How to Use a Breadboard and Build a Circuit

A breadboard is a great tool for quickly testing out a prototype circuit or hooking up a quick experiment. Breadboarding is an important step in testing out ideas or learning how things work. When I first started tinkering with electronics I discovered that everyone assumed that I would know how to use a breadboard. I wasted quite a bit of time wondering what I did wrong or if my Arduino was broken before I figured things out.

This tutorial is for those who are just getting started and want to brush up on the basics before diving in. In this tutorial I will explain the basics of how a breadboard is laid out and and offer some tips on how to keep things manageable as your creation or experiment grows on your workbench.

The typical breadboard is laid out in a matrix of .1 inch spaced holes. Most through hole Integrated Circuit chips or ICs will fit snuggly in this matrix. Also, many headers and “breadboard friendly” components will fit nicely. Which holes you plug them into does matter. So lets take a look at how the breadboard is laid out.

For this exercise we’ll orient the breadboard vertically so that the short side is at the top and bottom. The pictures below will make the orientation clear. Apparently there is a bit of religious debate between vertical and horizontal board users as to the proper orientation of the board, however the consistent advice from either party is do what makes sense for you.

You can see that the horizontal rows are connected on the inside.
When you put your IC chip on board it should hurdle the center divider

You can see from diagram that the pins of the IC are now accessible by inserting a component or jumper wire in the available horizontal pins and connecting to another row.

Vertical columns on the side of the breadboard are for power and ground.

These power rails are also isolated to the right and left side of the breadboard. If you have to manage two different power supplies or voltages, they can be isolated by keeping them on either side of the board.

For ease of use many people link left and right side of the board so voltage and ground are handy on both sides of the center.

Jumpers to make access to +V and G handy

Some boards like the board I linked to in the components list have binding posts for attaching power. You can see below image

In all cases that I have reviewed, these are not connected to the breadboard rails in any way and it is up to you if you wish to use them or connect them to the power rails. If you have a breadboard with binding posts, make sure to verify this before you use them.

In general, though, the posts are an easy way to connect from a bench top switching power supply to your breadboard. When I draw power from the pins from an Arduino or Raspberry Pi, for example, I generally jumper these directly to the vertical power rails and detach the power supply from the posts.