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Node-Pixel Installation Guide


Depending on the board you are using and what you are trying to achieve, there are two ways of using node-pixel.

The custom firmata method assumes you are using an arduino and you just want to add addressable LED support to the way firmata works already. This is a good option if you want to play with NeoPixels and you aren't doing much more than controlling LEDs. The downside of this approach is that Firmata has a lot of support already in it for a range of devices so you will be limited in the number of pixels you can control. In addition, the pixel library will block at times, so your framerate will always be limited.

The backpack method provides I2C support to a strip of WS2812 pixels and will work with any board that has I2C IO support. The benefit of this approach is that it offloads the LED processing to a dedicated board and can support more pixels and much higher framerate. The downside is you will require an arduino or other atmega board of some type (eg Pro Mini, Nano etc) to run the pixels. These boards can be had for about $2 with a bit of searching.


It is assumed you have an Arduino or similar board.

For the purposes of this guide I will assume you're using Adafruit NeoPixels and I'm going to assume you've read the NeoPixel Uber Guide as it has just about everything you need to know in it from a hardware perspective. Standard WS2812b LEDs from any other supplier will work just as well.

I'm going to assume you have NodeJS all ready to go too and you've gone through the Johnny-Five getting started guide.

Get the node-pixel code

As per most NodeJS projects you can either clone the repo;

git clone
cd node-pixel
npm install

or just install from npm

npm install node-pixel

Install firmware to your board

The first thing you'll need is Interchange to manage the firmware for your target board. Find out more about what Interchange does here..

To install, run npm install -g nodebots-interchange from your project folder.

Now plug in your board and you can install the firmware to it. For the purposes of this doc it's assumed you have an Arduino Nano.

I2C Backpack

This is the preferred set up as it can run more pixels faster than a normal arduino having to manage pixels AND firmata at the same time. To install:

interchange install git+ -a nano

Node Pixel Firmata

If you don't have a spare board to dedicate to your LEDs, you can run the node-pixel firmware inside Firmata. This does limit how many pixels you can drive and your framerate but is a good starting out option.

interchange install git+ -a uno --firmata

If everything proceeds without error then you should be good to go.

Hardware installation

With the hardware off, attach your pixels to the arduino. Usually this involves getting a 5V source, a ground and then attaching the data line to an arduino digital pin. The default configuration assumes PIN 6 however this is configurable.

Wiring diagram

Custom Firmata Diagram

I2C Backpack Installation

This installation method installs a custom "Backpack" firmware onto an arduino Nano or Pro Mini which is then connected to the board using I2C connections.

Open up the arduino IDE, navigate to firmware/build/backpack/ and open backpack.ino. This will bring in all the required dependencies.

Note that before you compile you may need to change your board type and port if you are used to using only Uno boards.

Compile, check for errors and then upload to your arduino. Assuming no errors you should be ready to go.

Hardware installation

For the purposes of this Board will mean the board that is talking to NodeJS and Backpack will mean the custom arduino used to provide I2C support.

With the hardware off, attach your pixels to the Backpack. Usually this involves getting a 5V source, a ground and then attaching the data line to an arduino digital pin. The default configuration assumes PIN 0 (NOTE this is NOT configurable).

Connect the grounds of the Board and Backpack as well as the SDA and SCK pins. (You will need to look at your board and backpack pin out diagrams to see what these are).

Depending on your Board you may be able to power the Backpack by providing 5V out to the 5v pin on the Backpack or you may need to supply that separately.

Note: Because of an I2C bug you must change the I2C baudrate on the Raspberry Pi and Pi 2. Edit /boot/config.txt to include the following line and reboot your Pi:


I2C Backpack Diagram

Using the library

Now you're set up, it's time to use some JS to manipulate the LEDs.

To use the library, require it per normal:

var pixel = require("node-pixel");

The main readme has more detailed instructions around the api.