If you want to produce a circuit board cheaply and don't particularly care about quality, you can manually draw your pattern on a copper clad board without the photoresist coating. My recommedation for this method would be:
- Tape a printout of your board design on the copper clad board.
- Punch a small indentation in the center of each pad using a nail and hammer or something similar. This will help keep the drill centerred as you begin each hole.
- Drill all of the holes. (Yes, before etching.)
- Remove the taped-on board layout and copy it using a Sharpee. (Other types of permanent markers may work as well.) This will stop the copper underneath from being etched away, but you will probably need to apply several coats, and possibly take the board out midway through etching, rinse it, add more ink, and continue to help prevent slight cracks in the traces.
- If you're doing a double-sided board, draw the other side. You can use the pre-drilled holes to align it.
- Etch as above
- Rinse and sand off the ink. I strongly recommend wearing a dust mask of some sort, as you do not want to breathe the dust from this.
- Inspect the board for any broken traces that may have accidentally etched through. You should do this even if you're using the photoresist method above.
The main problem with drilling first is that a small amount of copper will etch away from the inside of the pads if you're not careful.
The resulting board won't look anywhere as nice as professional quality boards, and you can't have traces as thin, but it does work and with fewer, cheaper supplies.