The NeoBoard





Introduction: The NeoBoard

The NeoBoard is a 16x16 pixel board that displays various animations and images. This project was inspired by the other similar pixel-board style displays, such as the PixelBrite and the Game Frame.

Step 1: Specs, Materials, and Tools


Below you will find a brief overview of the project materials and tools. More details concerning tools, materials, costs, and design can be found in the appropriate step.

Specs of Pixel Board:

  • Resolution: 16x16
  • Size: 305mm x 305mm x 60mm
  • Weight: <5lbs


  • Arduino Pro Mini
  • 256 RGB LEDs
  • SD Card Reader Module
  • Cardboard
  • Foam Board
  • Acrylic Board
  • 1"x3"x8' Board
  • Glue (Wood + Hot Glue)
  • Power Switch (Optional)
  • Potentiometer (Optional)

  • Breadboard

  • SD Card (Cannot be High Capacity)


  • Laser Cutter
  • Soldering Iron
  • Wire Cutter
  • Wire Stripper
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Miter Saw
  • Table Saw
  • Trim Gun
  • Drill

Step 2: Cost of Build

    These are the approximate costs for the materials. If you do not have access to certain tools (such as a laser cutter), your costs may be higher.

    • Arduino Pro Mini = $10
    • 256 RBG LEDs (60/strip x 5 strips @ $8/strip) = $40
    • SD Card Reader Module Slot Socket for Arduino = $3
    • Cardboard = Free
    • Foam Board (Optional) = $2
    • Acrylic Board = $5
    • 1"x3"x8' = $5
    • Glue = $5
    • Power Switch (Optional) = $2
    • Potentiometer (Optional) = $2

    Total = <$71

    Many of these materials (such as the glue, foam board, etc), I overestimated on. I built my NeoBoard for less than $50, using salvaged parts and having people donate to my project.

    Step 3: Constructing the Grid


    The purpose of the grid is to separate the individual LEDs from one another, creating a crisp, modular, look to the NeoBoard. If you choose not to use the grid then the light from the LEDs will "blend" together, which also looks pretty cool. This step, including cutting and weaving, should take less than thirty minutes.

    Materials, Tools, and Design

    You can use any material that you want (I used an old pizza box), but the files that I have included accounts for a 1mm thick material. You will need approximately two square feet of material to produce the 30 walls that make the 16x16 grid. I designed my schematic in Inkscape and I used a laser cutter to cut my pizza box cardboard. Notice that the NeoBoardGrid.svg only has one wall in it. The file should be adjusted to accommodate the maximum number of walls (up to 30) that you can print at one time.


    After the 30 walls have been cut in your laser cutter, you will then need to "weave" them together. The material will flex a lot, so be careful not to bend or crush the grid as you weave them together.

    Step 4: Screen Design and Construction


    The screen is the heart to the NeoBoard because it will be the medium that will display your image or animation. The screen is composed of 16 rows of 16 individual RGB LEDs. The adhesive strips of LEDs that I used were spaced at a rate of 60/m. When constructing the screen, each LED has to be equal distance from one another so that each will have their own cell in the grid. For my strips, this was 16.6mm from each other.The time to complete the LED screen is about 1.5hrs.

    Materials and Tools

    • 256 RGB LEDs
    • Wire
    • Solder
    • Foam Board
    • Soldering Iron
    • Wire Stripper
    • Wire Cutter
    • Hot Glue Gun (Optional)


    1. Cut sixteen strips of LEDs, each strip having 16 LEDs apiece.
    2. Cut your piece of foam board to 280x280mm (I used a laser cutter). This will be where the LEDs are placed.
    3. Cut 15 sections of wire about 1.5" long, with each piece of wire containing three individual wires (for your GND, 5V, and DATA). This will be used to connect each row of LEDs to one another.


    1. Place the first strip of LEDs at the top of your foam board, making sure that the data flow (the little arrows on the LED strips) is moving left to right.
    2. Place your second strip below the first with the data flow arrows are moving right to left (opposite of the first). You should place this strip far enough away from the first to allow each of the LEDs to fall into their own cell when the grid is placed over it.
    3. Continue this process until all the strips are placed on the foam board. Remember to "snake" the strips. No two adjacent strips should have the data arrows flowing in the same direction.
    4. Solder each strip to one another, following the same snaking pattern. This should effectively make one long strip. See the image for more details.

    Step 5: Building the Frame


    The frame houses all of your components, securely holds an acrylic window, and provides the NeoBoard with a clean look.

    Materials, Tools, and Design

    • Wood (1"x3"x8')
    • Acrylic (4mm thick)
    • Miter Saw
    • Table Saw
    • Laser Cutter
    • Drill
    • Wood Glue
    • Nail Gun
    • Paper


    1. Using the wood, cut four boards that measure 305mm in length with 45 degree angles at each ends.
    2. Using the table saw, cut a 5mm groove into the board. Make sure not to cut too close to the edge, as this might split the board (Cut further than 10mm from the edge to be safe). This groove is where the acrylic window will sit.
    3. Use a laser cutter to cut an acrylic sheet into a 285mm square.
    4. Glue three pieces of the wood together, joining them together at the ends to create a "U" shape.
    5. Slide the acrylic window into the "U" shape and place the final piece of wood. This should permanently seal the piece of acrylic, so make sure everything lines up correctly!
    6. Use a nail gun with shorter trim nails (I used 3/4" trim nails) to the pieces of wood together.
    7. If you plan on adding buttons, drill holes in the appropriate areas. I drilled two holes, one for a power switch and another for a potentiometer.
    8. Finish the frame by cutting a 278mm square with paper using scissors or the laser cutter. This paper screen will be placed between the acrylic window and the grid, helping to disperse the light.

    Step 6: The Code and Wiring


    The code was developed using Processing and Arduino. To convert your own image or animation from a regular picture (or string of pictures), you need to first convert the image into a language that the Arduino can read from our SD card. After that, it is simply drag and drop to the SD card and the Arduino will do the rest!

    Wiring the NeoBoard, SD Module, Arduino, and everything else together is fairly straightforward. Included in the pictures you will find a pinout for the Arduino to SD Module.

    Materials and Preparation

    • Arduino
    • SD Card Reader Module
    • Breadboard
    • SD Card
    • Wires
    • Power Switch (Optional)
    • Potentiometer (Optional)

    Wiring the NeoBoard

    1. Using your Arduino, Breadboard, and SD Card Module, follow the pinout provided in the images.
    2. Connect your LEDs to the Arduino (5V, GND, PIN 6).
    3. The NeoBoard is ready to use.
    4. I added an external power input, capacitor, power switch, and potentiometer to my NeoBoard. This explains why I used two breadboards and had a plethora of wires.

    Using Processing

    The code for the NeoBoard is fairly simple. The Arduino reads text files from the SD card and displays them on through the LEDs.

    1. To convert your images (from .jpg, .bmp, etc) follow the instructions that are found in the Processing code.
    2. After you have converted your images into .txt files, you will need to load them onto your SD card.
    3. Once the SD card is loaded with the .txt files and the Arduino is loaded with its code.
    4. Plug and play.

    Step 7: Testing and Sample Images

    I have included some sample images. Just download the files and put them on your SD card! Enjoy!

    4 People Made This Project!


    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Clocks Contest

      Clocks Contest

    21 Discussions

    Hey man can it be made with the led strips that are 12v,r,g,b (the ones that have 4 cables)?

    I have attempted to build this asked on your instructions. I have e an issue that although the arduino reads the files from the card, there is never an output to the strip. I have hooked up everything as it should be, and tested the strip sith the adafruit code, but I still get nothing. I have e commented out the dim code and inserted my own code to set the brightness, but still nothing. what might I be doing wrong?

    Glad to help you. Yes, the picture must be 16x16p size.

    I am excited that I came across this project. I was working on a similar project and was searching for help and how to add additional storage to my arduino. I have a question about the conversion script that you provided. Is there a size requirement for the original image to be converted? I tried a couple images, but the txt export was all zeros. Thank you for this tutorial and your feedback.

    This is really a neat project. I have everything required laying around. Next rainy day, it's on. TFS!

    1 reply

    Awesome! Take some pictures and let me know if you have any questions. Good luck and happy making!

    can the foam board be replaced by a normal cardboard??
    And would there be a problem if I decide to do a 18x15board??

    Please answer

    2 replies

    Yes, you can use any material (foam board, cardboard, plastic) as a backing for the LEDs. I used foam board because it was fairly rigid, light weight, and could easily be cut on a laser cutter.

    I do not think that there would be a problem with changing from my 16x16 to a 18x15 board. Obviously the code would need to be maintained, but if you keep with the "snaking" pattern than it should work.

    Good luck!

    Would it be possible to have an image or video in a Processing sketch and this image be relayed live to the 16x16 display?

    Can you post a link to the lights you used please? I am familiar with 2801 led lights (neopixels) but they are not $8 for a strip of 60.

    3 replies

    According to your link the roll of 60 Addressable LED is $41.50. Neoixel are more costly than the regular 2812 RGB LED.


    NIce one really, like it!! You've just gave me a great idea!!


    2 years ago

    Love it. This project would recieve more interest if the video wasnt as hidden.

    2 replies

    I agree, move the video higher up so you don't have to click a button to see it exists. I love instructables that have the video front and center. Again, great project!

    Epic! I might not know how to do all that!

    This is awesome, I was just looking for this specific project and you just put it up! Make sure and enter into some contests so I can vote for you!