SK9822 LED Pixel guide (Dotstar)

Lav de vildeste og flotteste lyseffekter med digitale LED pixels. Ûberguide til digitale SK9822 (Dotstar) pixel LEDs!


(om Dotstar)


Når du skal forsyne digitale LED pixels til en strømforsyning eller microcontroller, skal du altid tilslutte stel (-) før alt andet! Det samme når du demonterer: slut altid af med stel!
For at beskytte dine pixels anbefaler vi at sætte en 1000uF 6,3V (eller højere) kondensator mellem + og -, samt en 300-500 Ohm modstand mellem din microcontroller's data-pin og data-pin på dine pixels. Kondensatoren og modstanden beskytter mod peak i spændingen, så dine pixels holder lang tid.

NeoPixels are usually described as “5 Volt devices,” but the reality is a little more nuanced than that.

Some (not all) NeoPixel products can work with slightly higher voltages. This depends on the additional support components around the chip, based on available space, cost and the most likely application. Refer to the specific product description page for guidance on acceptable voltage limits for each type. When in doubt, aim for 5 Volts.

Lower voltages are always acceptable, with the caveat that the LEDs will be slightly dimmer. There’s a limit below which the LED will fail to light, or will start to show the wrong color.

Estimating Power Requirements

Each individual NeoPixel draws up to 60 milliamps at maximum brightness white (red + green + blue). In actual use though, it’s rare for all pixels to be turned on that way. When mixing colors and displaying animations, the current draw will be much less. It’s impossible to estimate a single number for all circumstances, but we’ve been using 1/3 this (20 mA per pixel) as a gross rule of thumb with no ill effects. But if you know for a fact that you need every pixel on at maximum brightness, use the full 60 mA figure.

To estimate power supply needs, multiply the number of pixels by 20, then divide the result by 1,000 for the “rule of thumb” power supply rating in Amps. Or use 60 (instead of 20) if you want to guarantee an absolute margin of safety for all situations. For example:

60 NeoPixels × 20 mA ÷ 1,000 = 1.2 Amps minimum
60 NeoPixels × 60 mA ÷ 1,000 = 3.6 Amps minimum

The choice of “overhead” in your power supply is up to you. Maximum safety and reliability are achieved with a more generously-sized power supply, and this is what we recommend. Most power supplies can briefly push a little extra current for short periods. Many contain a thermal fuse and will simply shut down if overworked. So they may technically work, but this is the electronics equivalent of abusing a rental car.
Keep in mind, 60 mA is a worst case estimate! We’ve written a whole separate tutorial on getting things under control: Sipping Power with NeoPixels.

Distributing Power

The longer a wire is, the more resistance it has. The more resistance, the more voltage drops along its length. If voltage drops too far, the color of NeoPixels can be affected.

Consider a full 4 meter reel of NeoPixels. With 5V applied at one end of the strip, for those pixels closest to this end, power traverses only a few inches of copper. But at the far end of the strip, power traverses 8 meters of copper — 4 meters out on the +5V line, 4 meters back on the ground line. Those furthest pixels will be tinted brown due to the voltage drop (blue and green LEDs require higher voltage than red).
Pro Tip: NeoPixels don’t care what end they receive power from. Though data moves in only one direction, electricity can go either way. You can connect power at the head, the tail, in the middle, or ideally distribute it to several points. For best color consistency, aim for 1 meter or less distance from any pixel to a power connection. With larger NeoPixel setups, think of power distribution as branches of a tree rather than one continuous line.


Driving 5V NeoPixels from 3.3V Microcontrollers

Increasingly, microcontrollers are running at 3.3 Volts instead of 5 Volts. That’s great news for efficiency, but can present a communication problem with 5V NeoPixels. The 3.3V signal from the microcontroller may not be “loud” enough to register with the higher-voltage device. The manufacturer recommends a minimum signal voltage of 70% of the NeoPixel voltage.

There are two ways this can be addressed:

Lower the voltage to the NeoPixels so it’s closer (or equal) to that of the microcontroller. This is why we recommend LiPo batteries for FLORA projects: 3.7V is enough to run a short length of pixels, and the microcontroller is comfortable at that voltage as well.
Use a logic level shifter to step up the signal from the microcontroller to the first pixel.
For more info on using a level shifter with your NeoPixels, have a look at this guide.


Our LED suppliers sometimes make unannounced production changes to the wiring. Therefore, the best way to identify connections is a close visual examination of the strip.

First, look for arrows printed along the strip next to each LED. These show the direction of data moving down the strip…your microcontroller connects at the originating (“in”) end, the arrows point toward the “out” end. (In the photo above, our microcontroller would be located off the left side.)

Second, look for labels on the strip to identify the function and order of the four wires: ground, 5 Volts, data and clock…usually labeled GND, 5V, D or DI (data input) and C or CI (clock input). These will go to corresponding pins on your microcontroller and power supply.

Again, due to production variations, you can’t always count on wire colors or plug genders as a reliable indication of function, even if ordered at the same time. Take a close look to confirm before connecting anything.

The simplest wiring is if you can power the strip off of the microcontroller board itself. This is fine for small projects (one or two dozen DotStars max) because we don't light up a lot of LEDs at once.

Connect the strip 5V pin to the board 5V
Connect the strip GND pin to board GND
Connect the strip CI (Clock input) and DI (Data input) to the board’s SPI SCK and MOSI pins (if using an SPI bus) or any two digital pins (if “bitbanging” the signals). We’ll explain this in more detail in the “Software” section of this guide.

For longer strips, when you need more than 1 Amp of current, you should power with an external 5V power adapter like so.

Connect the strip 5V pin to the power adapter 5V
Connect the strip GND pin to board GND and power adapter GND
Connect the strip CI (Clock input) and DI (Data input) to two digital or SPI pins as explained above.
Important: three points are connected to ground: power supply, microcontroller and DotStar strip. If there’s no common ground between the microcontroller and strip, the LED’s won’t function properly.

DotStars are 5 Volt devices. They may respond to 3.3V signals, but this is not a guaranteed thing. If using a 3.3V controller (Feather, Raspberry Pi, etc.), add a logic level shifter to boost 3V logic to 5V…something like a 74AHCT125 on the data and clock pins.



For the scope of this tutorial, we'll be using the FastLED library. The library will help you control the APA102's and provides example code to get the most our of your project. You can obtain these libraries through the Arduino Library Manager by searching for FastLED. The library also supports other LED chipsets. The second option is to download the ZIP file below from its GitHub repository to manually install it.

Fastled download


When using the FastLED library, certain parameters need to be adjusted at a minimum to be compatible with the chipset. Depending on the example, the DATA_PIN can be referred to as LED_PIN. You may need to define the CLOCK_PIN or it can also be referred to as CLK_PIN. We recommend using a dedicated hardware SPI for best performance. However, if you decide to use a different pin, the library can be reconfigured to bit bang the pins. The LED_TYPE would be defined as the APA102 chipset. There are 60 LEDs per LED strip so NUM_LEDs needs to be set to 60. The COLOR_ORDER is BGR.

Once these parameters are set, you will need to initialize the LED strip configuration using .addLEDs<>() in the setup() function. Depending on the brightness and complexity of the animation, there are several methods to adjust the quality and appearance of the project like the color temperature, dither mode, refresh rate, FPS, or color correction. Below are two methods of setting up the LED strip for the APA102 configuration that we'll be using in this tutorial.

FastLED.addLeds<APA102, DATA_PIN, CLOCK_PIN, BGR>(leds, NUM_LEDS);
FastLED.addLeds<LED_TYPE,DATA_PIN,CLK_PIN,COLOR_ORDER>(leds, NUM_LEDS).setCorrection(TypicalLEDStrip);