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How to Choose the Right Surface Finish for Your PCB

Blog  /  How to Choose the Right Surface Finish for Your PCB

How to Choose the Right Surface Finish for Your PCB

Feb 27, 2024

When it comes to designing and manufacturing of printed circuit boards (PCBs), considering the element of your surface finish is a critical decision. In addition to influencing the PCB's aesthetics, surface finish is essential to the functionality, dependability, solderability and longevity of the electronic equipment it powers.

The surface finish serves as
a protective layer on the exposed copper traces of a PCB. It prevents oxidation, promotes solderability, enhances conductivity, and provides a level of protection against environmental factors, such as humidity and corrosion. Selecting the appropriate surface finish is essential to guaranteeing the PCB's longevity and correct operation.

6 PCBs with different finishes, labeled

Considerations for Surface Finish Selection

When selecting a surface finish for a PCB, several considerations come into play to ensure the board's solderability, protection from oxidation, and overall reliability. Here are some key considerations for surface finish selection based on the provided search results:


The surface finish should provide a solderable surface for assembling components on the PCB. It should facilitate the creation of reliable solder joints during the assembly process.

Protection from Oxidation

The surface finish acts as a protective layer, preventing the exposed copper circuitry from oxidation and deterioration, and ensuring the long-term reliability of the PCB.


The chosen surface finish should contribute to the board's shelf-life, protecting it from damage due to harsh operating and storage environments.

Suitability for Assembly Processes

The surface finish should be compatible with the assembly processes used, such as reflow soldering or wave soldering, to ensure proper bonding and solderability.

Environmental Considerations

Some surface finishes are more environmentally friendly and comply with regulations such as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances), making them suitable for environmentally conscious applications.

Cost and Material Considerations

It's important to consider the material costs and performance requirements when selecting a surface finish, ensuring that the chosen finish aligns with the project's budget and technical requirements.

Reliability and Longevity

The surface finish should contribute to the overall reliability and longevity of the PCB, ensuring that it meets the expected performance and durability standards

Common Surface Finish Options

6 Common Surface Finish Options

a. HASL (Hot Air Solder Leveling)

This is a popular and cost-effective surface finish. It involves immersing the PCB in a bath of molten solder and then using hot air to level the excess solder, leaving a flat and solderable surface. The extra solder is removed by passing the circuit board between hot-air knives. The solder used here is a mix of tin and lead. HASL is suitable for most applications but may not be ideal for fine-pitch components due to its relatively coarse surface texture.

b. ENIG (Electroless Nickel Immersion Gold)

ENIG is widely used and is suitable for complex PCB designs that offer excellent solderability and corrosion resistance. It consists of an electroless nickel layer covered by a layer of immersion gold, providing a reliable surface for soldering and component attachment. ENIG, fine-pitch components, and applications requiring high reliability.

c. OSP (Organic Solderability Preservative)

OSP is a cost-effective surface finish that utilizes a thin organic coating to protect the copper traces. It offers good solderability and is environmentally friendly. OSP is suitable for low-cost applications and PCB designs with fine-pitch components.

d. Immersion Tin

Immersion tin, also known as white tin, provides a flat and solderable surface. It offers good solderability and is cost-effective compared to other surface finishes. However, it has a relatively short shelf life and may require additional protection during storage and handling.

e. Immersion Silver (ImAg)

This finish offers a flat surface with very good solderability. The solder joint is created with the underlying copper, as the silver is dissolved during soldering, making it suitable for various PCB applications.

f. Lead-free Hot Air Surface Leveling (HASL)

This finish is similar to the traditional HASL finish but uses lead-free solder, making it environmentally friendly and compliant with regulations such as RoHS. It provides good solderability and protection against oxidation.

g. Organic Surface Finishes

These surface finishes use organic materials such as carbon, gold, or silver to provide a protective layer on the PCB. Examples include carbon ink, gold plating, and silver plating.

The selection of the right surface finish depends on various factors such as solderability, protection from oxidation, shelf-life, environmental considerations, cost, and material considerations.

Consult PCB Manufacturers and Industry Experts

When in doubt, consult with your PCB manufacturer, like JLCPCB, or industry experts to gain insights into the best surface finish options for your specific application. They may provide valuable recommendations based on their expertise and knowledge of the latest advancements in PCB technology.

hard gold/soft gold surface finish


A crucial initial step towards ensuring the durability, functionality, and dependability of your printed circuit board is choosing the right surface finish. Every surface finish has pros and cons, so weigh your options carefully before choosing between HASL, ENIG, OSP, or immersion tin.

When you work with JLCPCB for your PCB requirements, you can expect superior fabrication, first-rate customer service, and state-of-the-art surface finish options. In light of your unique requirements, our team of professionals is here to offer advice and recommendations.

Put your trust in us to realize your ideas and achieve unprecedented success with your electronic projects.