Alrighty! We're onto our last installment (for now). Are you have buyer's remorse yet? Are you wondering exactly where your $7k plus $2k yearly maintenance fees are going? Are you ready to kick whoever thinks getting images onto circuit boards isn't necessary or important? Me too!
Saving Your Image for the Future
Now that you have a really nice image in Altium using Method 1 or Method 2, you may want to save it to use it again, especially if the image happens to be a logo! There are 2 ways you can go about this.
That about wraps it up. There used to be some script that imported logos into Altium as a bitmap, but I never had very good results with it and am not sure it's still supported.
Got yet another way of creating a logo or image in Altium? Let us know in the comments!
Method 2 - BMP, JPG, or PNG using Microsoft Word
We're kicking it old-school in this one using good old Microsoft tools, Paint and Word. Buckle up!
In Method 1, we went over how to import images with smooth edges, keeping them smooth and resizable, and with a low vertex count. In this method, we'll go over the best way to import images that are more complex, where it's OK if they look a little pixelated. Again, if you have better ways of doing this, tell us in the comments!
Part A - Quick & Easy PNG from a Word doc
Let's say you have a PNG image already completely ready for import. It should be either a full monochrome or a grayscale image, and the grey/black pixels should be the ones that you'll want to reproduce in silk. Even though I only used "black paint" to create the below image, it contains a fair bit of grey to make the rough areas appear lighter, and to make the edges of the heart appear smooth.
Part B - JPG to BMP with Paint and Word
This goes through importing a photo into Altium. The original image is a jpeg, from a Notorious RBG meme. I did this the weekend after she died. Yes, I create circuit boards for mental health.
You might think that instead of Saving As, you could just go to Image Properties and select “Black and White” instead of color. You would be wrong. This is what happens.
If you're wondering, I haven't released these boards yet, I have one revision to make. They'll be really cool when ready, though, I promise! If you want to be notified, sign up for our newsletter.
But wait! There's more! What? Really? Just a bit. We talk about how to save your nice shiny image for future use in Part 3.
What - you think paying $7000 once plus $2000 yearly for THE premium circuit board layout software on the market would mean it would be no big deal to stick a logo or graphics on your PCB? Or at least that your money was enough to pay them for a nice step-by-step tutorial? HA. Think again. It's such a painful process that I finally had to make myself a cheat sheet, which I continuously add to as I figure out new tricks. And then last week I spent way too much time on the heart design above and was like - fuck it. I'm sharing this with the world because it's just ridiculous that importing graphics is this much of a pain in the ass. So if you've banged your head against the wall importing a logo into Altium Designer, here's a How To guide with 2 different ways, using a bitmap, png, jpg, and dxf. Got another method? Got improvements on the below? Tell me in the comments! For the Love of Bob, no one should have to go through hours of misery trying to figure this out.
Also - kudos to the KiCad designers and whoever made their import tool. While it could be better, it puts Altium to shame.
Method 1 - PNG to DXF
I think this is the best method I've been able string together. It's best for an image with very clear edges, in which a clean outline can be created from the image or image components. For anything that has pixelated or rough edges (think a wood-carved ink stamp), this method creates a dxf (and therefore final image polygon) with waaaaaay to many vertices. Altium has a hard time handling this and you’ll bog the entire program down and cause crashes. For something a little “rougher” - hand-drawn, or a graphic from a photo - proceed to Method 2.
The "# 1 ! " were all imported from the DXF according to this process. The "1" and "!" were converted to Regions instead of Polygons, since they didn't need cutouts. Curious about the rough heart outline? That was imported according to Method 2 - Bitmaps to Copy/Paste from Word. The smooth heart board outline was drawn by hand in Altium, outlining the rough heart by using the Arc (Any Angle) tool and a couple of straight lines. I had tried to use an imported dxf for the board outline, and everything seemed fine. I saved my work, shut down Altium properly, then when I opened it the next day, I was greeted with the following vision of pink puke:
WTF, Altium? Pro tip: at this point I closed the PCB file and went into the History folder in my project, and started unzipping previous saves until I found one that was normal. Fortunately, it just seemed to have barfed when I created the board outline. So I decided to play it safe and draw a low-vertex-count one by hand. That one has been fine.