Designing a Raspberry Pi HAT in KiCad in Just 20 Minutes

Alasdair Allan
2 min readJun 5, 2017

I’ll freely admit that my PCB design skills are fairly rudimentary, the routings on one of my boards were referred to as “charmingly maker-ish” once by someone who should know. I design many of the simpler PCBs I build using Fritzing, and that’s actually where a lot of the early work on the road to Google I/O for the Data Sensing Lab was done.

Coming fresh to PCB design without a formal background means that getting started in a breadboard view in Fritzing, rather than in a schematic view presented by other tools, can be a great help. However once you get past a certain point, you’re going to outgrow the breadboard view, and at that point you need to look at other more advanced design tools.

The “Shine On” board. (📷: Chris Gammell)

Until recently, despite being closed source, the tool of choice for most makers when they reached this point was EAGLE. However, more recently, the open-source and cross-platform KiCad has become much more capable, and much more popular. But like any of these tools, there’s a steep learning curve, and a lack of good documentation to help you get started.

Which is where Chris Gammell’s latest video course comes in. The free course entitled “Shiny On You Crazy KiCad” comes in four parts, and takes you through how to design a simple add-on board for Raspberry Pi with KiCad.

The completed “Shine On” board. (📷: Chris Gammell)

The first video leads you through designing the PCB in KiCad, while the second part talks about buying the components and the bill of materials for the board.

Chris then talks you through assembling the board using surface mount components. If you haven’t soldered surface mount components before it can seem fairly daunting, but especially for small boards like the “Shine On” with a lot of space between the components it’s actually not as hard as it can first appear.

Once have built your board, the final part of course then walks you through writing the code to blink the LED on it from the Raspberry Pi.

After downloading KiCad you can order the “Shine On” PCB directly from OSH Park, and then follow along with the course.

If you want to try your hand at other projects in KiCad, Chris has also done another series of videos intended for beginners on how to build a “Getting to Blinky” board in KiCad.