Skip to content


KiCAD for Schematics and PCB Layout

It’s been a while since I’ve done my last hobby PCB project, the SBBPWR moduleSBBPWR stands for Solderless Bread Board Power Supply.  I did this design and several other BB adaptors using KiCAD. Sometime after that I had a paying contract where I moved to Eagle CAD.  At my day job we use Altium.  So I’ve been around the block with CAD tools.

Altium is a Cadillac tool we all wish we could afford but it’s very far out of reach for hobby work. I could probably get away with using it but I want to use an open source tool as a matter of principal.  Eagle is a great package but if you ever plan to sell your work, you will have to fork over significant cash. This leaves KiCAD.

Just to be clear, I don’t mind at all that Altium and Eagle want to be paid. If you are doing hobby work, without any plan to sell it, Eagle is probably the best answer. They have a free or nearly free option, with limitations on board size, layers, schematic sheets etc.  Eagle wants to help the maker community and has these limits to protect their business. It’s all good.

I’m leaning toward KiCAD to get away from limitations which would cost me about $1,500 to overcome with Eagle. I’ve used KiCAD in the past and found it to be a good tool.

There is a long and very good debate on KiCAD vrs Eagle on the Adifruit Fourm. Read this for a good coverage of the argument.

What do you think?  Comments?

I think the trade-offs are basically the following.

KiCAD is free, unlimited, maybe a bit harder to use, unpolished etc..  Does not directly have scripting support and has a very much smaller community supplying libraries etc..

Eagle, is polished, well supported, has a huge community around libraries etc..  It cost nothing if you use it only for hobby projects. There are several PCB houses that take Eagle CAD files directly which saves you the pain of generating Gerber files…

Posted in Development Tools, Projects, Review, Tips.


2 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Kripton2035 says

    try diptrace, it’s a good free alternative for hobby use
    but yes you must pay if you sell the work made with it.

  2. M Belanger says

    The thread you mentioned on the Adafruit Forum is nearly 3 years old. KICAD has evolved a lot since, although Eagle also evolved but not as much. Therefor the arguments should be updated.