How To Design Stripboard Layouts

Ron J makes his circuit drawings with a programme called Inkscape. It’s available for Windows, Linux and Mac. He developed this technique with the PCLinuxOS version of Inkscape. And he has tested it out on the Windows version, but did not try it with Mac.

Partial View Of Template

The method requires you to arrange the component shapes into a satisfactory stripboard layout. It’s a bit like solving a puzzle. There’s no single correct solution to the puzzle. You just have to produce a layout with which you are satisfied.

To illustrate how the system works – I’ve included two sample layouts in the Resource File. The smaller layout (above) is for my Door Alarm. And the larger layout is for my Repeating Timer No.8. You can pull both of the layouts apart – to see how they’re made.

The resource material includes a variety of component shapes. For convenience – many of those shapes are already included on the template itself. And you can drag and drop the remaining shapes – as and when required – into the template window.

When you drop an object into the template window – you’ll be asked to make a choice. If you always choose the “embed” option – it will make your file portable. However – it will also make your file larger. So you may want to reduce the size – by deleting the unused parts from the template.

There are six layers in the template – from the vero pattern at the back – to the labels at the front. If it’s ever necessary for you to select a layer – you can do so from the menu on the bottom status bar. TrackColour has been selected above. To shuffle a component back and forth within a single layer – use “Page-Up & Page-Down”. To move the component to a different layer – use “Cut & Paste”.

The Resource Material

The Resource File includes most of the components shapes I use in my layouts. They are distributed among a number of different folders. And the name of each folder is an indication as to its contents. You are of course free to add your own shapes to the file.

The Inkscape files have the suffix “svg”. And these are the ones you will normally use. However – I have also successfully tested the same technique – with Xara Xtreme. And the various component shapes can be used with many other graphics programmes – such as Gimp.

Since I had the three “xar” files – I thought I might as well include them in the resource material. However – Xara is only free for Linux. And my copy of the programme has a couple of minor but annoying issues. So – if you’re not already using Xara – I suggest you go with Inkscape instead.

Re-Sizing Components

Practically all of the objects in the Resource File are intended to be used at their original size. However – there are a few exceptions to this rule. Note that when you click on an individual object – it will be surrounded by eight small black arrows (see the diagram below). You can stretch the object in any direction – by pulling on one of the arrows.

The most common exception to the no-resize rule – is the track fill colour. It marks out the active sections of the tracks. It helps to identify where the tracks need to be cut. It also reveals those sections of track that are still free – and so available for use. Simply position a single colour segment on to the track concerned. Then stretched it lengthwise – until it occupies the whole of the active portion.

The second and much rarer exception – is the very short black wire (not shown). You’ll find it on the template – next to the leads and links. The range of ready-made leads and links will span a distance of up to 22 tracks. If you need to span more than 22 tracks – stretch the short black wire to fit. Then finish it off with a couple of the accompanying black dots.

The third exception will only arise if your circuit calls for physically larger components – such as higher wattage resistors – or higher value capacitors. Instead of simply leaving extra space – or creating the larger image yourself – you could stretch an existing shape to suit.

The objects in the Resource File – snap to an invisible (11 pixel) grid pattern – on the template. That’s what makes them easy to place accurately. When you increase the size of an object – stretch it by an equal amount – in all four directions. Then the larger object should snap neatly to the same grid.

Creating New Objects

You can draw new objects with any Paint type programme. The height and the width of each drawing – should be a multiple of 22 pixels. For example – the transistors are 44 x 44 – the track colour segments are 22 x 44 – and the relay is 132 x 88. As you can see from the selected items above – it’s more than likely that you’ll have some empty background left over. And this will have to be made transparent.

I drew my parts with a Linux paint programme (KolourPaint). And I was able to use the “Fill” tool – to make my backgrounds transparent. If your paint programme doesn’t have a “Transparent Fill” option – you can use the free Gimp programme to remove your backgrounds.

Open your completed drawing with Gimp. And under “Layer” and “Transparency” – click on “Add Alpha Channel”. Nothing will appear to happen. But your image will be prepared for the next step.

The next step is to choose “Select – By Color”. Then click on the unwanted white background – in order to select it. And press “Delete” to remove it. Save your finished drawing as a GIF or a PNG. For simple drawings such as these – the PNGs usually have a smaller file size.

The background area still exists. You’ll see its outline every time you select the object. The exact position of the visible component – within the invisible background – will determine how your new part aligns with the underlying stripboard pattern. In other words – if your new component doesn’t snap neatly into place – try moving it to a different position – within the invisible background.

It should be easy to tell in which direction – and by how much – the component needs to be moved. If you find that you can’t actually reach the right spot – the invisible background itself is probably too small. Try adding another 22 pixels to the height and/or the width of your drawing. Note that if you create or expose a fresh area of background – it too will have to be deleted.

Copyright Ron J

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