Building custom designs

This section describes how to compile and download your own designs to an FPGA using only the F4PGA toolchain.

Before building any examples, you will need to first install the toolchain. To do this, follow the steps in Getting F4PGA. After you have downloaded the toolchain, follow the steps in Building example designs by seting the installation directory to match what you set it to earlier, assigning the path and source for your conda environment, and activating your env.

Preparing Your Design

Building a design in F4PGA requires three parts: the HDL files for your design, a constraints file, and a Makefile. For simplicity, all three of these design files should be moved to a single directory. The location of the directory does not mater as long as the three design elements are all within it.

HDL Files

F4PGA provides full support for Verilog. Some support for SystemVerilog HDL code is also provided, although more complicated designs written in SystemVerilog may not build properly under Yosys. Use whichever method you prefer, and add your design files to the directory of choice. If you are using the provided Makefiles to build your design, the top level module in your HDL code should be declared as module top (.... Failure to do so will result in an error from symbiflow_synth stating something similar to ERROR: Module 'top' not found! If you are using your own makefiles or commands, you can specify your top level module name using the -t flag in symbiflow_synth.

Constraint File

The F4PGA toolchain supports both .XDC and .PCF+.SDC formats for constraints. You can use XDC to define IOPAD, IOSETTINGS, and clock constraints. SDCs can be used to define clock constraints and PCFs can be used to define IOPAD constraints only. Use whichever method you prefer and add your constraint file(s) to your design directory.

Note that if you use an XDC file as your constraint and neglect to include your own SDC, the toolchain will automatically generate one to provide clock constraints to VTR.


Visit the Customizing Makefiles page to learn how to make a simple Makefile for your designs. After following the directions listed there return to this page to finish building your custom design.

Building your personal projects

Before you begin building your design, navigate to the directory where you have stored your Makefile, HDL, and constraint files:

cd <path to your directory>

Then, depending on your board type run:

TARGET="arty_35" make -C .

If your design builds without error, the bitstream can be found in the following location:

cd build/<board>

Once you navigate to the directory containing the bitstream, use the following commands on the Arty and Basys3 to upload the design to your board. Make sure to change top.bit to the name you used for your top level module:

openFPGALoader -b arty_a7_35t top.bit


Many of the commands needed to build a project are run multiple times with little to no variation. You might consider adding a few aliases or even a few bash functions to your .bashrc file to save yourself some typing or repeated copy/paste. For example, instead of using the command used to upload the bitstream to Xilinx 7 series FPGA every time, you could just add the following lines to your .bashrc file:

 f4pga_bit() {
 #Creates and downloads the bitstream to Xilinx 7 series FPGA:
 openFPGALoader -b $OFL_BOARD top.bit

Now whenever you need to download a bitstream to the Xilinx-7 series you can simply type e.g. OFL_BOARD=basys3 f4pga_bit into the terminal and hit enter.