You can use these with a 3.3v or 5v microcontroller. Just connect the VCC+ pin is the same voltage as the logic on your microcontroller.

We wrote a basic library to help you work with the bi-color 8x8 matrix backpack. The library is written for the Arduino and will work with any Arduino as it just uses the I2C pins. The code is very portable and can be easily adapted to any I2C-capable micro.

Wiring to the matrix is really easy

  • Connect CLK to the I2C clock - on Arduino UNO thats Analog #5 (or SCL), on the Leonardo its Digital #3, on the Mega its digital #21
  • Connect DAT to the I2C data - on Arduino UNO thats Analog #4 (or SDA), on the Leonardo its Digital #2, on the Mega its digital #20
  • Connect GND to common ground
  • Connect VCC+ to power - 5V is best but 3V also seems to work for 3V microcontrollers.

Next, download the Adafruit LED Backpack library and the Adafruit GFX library from the Arduino library manager.

Open up the Arduino library manager:

Search for the Adafruit LED Backpack library and install it

Search for the Adafruit GFX library and install it

If using an earlier version of the Arduino IDE (prior to 1.8.10), also locate and install Adafruit_BusIO (newer versions will install this dependency automatically).

Once you've restarted you should be able to select the File→Examples→Adafruit_LEDBackpack→bicolor88 example sketch. Upload it to your Arduino as usual. You should see a basic test program that goes through a bunch of different drawing routines.

We also have a great tutorial on Arduino library installation at:

Once you're happy that the matrix works, you can write your own sketches. The 8x8 matrix supports everything the Adafruit GFX library - drawing pixels, lines, rectangles, circles, triangles, roundrects, and small bitmaps. For more details check out the GFX page which will detail all of the GFX routines.

All the drawing routines only change the display memory kept by the Arduino. Don't forget to call writeDisplay() after drawing to 'save' the memory out to the matrix via I2C.

There are also a few small routines that are special to the matrix:

  • setBrightness(brightness)- will let you change the overall brightness of the entire display. 0 is least bright, 15 is brightest and is what is initialized by the display when you start
  • blinkRate(rate) - You can blink the entire display. 0 is no blinking. 1, 2 or 3 is for display blinking.
The default orientation for graphics commands on this display places pixel (0,0) at the top-left when the header is at the left and Adafruit logo at the right. To use the matrix as shown above (header at top, logo at bottom), call matrix.setRotation(3) before issuing graphics commands.

This guide was first published on Jul 29, 2012. It was last updated on Jul 14, 2024.

This page (Arduino Setup) was last updated on Mar 08, 2024.

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