Colour Coding

There’s certainly not a lot I can offer in terms of technical knowledge, I’m almost entirely self-taught. I’m not an Electrical Engineer by any stretch. But what I can do is share a few tricks and bits of basic knowledge that I’ve picked up.

I hope I can provide something useful by showing you how I work through problems, and how I organise myself. First off for basic stuff I want to cover colour coding.

Offboard wiring means wires. Wires mean rats nests and confusion. Confusion means frustration and certain death. Avoid this.

That’s why clever electrician types use different colours for different things. It’s commonly accepted that black is for ground, and red is voltage, +9V in the case of most pedals. As far as anything else goes the world is some kind of seafood. Do as you like, just keep it consistent.

Here’s my system, use it if you like it, don’t if you don’t. I chose these colours because they feel right for me. I’m kind of a synesthete (I associate different certain things with certain colours, like words and sensations), so no-one is ever going to convince me that my system can be better, and they shouldn’t try. I know people apply logic to the process too, for example the signal coming in is coloured white because it is uncoloured, etc. Anyway here’s my system:

Yellow – signal coming in (input jack to footswitch daughterboard, daughterboard to PCB in)

Blue – signal going out (PCB out to daughterboard, daughterboard to output jack)

For anything in between I tend to use green, but I’m not fussy on this one for some reason, sometimes I just use whatever is spare. This generally applies to other connections from one point to another on perfboard or between boards. The last time I decided to put two footswitches in an enclosure I joined them with white for signal and black for ground, because green didn’t seem right and Newcastle United.


This also applies to the long connectors that I use to connect the prototyping board to my breadboard.


For offboard pots and switches I use:

White – pin 1

Yellow – pin 2

Green – pin 3

I don’t see that there’s any way of confusing the yellow for input signal with pin 2 of a pot or switch, so it’s a flawless system, right? Here’s a Fuzz factory I did on perf a while ago. excuse some of the crappy pots, this was before I was able to get alpha pots for all values.


‘But Woolly! Why are all those wires twisted up together like that?’ I assume is going through your heads at this minute. Well firstly it looks much better than having wires splayed all over. Secondly it does some good science things with magnetic fields to reduce noise. So twist them wires, but not too much, you wouldn’t want to make them angry.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.