Hookup an LCD to an Arduino in 6 seconds with 3, not 6 pins

Picture of Hookup an LCD to an Arduino in 6 seconds with 3, not 6 pins
Adding an LCD display to Arduino projects can add real value but the cost of doing so can be significant. Not a financial cost - you can pick up 16 (characters) x 2 (rows) LCD for as little as £3.50. The cost is the pin count it can take to drive them. Using the built-in LiquidCrystal Display library it can take as many as 6 pins! That does not leave much for your sensors, motors and other components.

There are many projects that discuss using alternatives - such as a much more expensive Serial LCD (£10 up). Other projects discuss using two-wire interfaces, increasing the complexity of your code. The simplest way to drive the HD44780 style LCDs, in my opinion, is to use a 74HC595 shift register, taking the pin count down to 3.

In any case, connecting an LCD either using the 595 Shift Register or the more traditional way takes a lot of wiring which is not only a super mess (unless you use a ribbon cable I guess), it takes time.

This shield is simplifies this process - all that is required is power and three wires back to the Arduino - ie. connect the LCD in under 6 seconds!
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Step 1: Required Components

Picture of Required Components
This is an extremely easy board to make and should take you no more than 15 minutes to solder up and have running.

Component List
    1 x 74HC595 Shift Register
    1 x BC547 NPN (or MOFSET or similar NPN)
    1 x 10k Trimmer Potentiometer
    6 x Male headers (I used right angle connectors)
    16 x Female headers
    Strip/Vero-board 17 strips x 13 holes (I used 15 for cable support)
    Hookup wire
    Your soldering kit
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I have this running great from an ATtiny85. It also has a TMP36 temp sensor to desplay the current temperature. LCD uses pins 0, 1, 2 and TMP36 uses pin 3.
Here is my version. Thanks, it was a fun project.

Hi, please where did you buy this stripboard? It was online? I just found another version with independent holes, different of yours... Sorry my English, thanks!

bitterOz (author)  matt.e.jenkins2 years ago
That is fantastic Matt. Really nice work.

Being in London, I feel those cold mornings too.

Thank-you for sharing.
Hey thanks bitterOz. I gave your instructables page props in the description of the above video and in the prototype video
Thanks again, It was a fun project.
I'm wanting to build your project Matt. Any chance you could post the modified code for the attiny85?
Hi. Here's a link I made for you.
It should contain the code.
The temp sensor I use is a TMP36 from
I hope this helps.
Thanks! You should really do an instructable on this, or at the least, draw up a schematic for us noobs and post it in the description of your video.
jimpeachey made it!10 months ago

I finished it! This uses and ATTiny85 replacing the take offs for pins 7, 8,and 9 from the Arduino. I also used pins 3 and 4 from the ATTiny to run two flashing LEDs just to see how it work. This is running off a 4.5v battery pack using AAA batteries. I'm glad i got this done,it's a nice unit!

bitterOz (author)  jimpeachey8 months ago

Brilliant stuff Jim. Looks great.

Does need the transistor? Just wondering since I never use one when wiring up my lcd's using the breadboard version.

skunkmyrddyn2 months ago

I've built the circuit, but I cannot get the code to compile on my arduino software installation. I get a "shiftOut" not in scope.

I've looked through the code, and while I see the call to the function, I do not see where that function is defined. Is there another library that this one requires that is possibly missing from my arduino installation?

I'm using the most current for the intel galileo, and I know this software setup is a little different due to the modifications for the galileo.

amri.jbi2 months ago

Good day

May i asking, if i change that control pin (7,8 & 9) to be set own pin (11,12,13) is there affect from that one?
because i have limit I/O pin for my project using UNO..

nicholast23 months ago

Hello good sir! I am wondering of how you do a input with the Arduino UNO as Serial in to go to the HEF4094 chip to a LCR2002ABTAR1-2Y LCD (came from a printer i had) i seen that you made things like these but i cannot find the one for to use serial out from USB or can i use a serial connector from my computers serial port?


nicholast23 months ago

Hello good sir! I am wondering of how you do a input with the Arduino UNO as Serial in to go to the HEF4094 chip to a LCR2002ABTAR1-2Y LCD (came from a printer i had) i seen that you made things like these but i cannot find the one for to use serial out from USB or can i use a serial connector from my computers serial port?

nicholast23 months ago

Hello good sir! I am wondering of how you do a input with the Arduino UNO as Serial in to go to the HEF4094 chip to a LCR2002ABTAR1-2Y LCD (came from a printer i had) i seen that you made things like these but i cannot find the one for to use serial out from USB or can i use a serial connector from my computers serial port?

TheLUXY2 years ago
Can somebody tell me how to turn backlight on or off in Arduino (code)?
bitterOz (author)  TheLUXY2 years ago

You can turn off the display by calling:
void noDisplay();

Turning it on again:
void display();

Other functions available for you are:
void clear();
void home();
void noBlink();
void blink();
void noCursor();
void cursor();
void scrollDisplayLeft();
void scrollDisplayRight();
void leftToRight();
void rightToLeft();
void autoscroll();
void noAutoscroll();
void createChar(uint8_t, uint8_t[]);
void setCursor(uint8_t, uint8_t);
Actually, when i do this the backlight remains off, but the text appears and disappears.
diy_bloke lobonse4 months ago

not sure which library you are using but for me the commands:


diy_bloke4 months ago

Great project and looks tidy
You mention two wire interfaces and say it makes the code more complex.
perhaps, but most of us use a library for the LCD and then it really makes no difference.
FMalpertida's library is just as easy for 2 wire, 3 wire or I2C.
Have made several 2 wire interfaces and the code looks like this:
// 8 is data pin 7 is clock pin
void setup(){

lcd.begin(16,2); // initialize the lcd


void loop(){

lcd.home ();


lcd.setCursor (0, 1 );

lcd.print("2 wire");


needs virtually the same amount of components as a 3 wire :-) (shiftregister, diode, resistor)

u9718 months ago

Very nicely presented instructable will definitely make myself a similar board.

mandu221 year ago
Good day!

I tried making the circuit in my breadboard, and I'm 100% sure I built it right.

However, I only get black squares on the LCD's first row as an output. Any ideas? :D
bitterOz (author)  mandu228 months ago
I recently built another one of these shields and noticed that if I had lots of other devices connected to my USB chain I only received the blocks you mentioned.

So I obviously had noise on my power supply lines. The quickest method I used to solve it was to plug my Arudino directly in to the host USB port.

If that is not an option to you, then add 0.1nf caps across the power lines of the shift register and possibly the LCD too.

Of course there is also a simpler explanation - you have your contrast set WAY too high, try adjusting the pent down.
bitterOz (author)  mandu221 year ago
Hi mandu22,

Have you tried:
a) adjusting the contrast?
b) try sending something like
void noDisplay();
void display();
void clear();
void home();
and then writing your text?

zzarbi bitterOz11 months ago

I have the same problem of mandu22 and tried what you say and it still doesn't work. Also a schema would be nice as well, I know this is meant for people with no electrical skills but trying to guess where stuff are connected by looking at pictures isn't the best.

bitterOz (author)  mandu221 year ago
I have another idea mandu22.

Remove the existing LiquidCrystal library from Arduino before adding this library. I believe that will solve your problem.
jsatch110 months ago

may i change the pin 7 for another?.

the arduino is using a gsm shield which needs pins 7 ,2 and 3

jimpeachey jsatch110 months ago

You should be able to use any pin. The original sketch uses 7, 8 and 9 but 6 should work equally as well.

bitterOz (author)  jimpeachey8 months ago

Correct. Any pin set as an output will work well. You can even use A0-A5 by addressing them as D14-19.

jimpeachey10 months ago

Damn, i built this and it still doesnt work! Im going to re-do the circuit board and try again. I really need this to work as it is going to form the basis for how i display the models i build. Wish me luck. bitterOz, any luck with the ATTiny85 version?

jimpeachey11 months ago

Anyone got any ideas on the ATTiny85 issue please?

bitterOz (author)  jimpeachey11 months ago

Hi Jim,

Let me have a look in this for you over the next day or two.

BitterOz thanks. I'm waiting on some bits to make building the board easier. I'm pretty sure that the ATTiny pins are right and once i get some better connections i'm sure it will be OK. Having an expert check it out for me would be great though. I'm also looking at adding another pot for the backlight. I'll post once i have everything working.

michael_x11 months ago
Re Step2:
Strips are easily and safely cut by enlarging holes with a 4mm drill.
Later steps show there are enough spare holes that can serve as separators.

If you want to enhance your instructable to a foolproof version, you might want to flip the picture and enlarge the "cuts" to isolating holes instead.

BTW: Thanks for this "long term" project ( > 6 sec. ) ;)
bitterOz (author)  michael_x11 months ago

6 seconds after your hour or two of building... yes... never let the truth get in the way of marketing!

Good feedback on the cuts/tracks. In a future revision I will add both versions for users to be aware.

Thanks for the feedback.

p_j_s11 months ago

Just built this - it works...did it on breadboard first, and had real problems with induced noise due to all my long jumper leads picking up random signals. Caused random garbage characters to appear on LCD. Over on the Arduino forums an electronics guru suggested adding 0.1uF caps across Vss/Vdd of the LCD, plus 0.1uF and 47uF across pin 8 & 16 (gnd and Vcc) of the 595. I did that on the breadboard but still had issues.

Now I've soldered everything down onto veroboard as per your instructions, and haven't yet added any of the suggested capacitors, and the induced noise problems seem to have gone away.

One thing I need to point out though, is that your code (sketch) fails to illuminate the backlight. You've responded to others above saying this is achievable by adding EITHER lcd.setLED1Pin(HIGH) OR lcd.setLED2Pin(HIGH) - but for me, ONLY the call to lcd.setLED2Pin(HIGH) illuminates the backlight.

Others seem to be puzzling over this and missing the additional instructions in these comments.

So, just to summarize, you need to add a call to lcd.setLED2Pin(HIGH) just after the call to lcd.begin();

Other than that, it all works great... (although it's impossible to adjust the 10k pot once the LCD is plugged into the header sockets!...minor design flaw :) )

p_j_s p_j_s11 months ago

Oh yes, one other thing - your schematic has pin 8 of 595 should be connected to GND - but this isn't a problem in the veroboard layout.

Thanks for a very useful instructable.

bitterOz (author)  p_j_s11 months ago

Hi and thank-you for your comments and note of success.

Backlight. I am going to make it clearer in a coming update to this guide just how this works to avoid future confusion.

Capacitors. The joy of DC, resistance and noise. Depending on the quality of breadboards, veroboard, power supply et al will change the needs of capacitors. In reality, it is probably best to always add them however my use-case of this LCD board is for testing only, production applications are built on printed PCBs with caps. Thanks for going to the effort of adding the values to help future builders.

10k pot. Yes, it needed to go somewhere and that was the easiest place at the time, I have since swapped mine out with a right-angle pot to make it accessible (not that I have ever adjusted it beyond first-use).

GND on pin 8 of the 595. Yes, my mistake. I will update this shortly to reflect this feedback.

Thanks again. I hope you enjoy your "6-second" hookups (after an hour of building).

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