Introduction: Your Image on an Arduino! - TFT LCD Screen Guide

About: White House Maker Faire // 20 years old // U.C. Berkeley Junior in M.E.T. program. CEO of Qtechknow, maker and electronics enthusiast, I teach Arduino classes, and put making into schools! My successful Qduino…

Have you ever heard of TFT LCD screens?  They are great ways to display information from your Arduino, or display pictures.  The Arduino team just released an official TFT LCD screen with their new Robot at Maker Faire 2013.  It's very easy to get started with!!  This tutorial will show you how to get the LCD up and running, load information from the SD card, and make a few simple projects.

The TFT LCD screen is a great way to detach your computer, and have the Arduino relay information that you need to know onto the LCD.  A great part of the LCD is that it has a built in microSD card socket.  You can store images on the microSD card socket, and even some text!

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Step 1: Parts & Tools

To make the project, you will need the following:


Arduino UNO (Amazon, $22)
Arduino TFT LCD Screen (Arduino Store, ~$28)
ArduSensor Pot (Qtechknow, $8)
Half Sized Breadboard (Amazon, $5.50)
microSD Card 2GB (optional, Amazon, ~$6)
Jumper Wires


USB-B Cable
microSD Card Adapter & USB SD card reader

Step 2: TFT LCD Basics

TFT LCD Screens (Thin-film-transistor liquid crystal display) are great graphical displays to display information.  They are a variant of a liquid crystal display (LCD) which uses TFT technology to improve image qualities such as addressability and contrast.  They are used often in video games, smartphones, cell phones, and sometimes even TV's.  Now, with the technology and accessibility today, you can use one with your Arduino!

LCDs, or liquid crystal displays, are easy to use with your Arduino.  They are a very simple ways of telling the user data from the Arduino.  Standard 16x2 character LCDs are found in grocery stores, when the display tells you what you bought as the cashier scans each item, and how much it costs.

Step 3: Displaying Instructables Logo

For the first example, let's put the Instructables Logo on our TFT display!  Download the zip file below, and put it onto a microSD Card (2GB).  You will probably a microSD to SD Card adapter.  There is no special software needed, just copy and paste it onto the card.

Next, open up the Arduino IDE.  You'll need Arduino 1.0.5 or better to run the sketches.  Open up the InstructablesTFT example.  

Hook up the circuit above from the Arduino TFT LCD to your Arduino UNO.

Then, upload the sketch.  After you open the Serial Monitor, the LCD should have the Instructables Logo on it!

Step 4: Sensor Readings

Let's try another example.  This time, we'll be mimicking the Serial Monitor on our TFT LCD.  Keep the same circuit, and then upload the new code below.  

This sketch will gather the reading from the ArduSensor Pot, and then relay it onto the TFT LCD screen 10 times per second.  This is a great way to display data without a computer.

Step 5: Reading the SD Card

Next, let's read the microSD card on its own.  The Arduino TFT LCD actually has an microSD card reader on board, so let's see what's on it!

Open up the CardInfo sketch from the Arduino program; File>Examples>SD>CardInfo.  Upload this to your Arduino, and then open the serial monitor in the Arduino program.  

You should see all of the information of your microSD card pop up!!!  These numbers should be how much memory is in your SD card, what files are in it, etc.

Step 6: Finished!

I hope that you learned a bunch from this tutorial, and that you'll consider making a project with the awesome Arduino TFT LCD Screen!

If you make a project, please post it in the comments!

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