Our favorite PCB art projects from the community
We recognize that makers are as much artists as they are engineers, which is why November is Art Month here at Hackster. PCB art and brands stand out in particular, so we’ve rounded up some of the best projects from our community to inspire you.
The Morse Code Trainer
Our very own Alex Glow built this beautiful little brand to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our parent company, Avnet. Charles Avnet started selling radio parts on Manhattan’s Radio Row, making The Morse Code Trainer the perfect tribute to the company’s origins. The Microchip ATtiny85 runs the MorseCodeMachine Arduino Library, allowing users to play with decoding pre-recorded Morse code messages or create their own. The minimalist PCB design mirrors the Avnet logo, and its bold contrast looks stunning.
Much of the PCB art that we see comes in the form of badges, as they have become a major outlet for creative expression. Scan Me! divorced has a lot of cool features, including BLE and NFC functionality, but it stood out to us because of its fun design. We love the irregular cartoon shape and the hand-drawn graphics created by Attila Tőkés. And of course we always appreciate a brand that includes our own logo.
Packet Hack Brand
It’s hard not to love the artwork on it Packet Hack Brand. It shows a skyline made up of skyscrapers from the United Arab Emirates (including Dubai’s Burj Khalifa) being destroyed by a giant mech. A typical PCB may only have three “colors” for artwork: the solder mask, the copper, and the screen print – although it’s possible to add a fourth if you cut into the substrate. The Packet Hack branding includes green artwork that contrasts nicely with the black screen print and white solder mask. The UAE theme is fitting, given that this brand was created for HITB+Cyberweek held in Abu Dhabi.
Pirates of the Singapore Bay
Hackers love pirated images. If you need proof of that, just go to DEF CON and take a look around. The Pirates of the Singapore Bay brand from Abhinav SP (same person who designs Packet Hack Badge) seals that appeal. Like the Packet Hack badge, this has an additional accent color. The red accents really complete the look. There are two versions of the badge: Jack Sparrow and Barbosa. Both contain the Digispark development board and reverse mounted SMD LEDs which lights up when connected to a USB power supply.
Hackster Badge SMD
Okay, we admit we included this one because it stroked our collective Hackster team ego. Created by Team Kawaii Tech, this brand is a copy of the Hackster logo. Six reverse-mounted SMD LEDs around the perimeter of the logo shine light through the PCB substrate, which acts as a diffuser. A Microchip ATtiny13 microcontroller coordinates the LED pattern. The back of the PCB is covered in a Coach style pattern of the Hackster logo and we love it.
Oshwi squid brand
OSH Park is one of the most popular PCB fabrication houses in the manufacturing community. Their boards always stand out because they use a unique purple solder mask. The Oshwi squid brand, designed by Gustavo Reynaga for the OSHWDem producer himself in Spain, makes great use of the color purple. The badge resembles an adorable octopus with the open source gear logo for a head. PCB breaks out an Espressif ESP8266 ESP-12E microcontroller module to make the pins accessible (they look like suction cups on the tentacles) and drive a handful of individually addressable WS2812B RGB LEDs. If looking at this brand doesn’t make you smile, you might be dead inside.
Alpakka electronic brand
If you thought Oshwi Octopus was cute, then Alpakka electronic brand is going to send you into a hysterical fit of sweet aggression. It does just one thing: lights up a color-changing RGB LED on its tail. But the design is as lovely as they come. The little limbless camelid has a happy expression made with the black solder mask and rosy kawaii cheeks made with the copper layer. Team Zalmotek made the PCB using an illustration drawn by artist Sudowoodo, but we won’t hold it against them since their taste is so good.
Sacred Hacks brand
Another creation of Abhinav SP, who we now know is a master of the art, the Sacred Hacks brand includes Indian Rangoli style art. It was inspired by Holy games, which is a popular thriller web series in India. The PCB art is amazing, but it’s not just cosmetic. It also hides cryptic puzzles that Abhinav SP incorporated for participants of BSides Ahmedabad to solve. While people at that conference solved the riddles, Abhinav SP does not tell us the solutions. That means you can research the brand to find out for yourself!
Stargate for your desktop
This is a project created by you. I’m a big fan of Stargate SG-1 and immediately thought of the iconic wormhole device when I decided to enter the world of PCB art. This project was an excuse to practice PCB design and implementation of just microcontrollers. It uses a Microchip ATtiny85 to detect pressing the capacitive touch button on the DHD and illuminates each chevron in sequence. When the last chevron locks, the wormhole comes to life. I’m still proud of the design and feel it deserves to be on this list, even at the risk of tooting my own horn.
Flux capacitor PCB mark
Few films have influenced pop culture as much as the 1985s Back to the Future. The film is full of iconic props, but the fictional flux capacitor device is one of the most memorable. Arnov Sharma rendered flux capacitor here in branded form. The PCB is just a simple square, but that only serves to highlight the animated LED effects that mimic the flux capacitor on the screen. And unlike the “real” flux capacitor that required 1.21 gigawatts of energy, the Flux Capacitor PCB brand uses only 0.017 watts.
Companion Core: Robot Heart
Alex Glow demonstrated his design skills again with this outbreak to Teenager and Arduino Nano 33 development boards. Its only purpose is to make it easier to access the pins on these boards, but it looks awesome. The functional PCB traces the morph into an appearance of a human ribcage with a contrasting non-anatomical heart. At the bottom of the board is a quote from the classic Sci-fi film Metropolis which translates to “the mediator between head and hands must be the heart!”
Ghosts don’t have to be scary; they can be cute too. Arnov Sharma designed this brand for Halloween and it’s adorable. It features a sheet-covered ghost with flashing green LED eyes – we’re not sure if Sharma intended it to be a reference to Pac-Man or not. The cool thing about this brand is that it doesn’t use a microcontroller. A simple 555 timer controls the blinking of the LEDs. By adjusting the values of the resistors and capacitors in the circuit, manufacturers can adjust the timing of the LED flashes.
Cactus Saguaro Pin Badge
Avnet’s headquarters are in Phoenix, Arizona, where we’re surrounded by saguaro cacti, but we don’t have to justify including this brand on our list – just look at it! This is technically not a stand-alone brand; it’s an SAO (S****y Add-On). That means it attaches to other brands to expand their capabilities. In this case, it adds Christmas tree-style twinkling lights. By touching the capacitive pad on the pot at the bottom, users can switch the LED animation effect mode. Fabrizio’s hand-drawn artwork makes PCB particularly charming.
Festive Fireplace PCB Ornament
After the Christmas theme we come to Tom Archer Festive Fireplace PCB Ornament. It looks like a traditional one Christmas Day brick fireplace with stockings hanging from the mantle. Reverse mounted LEDs controlled by a Microchip ATtiny25 complete the effect by mimicking a flickering fire. Archer provides helpful details on how he created the artwork in Inkscape and pulled it into KiCAD PCB design software, so you’ll want to read through his tutorial if you’re interested in getting into PCB art.
Lucky OSHCat SAO
TwinkleTwinkie’s Lucky OSHCat SAO brings us back to kawaii. It reimagines the classic maneki-neko (Japanese lucky cat) as “Prince Oshcat.” Once again, reverse-mounted LEDs bring the PCB to life. The maneki-neko on the front is really cute, but the artwork on the back is also pretty neat. It features an image of a tiger illustrated in halftone, which is a fun contrast to the adorable Prince Oshcat. Because this is an SAO for brands that contain their own microcontrollers, it does not need a separate microcontroller and only contains LEDs, a resistor, and a pinhead.
Gengar PCB Art
If you’re in your mid-30s, you’ll understand the appeal of this Gengar PCB Art project. It is a faithful reproduction of Gengar, which is an evolution of Haunter and one of the original 151 Pokémon from the first generation game. Gengar is a scary Shadow Pokémon, so the flashing LED eyes seem appropriate. Like the Ghost Badge, a 555 timer controls the LEDs. While OSHPark is known for their purple PCBs, they are not the only fabrication house to offer the color. Arnov Sharma ordered these from PCBWay, which is an affordable option for manufacturers looking for PCBs.
What are your favorite PCB art projects? Got something cool going on? Be sure to let us know in the comments!