence, This is another reason the most common circuit boards are green. 

Military Standard

Lastly, the most effective PCBs for military operations have a green-colored resin. They have extreme resilience even in stressful conditions like those prevalent in military operations. 

This explains their popularity, and this notion has also spread to the mainstream electronic materials that have embraced this PCB color. 

Do Printed Circuit Boards Have to Be Green?

A red PCB. 

A red PCB. 

While the standard color in electronic products PCBs is green, a PCB doesn’t have to be necessarily green. There are other custom colors like pink, blue, and orange.

However, green circuit boards provide ease of use, especially during the inspection, as green excellently contrasts other colors. 

Most PCBs have white text printing, which excellently contrasts with the green background of most PCBs. 

Also, the heat dissipation of green circuit boards is better than black circuit boards, which are renowned for accumulating more heat.

White circuit boards on their part barely contrast with the solder’s color, making it so hard to identify defects. 

So the only other great alternatives are blue boards and red boards, which are also easy on the eye and have excellent contrast capacity. 

Other Available Circuit Board Colors

White Solder Masks

A white PCB. 

A white PCB. 

While white circuit boards are increasingly popular given that they are a clean option and thus easily expose dust and dirt accumulation, they have some limitations.

  • First, it is pretty hard to identify traces on the PCB.
  • Also, an inspection of a white circuit board is a big challenge primarily because of the brightness of the color. It is harder when working under intense light, as bright white is not friendly to the eyes. 

The only way to see the inscriptions on a white PCB is via using black silkscreen text. Otherwise, any other color will be unreadable. 

Yellow Solder Masks

It is another popular color for PCBs with qualities such as exquisite cleanliness, and it’s also better in visibility than white.

However, it barely contrasts with traces and silkscreens, which is hard to use in typical PCB applications. 

Blue PCB

Blue circuit board without components. 

Blue circuit board without components. 

It is the ideal circuit board for heavy tag boards thanks to its excellent contrast with silkscreens.

Thus, it is a perfect alternative to the green circuit board, especially in LCD contrasting owing to its superb contrasting edges. 

Red PCB

It is arguably the best alternative PCB to green circuit boards, especially if you’re looking for outstanding contrast.

Red-colored boards are exemplary when used with a silkscreen, as they produce excellent sharpness. 

Black Solder Masks

A black circuit board. 

A black circuit board. 

Visibility is quite an issue when using black PCBs primarily due to shadow formation, especially when illuminated with light.

Their conductivity is also quite a problem, and they are prone to overheating; hence, they are not ideal for applications that evolve a lot of heat. 

Why do PCB manufacturers use different colors?

A pink PCB. 

A pink PCB. 

Here are some reasons PCB makers will use different colors when making circuit boards. 

  • One way to improve a PCB conspicuously is by using a color different from the one they applied in the former version of the board. 
  • Different colors have different qualities in terms of absorbance and transmission. Hence, a manufacturer will use the ideal color for a board. 
  • Lastly, there have been rampant campaigns for lead-free assemblies, and one way to realize them is via using multicolored PCBs. 

How to Pick the Best PCB Color?

PCBs with components. 

PCBs with components. 

When determining the color, there are some considerations you need to make that include the following: 

Price

You don’t want to break the bank on a simple hobbyist project by purchasing expensive circuit boards. Choose green PCB for such assemblies if you want to lower the overall assembly costs. 

Overall appearance

Some circuit board solder mask materials give the board a dull appeal, while others are pretty bright.

Therefore, the PCB color is a critical consideration primarily because these factors affect the readability of print on the PCB. 

Performance of the final electronic device

If you’re unsure of the Ideal PCB color, we advise that you pick the conventional green PCB.

This is primarily because of its excellent performance in most electronic devices.

Green PCB is also relatively thin, a critical feature in the assembly of components with a small form factor. 

Summary

If you have been wondering which is the best PCB color, don’t fret anymore, as we have brought you an elaborate guide to this area. 

Now you know what to look at if you go from the conventional green PCB to other colors such as black, white, and pink. 

Remember always to consider the factors we have given, as they matter a lot in the overall performance of the circuit board.