What Can You Do with an RGB LED Matrix Shield for Arduino?

Looking for a display option for your Arduino project? Perhaps a compact LCD or an array of LEDs will do the trick, especially if you’re building something decorative.

But there’s a chance you might not be thinking big enough. Why utilize a little LCD screen or a few lights when you could have something as awesome as the new Adafruit RGB LED Matrix Shield? Designed as an interface to large multi-coloured LED matrices (think as colorful as a NeoPixel strip, but in a display form factor), this shield measures a compact 68.5mm x 53.2mm x 1.6mm, but requires you to solder the headers, connector, and terminal block before fitting it to your Arduino-compatible board (anything rocking an ATmega328p chip, for instance).

Connecting a 16 x 32 or 32 x 32 LED matrix to the shield will give you access to hundreds (or thousands, depending on the matrix dimensions) of dazzling RGB LEDs, which can be manipulated using Adafruit’s dedicated library. This is why the shield and its connectors are required, rather than a more streamlined, single wire approach.

With one of these set up, and connected, and a suitable matrix ready to flash those LEDs, what are you going to do next?

Pretty much any Arduino project that requires a display, or LEDs, should be suitable. This might be something low key like a piece of obvious digital signage, or perhaps a nice bit of decorative lighting. Maybe even some ambient lighting, mounted behind your TV.

Could the RGB Matrix Shield be used for anything more intensive? Well, there’s a possibility that you could use it as a display for some classic-style games. Arduino is increasingly used as a platform for retro-themed video games, and an LED matrix would certainly evoke a bygone age of computer gaming.

As ever, the choice is yours and limited only by your imagination.

You can order the RGB Matrix Shield for Arduino at Adafruit for around $5.95.

Christian Cawley

Christian Cawley spends a lot of time with Raspberry Pis and scours the web looking for interesting DIY electronics projects and news for ElectroMaker. He's currently trying to show his 7 year old son how to get to grips with Scratch, but so far to no avail.

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