LCD Chalkboard Smart Sign: Running Magic Mirror on a Raspberry Pi ZeroW




Introduction: LCD Chalkboard Smart Sign: Running Magic Mirror on a Raspberry Pi ZeroW

About: hobbyist

I have been using various microcontrollers for wearable projects and have not ventured into the realm of Raspberry PI. ( which is odd, because I LOVE pie... I digress)

For my 1st raspberry Pi project I thought I’d try something simple and well documented, a Magic Mirror. I will not provide all of the steps verbatim, but references to sites used to guide my journey. We will learn together, as I figure out some of the glitches and add more functionality to this project.


Electronic Supplies:

  • Raspberry Pi Zero WH ( headers attached - unless you want to solder)
  • SD Card I used this sandisk
  • Raspberry pi starter kit great because it includes a case, cords and other bits and bobs. Including a power cord
  • LCD screen - scavenged from a laptop that was being brought for recycling
  • HD-MI DVI VGA Audio LCD Controller Board- I won't link to this because you need one specific to your LCD screen. The sticker on the back of the screen will give you enough information to search Amazon or Ebay for a controller DONT FORGET to get a power cord for the controller.
  • Powerstrip - Screen and Pi are powered this strip.This one has a usb powerport!!
  • HDMI cord - this is a short coiled version that is mini HDMI to HDMI ( no adapter needed)
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse- there are other options but This works best for me It has a track pad and a usb nubbin ( not a technical term)
  • Computer-- Mine is Windows 10 but most of the links also reference the Mac procedure.


  • pine board-get fancy if you like, I grabbed one at the hardware store for $6.00
  • trim molding
  • plywood sheet - probably 4x8
  • Krylon Chalkboard paint 1 qt ( more than enough) $10.98
  • Primer Paint - for the frame
  • Wood glue, Wood filler
  • Sandpaper, Foam roller
  • Nails,screws,a nail set and a hammer
  • Miterbox/saw jig saw - This worried my husband a lot, it was my 1st time using a jigsaw. I did watch some videos!!
  • Colored and White Chalk - to unleash your inner chalk artist

Step 1: Download the Image

Now, this is where I admit, I did not try to reinvent the wheel. Most of my information came from this Guy and this Guy. Fair warning, there is no graphic interface with this installation, so you will become friends with the terminal. ( You will need to know a few commands to move around.. more on that later)


This is the actual image download it. You will need to burn it on the SD card.

I don't know which OS (windows,mac) you are running so, I suggest you have a look here for guidance. If you are running Linux, you likely dont need my help sorting this out.

Step 2: Update and Configure

  1. Locate downloaded image
  2. Burn on the SD Card- I used Balena Etcher (use a card reader if you don't have a sd slot on your computer)
  3. After you load the image on the sd card. Insert card into Pi and make sure it is connected to the screen via HDMI. Make sure to power the screen and the Pi (Connect everything and connect power cords last). FYI make sure to pay close attention to the Power and USB ports on the pi, they are easy to mix up. Also insert the usb nubbin in the usb port so that you can connect you keyboard.
  4. It may take a few minutes for the program to load, maybe get a glass of water (gotta stay hydrated) . Remember it will load in the terminal, as there is no graphic user interface.
  5. This is where I will direct you to this Guy again. About midway down the page you will find this: If you want to skip all these steps, I’ve created an image file!

Follow the steps from this point :

  1. Stop the program ctrl+alt+f1
  2. Set up wifi-- If you are having trouble I also set up wifi this way
  3. Expand the image
  4. Update the pi
  5. Install modules

Dont forget to change the default password!!

Good To Know: remote access-ssh

* if you use Windows 10 to ssh into your pi, you will be interested in this.

Step 3: Modules- Add, Remove, Personalize

You may have noticed that some modules are already running and need to be updated with your information. To learn all of the changes possible for the standard modules click here. You will need to use a text editor (I used the Nano editor, its already included, just use nano command) to edit the config.js file.

The modules I chose for my project are time/date, weather, compliments news and wallpaper. FYI-Some modules require the graphic interface and might be hard to implement on the Pi ZeroW.

This Guy has listed the specifics on adding modules, however, you will have to work out how to use this information in terminal

Here are a few sites with module information that helped me:

  1. Magpi
  2. Linuxhint

Now is a good time to reference some commands. Because I had no previous experience I had no idea how to get around in terminal, so I will lay a few commands on you right now:

  • Cd---change directory
  • ls --- shows items contained in a directory
  • Arrow up --brings up previously used commands
  • Copy ----cp [options] copy_from copy_to----Replace copy_from with the file you want to copy, and copy_to for where you want to copy it to
  • ctrl+alt+f2----If your login prompt disappears ( pi@raspberripi)
  • sudo- superuser has unrestricted access youll need it to run commands
  • Nano editor- info on its use and shortcuts. There are other editors, I used this one ( its included), to edit config .js
  • Reboot- sudo shutdown-r
  • Shutdown-- sudo shutdown -h ( restarting the pi via ssh has caused some programs to run erratically and not start with this set up), this command has worked fairly consistantly, occasionally I still have to reboot when all programs dont load at startup ( Im looking at you wallpaper background!!)

There are many more commands needed so have a look at this Page and this Page. I will definitely dig into this help me understand the bits that don't work as well as I would like.

Step 4: Frame and Chalkboard


I will not give instruction on how to build a frame. Mainly because I did not follow any of the instructions found during my research. Also I used the tools I had, as opposed to the tools I needed, and as a result; if you “close on eye and lift one leg” you can see that this frame is not truly square at ALL.

My mission was to use a jigsaw, **a hole saw and a miter box/saw; and come out the other end with a 10 phalanges and a presentable box(ish) frame. Mission accomplished!!

**The hole saw was used to cut a bit of ventilation, which exposes the usb nbbin and the power button attached to the pi.

Instead, I suggest you have a look at a few videos/websites, from people that ended up with a square box and did not resort to trickery to fool the eye. This build was the closest to my frame build, however, as I am not done tinkering, I have not closed the back. And, I dont want glowing lights in my kitchen!!


This was probably the easiest part.

  1. Sand and prime wood sheet ( I let it dry 24hours)
  2. Paint on Krylon chalkboard paint, 2 coats, drying 24 hours between each coat.
  3. Use, white chalk to “prime the board. (Chalk it up and erase)
  4. a bit of paintable caulk holds the screen in nicely with the help of foam board

I have been binge watching Bob’s Burgers throughout this entire process, which explains why my smart sign is a “coffee of the day” chalkboard. As for the chalk art, I will be honoring starship captains via beverage of the day. Next up Earl Grey Tea, HOT!

Step 5: Wrapping It Up and Next Steps

Possible project UPDATES--

Things I want to add to this build ( or build a new mirror)

  1. an actual shutdown/startup button ( there is a button on the bottom that turns it on after I shut down with the keyboard command
  2. Upgrade to Pi 3B+ ( I have one already but did not want to embed it)
  3. Face recognition for multiple User-calendars
  4. Sound
  5. Voice assistant
  6. Smart home control other IOT
  7. Video feed

If you see any mistakes and want to offer help, PLEASE feel free to comment or contact me.

Each one, Teach one!!

Same with questions, but understand this is my 1st time using a PI … EVER! I am learning as I go. If you have some ideas on how I can implement some of the items above on the Pi ZeroW, by all means chime in, I'll give it a try and update these instructions… and inform the masses of your greatness!!

Well its coffee time...also now I really want pie!!

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    1 year ago on Step 5

    Mate, Excellent idea, and follow through! Really inspired, would like to try this, Have a "Tall-Boy"Cupboard, with Full size Mirrored door(5 feet high x 26 inch wide, Bevelled Glass Mirror), would like to incorporate this into my restoration, of this cupboard. Using this, at the moment, to 1, mount, my Wifi 6 Modem/Router(due to 6 foot+ height), 2 Inside Door, I have my Media Projector(attached to Laptop). Being Retired Engineer, plenty, of spare time, and have spent quite some time, with Rasberry Pi 4B(8gig memory), Arduino Micro-Controllers, and a 30 year, Computer(Linux) hobby. Luckily, still have my workshop, in my apartment

    Tall Boy + Projector.JPGTall Boy.JPG

    Reply 12 months ago

    This is great idea. My place is so small I couldn't build bigger. Please post when you complete, I'd love to see it!


    2 years ago

    This is awesome!

    I've been dragging my feet on my own magic mirror project but didn't really know why. Turns out it was so I could see this Instructable first!! The blackboard part is exactly what my version (in my head) was missing!


    Reply 2 years ago

    It was in my head for a long time as well because I didn't need another mirror in the house. Now I can change it as I see fit, even use it for game nights!


    Reply 2 years ago

    My thought exactly! Got plenty of mirrors, and the changeability is really advantageous.


    2 years ago

    Hello and congratulations on your work.But the image to download is corrupted.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Once you downloaded it did you go to the link listed in step 5?
    It is possible that you did not expand the file image?
    Listed under "If you want to skip all these steps 'I've created an image file"--- things to do after restoring. (Forgive the random photo)


    Answer 2 years ago

    This is the actual image. There was not a fee.


    Reply 2 years ago



    2 years ago

    (Second paragraph) "We will lean together,"

    Thanx, but I'd prefer to stand straight.

    (Sorry, couldn't resist *laugh*)


    Reply 2 years ago

    .🤣🤣 I've got a firm leaning game!! Hang on a tic while I have a V8 and update!! I appreciate the catch!!