WS2812 / NeoPixel Addressable LEDs: Arduino Quickstart Guide

Updated 29 April 2022

This tutorial is aimed at getting some instant gratification from your WS2812 LEDs (also known as NeoPixels). I'll briefly cover a bare-bones setup for Arduino.

If you've never used an Arduino before, we've got you covered with our free, online Arduino Workshop for Beginners.

Parts Required for this Project

Connecting the LEDs

You will need to use an external 5V power source, as NeoPixels take a LOT of power. Each pixel will draw about 20mA on average, and 60mA at white - max brightness. 30 Pixels will draw 600mA on average, and up to 1.8A. Ensure your power supply is large enough to drive your strip!

Here's the wiring used in the video (click for hi-res):


The Code

The Adafruit NeoPixel library should be built-in to your Arduino IDE, but if you're not up to date, you may need to install it. This is super easy with the Arduino library manager. Navigate to Sketch > Include Library > Manage Libraries... and then search for "Adafruit NeoPixel." Locate the library and click Install.

The following code is the strandtest example. You can either copy and paste from here, or find the example (amongst others) in the Arduino IDE: File > Examples > Adafruit NeoPixel > strandtest 

#include <Adafruit_NeoPixel.h>
#ifdef __AVR__
  #include <avr/power.h>

#define PIN 6

// Parameter 1 = number of pixels in strip
// Parameter 2 = Arduino pin number (most are valid)
// Parameter 3 = pixel type flags, add together as needed:
//   NEO_KHZ800  800 KHz bitstream (most NeoPixel products w/WS2812 LEDs)
//   NEO_KHZ400  400 KHz (classic 'v1' (not v2) FLORA pixels, WS2811 drivers)
//   NEO_GRB     Pixels are wired for GRB bitstream (most NeoPixel products)
//   NEO_RGB     Pixels are wired for RGB bitstream (v1 FLORA pixels, not v2)
//   NEO_RGBW    Pixels are wired for RGBW bitstream (NeoPixel RGBW products)
Adafruit_NeoPixel strip = Adafruit_NeoPixel(60, PIN, NEO_GRB + NEO_KHZ800);

// IMPORTANT: To reduce NeoPixel burnout risk, add 1000 uF capacitor across
// pixel power leads, add 300 - 500 Ohm resistor on first pixel's data input
// and minimize distance between Arduino and first pixel.  Avoid connecting
// on a live circuit...if you must, connect GND first.

void setup() {
  // This is for Trinket 5V 16MHz, you can remove these three lines if you are not using a Trinket
  #if defined (__AVR_ATtiny85__)
    if (F_CPU == 16000000) clock_prescale_set(clock_div_1);
  // End of trinket special code

  strip.setBrightness(50);; // Initialize all pixels to 'off'

void loop() {
  // Some example procedures showing how to display to the pixels:
  colorWipe(strip.Color(255, 0, 0), 50); // Red
  colorWipe(strip.Color(0, 255, 0), 50); // Green
  colorWipe(strip.Color(0, 0, 255), 50); // Blue
//colorWipe(strip.Color(0, 0, 0, 255), 50); // White RGBW
  // Send a theater pixel chase in...
  theaterChase(strip.Color(127, 127, 127), 50); // White
  theaterChase(strip.Color(127, 0, 0), 50); // Red
  theaterChase(strip.Color(0, 0, 127), 50); // Blue


// Fill the dots one after the other with a color
void colorWipe(uint32_t c, uint8_t wait) {
  for(uint16_t i=0; i<strip.numPixels(); i++) {
    strip.setPixelColor(i, c);;

void rainbow(uint8_t wait) {
  uint16_t i, j;

  for(j=0; j<256; j++) {
    for(i=0; i<strip.numPixels(); i++) {
      strip.setPixelColor(i, Wheel((i+j) & 255));

// Slightly different, this makes the rainbow equally distributed throughout
void rainbowCycle(uint8_t wait) {
  uint16_t i, j;

  for(j=0; j<256*5; j++) { // 5 cycles of all colors on wheel
    for(i=0; i< strip.numPixels(); i++) {
      strip.setPixelColor(i, Wheel(((i * 256 / strip.numPixels()) + j) & 255));

//Theatre-style crawling lights.
void theaterChase(uint32_t c, uint8_t wait) {
  for (int j=0; j<10; j++) {  //do 10 cycles of chasing
    for (int q=0; q < 3; q++) {
      for (uint16_t i=0; i < strip.numPixels(); i=i+3) {
        strip.setPixelColor(i+q, c);    //turn every third pixel on


      for (uint16_t i=0; i < strip.numPixels(); i=i+3) {
        strip.setPixelColor(i+q, 0);        //turn every third pixel off

//Theatre-style crawling lights with rainbow effect
void theaterChaseRainbow(uint8_t wait) {
  for (int j=0; j < 256; j++) {     // cycle all 256 colors in the wheel
    for (int q=0; q < 3; q++) {
      for (uint16_t i=0; i < strip.numPixels(); i=i+3) {
        strip.setPixelColor(i+q, Wheel( (i+j) % 255));    //turn every third pixel on


      for (uint16_t i=0; i < strip.numPixels(); i=i+3) {
        strip.setPixelColor(i+q, 0);        //turn every third pixel off

// Input a value 0 to 255 to get a color value.
// The colours are a transition r - g - b - back to r.
uint32_t Wheel(byte WheelPos) {
  WheelPos = 255 - WheelPos;
  if(WheelPos < 85) {
    return strip.Color(255 - WheelPos * 3, 0, WheelPos * 3);
  if(WheelPos < 170) {
    WheelPos -= 85;
    return strip.Color(0, WheelPos * 3, 255 - WheelPos * 3);
  WheelPos -= 170;
  return strip.Color(WheelPos * 3, 255 - WheelPos * 3, 0);


Upload to your Arduino (make sure you have the right board and COM port and board selected from the Tools menu) and if all goes well your LEDs will start the test pattern!

If you run into any troubles, be sure to reach out in the comments section below. We're full-time makers and we're here to help!

Going Further

Are you looking to add WS2812/NeoPixel LEDs to your other project but you aren't using a Arduino? Check out our other guides to get you started on other hardware types:

Need to take one step back and figure out what these fandangled NeoPixels even are? Check out our What Are NeoPixel LEDs Guide!

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