The Importance of Copper Pour in Empty Areas on PCBs

Engineering Knowledge
17 min readJun 11, 2023


Hello readers welcome to the new post. In this post, we will have a look at The Importance of Copper Pour in Empty Areas on PCBs. Copper pours are important for the design of printed circuit boards. It comes with filling empty areas on the PCB baord with copper planes, which provides many benefits for electronic circuits. In this post, we will cover different parameters of f copper pour and its impact on board performance. Let’s get started with Introduction to Copper Pour

Introduction to Copper Pour

When designing boards, engineers strive to enhance their functionality, reliability, and performance. The copper pour is a method that helps achieve these goals with the use of the empty areas on the board to enhance its overall performance. By filling these areas with copper planes, engineers effectively manage heat dissipation, decrease electromagnetic interference (EMI), and enhance signal integrity.

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What is Copper Pour on PCBs?

Copper pour defines the process of making large areas of continuous copper planes on the circuit board. These planes are attached to the ground or power plane and cover the empty spaces between components and traces. This pour is typically implemented on the internal layers of the board, although it can also be used on the outer layers.

Why is Copper Pour Important?

Enhancing Heat Dissipation

One of the main reasons for incorporating copper pour-in board design is its ability to enhance heat dissipation. The heat produced by active components can be efficiently conducted through the copper planes and distributed about the board. This avoids localized hotspots and makes sure of optimal operating temperatures for components, thereby enhancing their lifespan and reliability.

Reducing Electromagnetic Interference (EMI)

Copper pour also helps to minimize electromagnetic interference within the PCB. The continuous copper planes work as shields, reducing the coupling of electromagnetic fields among traces and components. This decreases the chances of cross-talk, signal degradation, and unwanted noise, resulting in enhanced overall system performance.

Improving Signal Integrity

Another main advantage of the copper pour is its impact on signal integrity. By providing a less-impedance path, the copper planes help smooth signal transmission and decrease the effects of impedance mismatch. This is important for high-speed digital and analog circuits where maintaining signal integrity is required.

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Copper Pour Design Considerations

To make effective copper pour implementation, certain design considerations must be followed

The copper weight for the pour area is based on the certain needs of the board design. High copper weights can offer good heat dissipation and current-carrying capacity, but they can also increase manufacturing expenses and introduce etching challenges. It is necessary to balance these factors and choose a good copper weight that aligns with the design goals.

Clearance and Spacing

Clearance and spacing about the copper pour area are critical to avoid unintended shorts or signal interference. Proper clearances must be maintained between the copper pour and other components, and signal lines. and traces, Adhering to design guidelines and industry standards make sure reliable performance and prevents potential issues.

Shape and Placement

The shape and placement of the copper pour areas must be carefully considered to optimize the board performance. Irregular or poorly placed copper pour can cause uneven heat distribution or ineffective EMI shielding. Engineers must strive for a well-planned copper pour design that enhances benefits while minimizing potential failures

Split Planes

In some conditions, it can be necessary to split copper pour areas into many sections or planes. This is used for good control of current flow, decreased impedance, and improved isolation between different circuit sections. Accurate segmentation and partitioning methods should be used based on certain design requirements.

Benefits of Copper Pour

Thermal Management

These pour effectively spreads and dissipate heat in PCB, providing optimal operating temperatures for components. By reducing hotspots and maintaining a balanced thermal profile, copper pour increases the lifespan and reliability of electronic devices.

EMI Shielding

The continuous copper planes are shields, that reduce electromagnetic interference (EMI) in the board. it provides improved signal quality, minimizes noise, and enhanced overall system performance.

Voltage Distribution

Copper pour helps in maintaining a consistent voltage distribution across the board It minimizes voltage loss and makes sure stable power delivery to components, like in areas with high current required

Signal Integrity Enhancement

By providing low-impedance paths, copper pour helps to improve signal integrity. It decreases signal reflections, , and crosstalk, attenuations, allowing for reliable data transmission and correct circuit function

Copper Pour Techniques

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Solid Copper Pour

In the solid copper pour process, the empty areas on the board are filled completely with a continuous copper plane. This offers maximum heat dissipation, EMI protection, and signal integrity enhancement. Though it can not be best for all designs due to cost and manufacturing constraints.

Hatched Copper Pour

The hatched copper pour methods involve making grid-like patterns within the copper pour area, leaving small gaps between copper traces. This process strikes a balance between heat dissipation and manufacturing considerations. It is used for effective copper pouring while reducing etching challenges and material expenses

Thermal Relief Pads

Thermal relief pads are copper connections employed to have isolation between surface-mount components and copper planes. These pads reduce heat transfer from the components to the copper pour, make sure proper soldering and prevent tombstoning issues.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Insufficient Copper Pour

Improper coverage of empty areas with copper pour can restrict the benefits it provides. Ineffective copper pour can cause inadequate heat dissipation, enhanced EMI, and compromised signal integrity.

Excessive Copper Pour

While, excessive copper pour causes over-consumption of copper material, high manufacturing costs, and potential manufacturing problems. It is necessary to make balance and optimize the copper pour based on the specific design requirements

Inadequate Clearance and Spacing

Neglecting good clearance and spacing around the copper pour areas can cause in shorts or interference with neighboring components or signal lines. Following design guidelines and performing proper checks can help to minimize such problems.

Inconsistent Copper Weight

Inconsistencies in the copper weight across the pour area can affect its performance. Uneven copper distribution can result in impedance variations, thermal imbalances, and compromised signal integrity.

Best Practices for Copper Pour

Follow Design Guidelines

Following the design guidelines and industry standards is important for successful copper pour implementation. These instructions provide recommendations on copper weights, spacing, clearances, and other parameters necessary for reliable and optimized board designs.

Optimize Copper Fill Areas

Accurate optimization of copper fill areas helps increase the advantages of copper pour while reducing any potential failure. Balancing thermal needs, EMI considerations, and signal integrity needs is compulsory for effective copper pour design.

Perform Design Rule Checks (DRC)

Conducting thorough design rule checks is important to find and rectify any potential problems related to copper pour. DRC instruments and simulations can validate the design and make sure compliance with design rules and features

Copper Pour in Different Applications

High-Speed PCBs

In high-speed PCBs, maintaining signal integrity is important. Copper pour reduces signal distortions, reflections, and crosstalk, making sure of reliable data transmission in high-frequency circuits.

Power Electronics

Power electronics produce significant heat. Copper pour helps in effective heat dissipation, provides reliable operation, and extends the lifespan of power devices and components.

RF and Wireless Communication

RF and wireless communication circuits need stringent control over signal quality and EMI. Copper pour reduces interference, signal losses, and noise, causing improved RF performance.

How Does Copper Pour Affect Crosstalk and EMI?

Copper pours on a PCB board can have both positive and negative effects on crosstalk and EMI. The impact of copper pours is based on their configuration and placement in relation to signal traces. Here’s how copper pours can affect crosstalk and EMI explained

  1. Crosstalk Reduction: Copper pours can reduce crosstalk by working as a protective barrier between sensitive signal traces. By surrounding high-speed signal traces with copper pours, the electromagnetic fields produced by neighboring traces can be attenuated. it minimizes the coupling of signals between adjacent traces and reduces crosstalk.
  2. Ground Plane: These pours configured to a solid ground plane can offer a low-impedance return path for signals. This helps to minimize the loop area of high-speed signals, which in turn decreases the chances of crosstalk. Ground planes also help in maintaining a stable reference voltage and reduce ground bounce.
  3. Impedance Control: They can be used to control the characteristic impedance of transmission lines. By setting the width and placement of copper pours, we can fine-tune the impedance to match the required value. It helps to reduce signal reflections and enhances signal integrity, decreasing the potential for crosstalk.
  4. EMI Shielding: They can work as an effective protection against electromagnetic interference. By enclosing sensitive components or traces within a copper pour, we can minimize the coupling of external electromagnetic fields and attenuate radiated emissions.
  5. Grounding Considerations: While copper pours can be effective, improper grounding or placement of copper pours can cause unintended consequences. If copper pours are not accurately attached to a solid ground plane or if there are discontinuities in the ground plane, it can cause unintended ground loops, increasing the chances of EMI issues.
  6. Parasitic Capacitance and Inductance: Copper pours can introduce parasitic capacitance and inductance to the board. This can impact signal integrity, causes signal degradation, and potential crosstalk issues. Accurate placement and configuration of copper pours, along with a controlled impedance design, can mitigate these factors

When and Why to Adopt a PCB Ground Pour?

Adopting a PCB ground pour, also called ground plane, can provide advantages and benefits in electronic circuit designs. Here are some conditions when and why you can select to use a PCB board ground pour:

  1. Signal Integrity: A ground pour can improve signal integrity by low-impedance return path for signals. It decreases the loop area of high-speed signal traces, reduces inductance, and reduces the chances of reflections, signal distortion, and crosstalk. A solid ground plane maintains a stable reference voltage, reduces ground bounce, and improves noise immunity.
  2. EMI/EMC Considerations: They can work as a protection against electromagnetic interference (EMI) and improve electromagnetic compatibility (EMC). By enclosing sensitive components and traces in a ground plane, it minimize the coupling of outer electromagnetic fields and attenuates radiated emissions.
  3. Power Distribution: it can facilitate effective power distribution throughout the board. Connecting power supply traces to the ground plane helps in maintaining a stable voltage reference and decreasing voltage loss. It also helps in heat dissipation, as the ground plane can work as a thermal conductor, spreading heat away from components.
  4. Controlled Impedance: They also help in getting controlled impedance for high-speed signal traces. By adjusting the width and placement of the ground pour in relation to signal traces, we can fine-tune the features impedance to match the required value. This helps in reducing signal reflections and maintaining signal integrity.
  5. RF and High-Frequency Designs: They are also effective in RF (Radio Frequency) and high-frequency designs. They offer a continuous ground reference, reducing parasitic capacitance and inductance, and reducing the chances of impedance mismatches.

Copper Pours vs Ground Pours

FeatureCopper PoursGround PoursPurposeit offers a conductive area for copper traces or componentsIt has a low-impedance return path and shieldingSignal Integrityaffect signal integrity, especially for high-speed tracesincreases signal integrity by reducing inductance and noiseEMI/EMCCanot provide significant EMI/EMC benefitsHelp in EMI/EMC by decreasing radiated emissions and noisePower DistributionNot specifically designed for power distributionFacilitate good power distribution and reduce voltage dropsControlled Impedanceimpact impedance control for high-speed tracesIt helps in achieving controlled impedance for signal tracesRF and High-FrequencyNot designed for RF or high-frequency designsbeneficial for RF and high-frequency circuitsThermal ManagementNot used designed for thermal managementhelps in heat dissipation and thermal conductivityGround ReferenceIt not provide a stable ground referenceOffer a stable ground reference and reduce ground potential differencesDesign Flexibilityoffer more design flexibility and routing optionsIt restrict design flexibility due to continuous ground planePCB Real EstateUtilizes PCB real estate for copper traces or componentsRequires PCB real estate for the ground plane

Importance of Copper Pour in Empty Areas on PCBs & Notes on Using Copper Pour

In a PCB design, too much-unused space without copper can have a detrimental impact on production and the caliber of the finished product. Filling empty space on a PCB board with planar copper is called placing copper pour. All significant PCB design software has the ability to automatically insert copper pour, which is an important component of PCB design. Copper pour decreases ground impedance, boosts power efficiency by minimising voltage drops, and minimizes EMI by reducing loop regions, all of which contribute to the development of EMC.

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Outer Layer copper pour: 2- and Multi-layer Boards

Boards are put in a plating solution and electroplated with a fixed current after a dry coating has been applied to them.

Unused areas left blank

Under the influence of the current, exposed copper that is not covered by the dry film will increase in thickness from copper in the solution.

Unused areas filled with copper pour

The amount of exposed copper during this procedure will have an impact on how the current is distributed. Large copper pours are advised in PCB designs because they allow for more uniform current distribution.

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Imaged PCBs ready for electroplating

Under the influence of the current, exposed copper that is not covered by the dry film will increase in thickness from copper in the solution.

PCBs undergoing electroplating in an electrolyte bath.

The amount of exposed copper during this procedure will have an impact on how the current is distributed. Large copper pours are advised in PCB designs because they allow for more uniform current distribution.

Large areas of copper exposed for plating

On the other hand, if the exposed copper portions on the PCB are tiny or not equally spaced out, they will experience varying currents and subsequently have varying plating thicknesses, with a larger current producing a thicker plating. A supposedly 1 oz board may contain 2 oz of copper thickness as a result of this.

Not enough copper exposed during plating

The chemical process of electroplating

Electroplating causes two traces with very little separation (e.g., 4 or 5 mil) and no surrounding copper to thicken to the point that the dry film between them is challenging to remove prior to etching. As a result, extra copper accumulates between the traces, perhaps resulting in short circuits.

Dry film remains between two closely spaced traces


To assure the quality, try to minimize the number of “standalone” traces in your design and distribute the copper pour as evenly as possible over the board. Design the spacing between the traces as large as feasible if part of the “standalone” traces can’t be set with the copper pour. The designs that are problematic and their better iterations are shown in the examples below.

Copper pour has only partial coverage:

Before Improvement

After Improvement

No copper pour at all:

Before Improvement

After Improvement

Inner Layer copper pour: Multi-layer Boards

Cutting prepreg to the proper size, sandwiching it between two core layers or one core layer and one copper sheet layer, and then applying high heat and pressure to the assembly to melt and cure the prepreg’s resin, which bonds the layers together, are how multi-layer PCBs are laminated.


Inner layer core

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1) Resin on the prepreg will need to extend out to cover the copper-free zone if a copper layer contains significant blank regions. This may result in layer separation, voids in the resin, folds and creases in the copper, and PCBs that are thinner than typical.

A fold in a copper layer

Voids in a resin layer, visible from the white marks

Design example:

Before Improvement

After Improvement

2) The Goldfinger region will be narrower than intended if the inner layer area of the Goldfinger is highly empty. This might result in poor contact between the PCB and the matching connection slot, among other problems.

1.6 mm nominal, 1.41 mm measured

Before: no copper pour in inner layer area of the goldfingers

After Improvement

For PCBs with gold fingers:

Because the inner layer region of the goldfingers has greater thickness restrictions, copper pour must be put there. When ordering, be sure to choose a stack-up with a nominal finished thickness that is suitable and stay away from stack-ups whose thickness is close to your acceptable lower limit.

The topic regarding utilising copper pour notes is below. In order to assure the consistency of lamination and the thickness tolerance of the completed board, copper is typically poured into the empty space of the inner layer of multi-layer boards. This increases the copper area and decreases the resin spread out area. The major goals of the copper pour in the vacant region of the outer layer are to uniformly distribute the electroplating current, reduce the chance of short circuits and thin lines brought on by over-etching, and prevent these problems.

Use Thermal Relief Pads Within copper pour

Copper has a thermal conductivity of about 380 W/(m K). Because of this, if a pad is completely attached on both sides to the copper plane next to it, soldering problems will result from heat dissipating away too rapidly. The use of “thermal relief” pads lowers heat dissipation and facilitates soldering.

Hatched and Solid copper pour

As is well known, high-frequency situations cause the dispersed capacitance of the traces on a PCB to become important. When a trace’s length exceeds one-twentieth of the noise frequency’s wavelength, the trace turns into an antenna and radiates the noise into the surrounding area. Any copper pour that is not properly grounded will contribute to the noise’s subsequent propagation. As a result, ground connections in high-frequency circuits must not only have electrical continuity but also be spaced apart by less than 20. Vias on traces can assist in multilayer boards’ “good grounding” to the ground plane. Copper planes that have been properly constructed boost current capacity while also lowering EMI.

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Solid and hatching are the two main types of copper pours. Solid pours enhance current capacity and offer to shield, but when wave soldering is used, they can lead to copper separation and warping. Designing holes or apertures into solid copper pour helps to ease this. Hatched pours, on the other hand, primarily serve as shielding and have a low current carrying capacity.

Hatched pours may help to dissipate heat since they have less copper surface area. Hatched pours do have one drawback, though: the copper “segments” they are made of can increase electromagnetic interference (EMI). If the electrical length of the operating frequency of the circuit is close to the length of these segments, the circuit may not function at all because the entire pour acts as many antennas transmitting interference signals. It is important to match the copper pour type to the PCB circuit; for high-frequency circuits with EMI requirements, use hatching pours; for low-frequency or high-current circuits, use solid pours. All major PCB manufacturers have switched from the inferior wet film technique to the superior dry film process since new PCB designs need more accuracy and quality. It is advised to utilise solid pours rather than hatched ones whenever feasible since hatching copper pours can cause the film to shatter when used with dry film procedures.

Copper Fills on Inner Layers

Copper coverage: the amount of copper that is still on an inner layer after etching in relation to the size of the entire board.

Laminating: Prepreg is measured, trimmed to size, and sandwiched between inner layer cores or between a copper sheet and a core. The prepreg layers’ resin component is melted by heating and pressurizing the layered stack (laminate). When the resin is cooled, it flows to fill any copper-deficient regions on the next layers and fuses them together.

Design issue:

Because the inner layers of the prepreg have less copper coverage, additional resin needs to be stretched out to fill the copper-free area. A thinner board than anticipated, folds or creases in the copper layers, voids in the resin, and maybe layer separation owing to a shortage of resin are all consequences.

Design suggestion When feasible, pour copper where there are voids on the board. Maintain a 0.5 mm distance between your device and high-speed signal traces.

Calculating Total Laminate and Finished Board Thickness

Core + cured prepreg + outside copper = theoretical laminate thickness

= (0.7×2) + (4.54+4.48) + (1.2+44.84+1.2) = 57.66 mil = 1.46 mm.

Theoretical board thickness is comprised of the core, prepreg, and soldermask.

= (1×2) + (1.4×2) + (4.54+4.48) + (1.2+44.84+1.2) = 61.06 mil = 1.55 mm.

when the neighbouring core layers’ resin-filled thickness and the cured prepreg thickness are equal.

= (Thickness of copper covering divided by the thickness of uncured prepreg)

The table below describes a sample stack-up.

Using layers 1 and 2 as an illustration:

- Inner layer copper weight is 1 oz, layer 2 copper coverage is 85%, uncured prepreg thickness is 4.72 mil.

- Thickness of the cured prepreg is 4.72 mil minus ((1–85%) 1.2) = 4.54 mil.

The actual thickness of one ounce of copper is 30 micrometers (1.2 mil), despite the fact that the nominal thickness of one ounce of copper is 35 micrometers.

Design Guidelines Summary

1. Don’t leave any PCB space that lacks copper empty. Pour copper in the spaces.

2. If copper pouring is not practicable, traces should be built with a least 8 mil (trace to trace, trace to pad, pad to pad) spacing and a 2 ounce copper weight.

3. The copper pour should have more than 0.5 mm of space between it and the working traces and pads. Avoid employing hatching copper designs, particularly those with small grid sizes; opt instead for solid pours.

4. To prevent an inadequate board thickness, copper pour must be present in all of the inner layers of gold fingers. Avert stack-ups with completed thicknesses that are too thin.

5. To prevent obstructing the operation of PCB antennas, the copper pour around them should be built in accordance with specified product specifications.

Note: The importance of JLCPCB adding copper pour

In order to prevent faults brought on by wide empty areas, such as low board thickness and uneven plating, JLCPCB may add copper pour to panels on both the inner and outer layers of multi-layer PCBs. Only handling strips, bridge components, and other places outside PCB units will receive a copper pour. The practical PCBs will not contain any more copper. Around fiducials, mechanical holes, mouse bites, and V-cuts, clearance will be added.

JLCPCB continues to work towards giving consumers a larger option of PCB fabrication since it sees pushing technological progress as its responsibility. Not only that, but JLCPCB also offers complete PCBA services, including buying high-quality PCBs, locating 1,000,000+ authentic electrical components, and assembling your PCBs using cutting-edge SMT equipment. Join JLCPCB today to receive up to $54 in new user discounts and to begin your PCB adventure!

Author: Henry

I am a professional engineer and graduate from a reputed engineering university also have experience of working as an engineer in different famous industries. I am also a technical content writer my hobby is to explore new things and share with the world. Through this platform, I am also sharing my professional and technical knowledge to engineering students.

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