It's easy to use NeoPixel LEDs with Python or CircuitPython and the Adafruit CircuitPython NeoPixel module.  This module allows you to easily write Python code that controls your LEDs.

You can use these LEDs with any CircuitPython microcontroller board or with a computer that has GPIO and Python thanks to Adafruit_Blinka, our CircuitPython-for-Python compatibility library.

Of single boards computers, only Raspberry Pi computers have NeoPixel support at this time.

CircuitPython Microcontroller Wiring

First wire up some NeoPixels to your board exactly as shown on the previous pages. Verify your connection is on the DATA INPUT or DIN side. Plugging into the DATA OUT or DOUT side is a common mistake! The connections are labeled and some formats have arrows to indicate the direction the data must flow.

Do not use the USB pin on your microcontroller for powering more than a few LEDs! For more than that, you'll want to use an external power source. For more information, check out the Powering NeoPixels page of this guide:

Here's an example of wiring a Feather M0 to a NeoPIxel strip:

  • Board USB to LED 5V
  • Board GND to LED GND
  • Board D5 to LED Din

The choice of digital pin 5 here is arbitrary for the sake of example. With few exceptions, most any pin will do. On ItsyBitsy boards, this pin is special and has a 5V level shifter built in. A Feather board does not, and the NeoPixel FeatherWing normally uses pin 6 for control (or is solder-jumper selectable).

Python Computer Wiring

Since there's dozens of Linux computers/boards you can use we will show wiring for Raspberry Pi. For other platforms, please visit the guide for CircuitPython on Linux to see whether your platform is supported

Here's the Raspberry Pi wired to a NeoPixel strip:

  • Pi 5V to LED 5V
  • Pi GND to LED GND
  • Pi GPIO18 to LED Din

On the Raspberry Pi, NeoPixels must be connected to GPIO10, GPIO12, GPIO18 or GPIO21 to work!

CircuitPython Installation of NeoPixel Library

You'll need to install the Adafruit CircuitPython NeoPixel library on your CircuitPython board.

First make sure you are running the latest version of Adafruit CircuitPython for your board.

Next you'll need to install the necessary libraries to use the hardware--carefully follow the steps to find and install these libraries from Adafruit's CircuitPython library bundle.  Our CircuitPython starter guide has a great page on how to install the library bundle.

For non-express boards like the Trinket M0 or Gemma M0, you'll need to manually install the necessary libraries from the bundle:

  • neopixel.mpy
  • adafruit_pixelbuf.mpy

Before continuing make sure your board's lib folder has the neopixel.mpy, and adafruit_pixelbuf.mpy files copied over.

Next connect to the board's serial REPL so you are at the CircuitPython >>> prompt.

Python Installation of NeoPixel Library

You'll need to install the Adafruit_Blinka library that provides the CircuitPython support in Python. This may also require verifying you are running Python 3. Since each platform is a little different, and Linux changes often, please visit the CircuitPython on Linux guide to get your computer ready!

Once that's done, from your command line run the following command:

  • sudo pip3 install adafruit-circuitpython-neopixel

If your default Python is version 3 you may need to run 'pip' instead. Just make sure you aren't trying to use CircuitPython on Python 2.x, it isn't supported!

CircuitPython & Python Usage

To demonstrate the usage of this library with NeoPixel LEDs, we'll use the board's Python REPL.

For NeoPixels to work on Raspberry Pi, you must run the code as root! Root access is required to access the RPi peripherals.

Run the following code to import the necessary modules and initialise a NeoPixel strip with 30 LEDs. Don't forget to change the pin if your NeoPixels are connected to a different pin, and change the number of pixels if you have a different number.

import board
import neopixel
pixels = neopixel.NeoPixel(board.D5, 30)    # Feather wiring!
# pixels = neopixel.NeoPixel(board.D18, 30) # Raspberry Pi wiring!

Now you're ready to light up your NeoPixel LEDs using the following properties:

  • brightness - The overall brightness of the LED
  • fill - Color all pixels a given color.
  • show - Update the LED colors if auto_write is set to False.

For example, to light up the first NeoPixel red:

pixels[0] = (255, 0, 0)

To light up all the NeoPixels green:

pixels.fill((0, 255, 0))

That's all there is to getting started with CircuitPython and NeoPixel LEDs!

Full Example Code

# SPDX-FileCopyrightText: 2021 ladyada for Adafruit Industries
# SPDX-License-Identifier: MIT

import time
import board
import neopixel

# On CircuitPlayground Express, and boards with built in status NeoPixel -> board.NEOPIXEL
# Otherwise choose an open pin connected to the Data In of the NeoPixel strip, i.e. board.D1
pixel_pin = board.NEOPIXEL

# On a Raspberry pi, use this instead, not all pins are supported
# pixel_pin = board.D18

# The number of NeoPixels
num_pixels = 10

# The order of the pixel colors - RGB or GRB. Some NeoPixels have red and green reversed!
# For RGBW NeoPixels, simply change the ORDER to RGBW or GRBW.
ORDER = neopixel.GRB

pixels = neopixel.NeoPixel(
    pixel_pin, num_pixels, brightness=0.2, auto_write=False, pixel_order=ORDER

def wheel(pos):
    # Input a value 0 to 255 to get a color value.
    # The colours are a transition r - g - b - back to r.
    if pos < 0 or pos > 255:
        r = g = b = 0
    elif pos < 85:
        r = int(pos * 3)
        g = int(255 - pos * 3)
        b = 0
    elif pos < 170:
        pos -= 85
        r = int(255 - pos * 3)
        g = 0
        b = int(pos * 3)
        pos -= 170
        r = 0
        g = int(pos * 3)
        b = int(255 - pos * 3)
    return (r, g, b) if ORDER in (neopixel.RGB, neopixel.GRB) else (r, g, b, 0)

def rainbow_cycle(wait):
    for j in range(255):
        for i in range(num_pixels):
            pixel_index = (i * 256 // num_pixels) + j
            pixels[i] = wheel(pixel_index & 255)

while True:
    # Comment this line out if you have RGBW/GRBW NeoPixels
    pixels.fill((255, 0, 0))
    # Uncomment this line if you have RGBW/GRBW NeoPixels
    # pixels.fill((255, 0, 0, 0))

    # Comment this line out if you have RGBW/GRBW NeoPixels
    pixels.fill((0, 255, 0))
    # Uncomment this line if you have RGBW/GRBW NeoPixels
    # pixels.fill((0, 255, 0, 0))

    # Comment this line out if you have RGBW/GRBW NeoPixels
    pixels.fill((0, 0, 255))
    # Uncomment this line if you have RGBW/GRBW NeoPixels
    # pixels.fill((0, 0, 255, 0))

    rainbow_cycle(0.001)  # rainbow cycle with 1ms delay per step

RGB LED Colors

RGB LED colors are set using a combination of red, green, and blue, in the form of an (RG, B) tuple. Each member of the tuple is set to a number between 0 and 255 that determines the amount of each color present. Red, green and blue in different combinations can create all the colors in the rainbow! So, for example, to set an LED to red, the tuple would be (255, 0, 0), which has the maximum level of red, and no green or blue. Green would be (0, 255, 0), etc. For the colors between, you set a combination, such as cyan which is (0, 255, 255), with equal amounts of green and blue. If you increase all values to the same level, you get white! If you decrease all the values to 0, you turn the LED off.

Common colors include:

  • red: (255, 0, 0)
  • green: (0, 255, 0)
  • blue: (0, 0, 255)
  • cyan: (0, 255, 255)
  • purple: (255, 0, 255)
  • yellow: (255, 255, 0)
  • white: (255, 255, 255)
  • black (off): (0, 0, 0)

This guide was first published on Aug 30, 2013. It was last updated on Dec 07, 2023.

This page (Python & CircuitPython) was last updated on Dec 07, 2023.

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