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Python bindings for RGB Matrix library


If you have a different than the standard wiring (for instance if you have an Adafruit HAT), you can edit the ../../lib/Makefile first to choose the hardware in question (see below for setting it via command line argument).

Then, in the root directory for the matrix library simply type:

Python 2

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install python2.7-dev python-pillow -y
make build-python
sudo make install-python

Python 3

You can also build for Python 3:

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install python3-dev python3-pillow -y
make build-python PYTHON=$(which python3)
sudo make install-python PYTHON=$(which python3)


The cython binding to PyPy seems to be somewhat working but extremely slow (20x slower even than the regular Python binding, 160x slower than C++), so this is not recommended.

So Cython is not good together with PyPy which works best with a CFFI binding. @Duality4Y did an experiment here which works well with PyPy and is about twice as fast as running Python3+cython (but Python3+cffi is slower than Python3+cython, so we can't just replace everything with cffi).

Of course, it would be nice to have the fastest possible binding to all kinds of Python interpreters. If anyone wants to work on that, this would certainly be a welcome pull request.


The simplicity of scripting comes at a price: Python is slower than C++ of course. If you have to do a lot of pixel updates in your demo, this can be too slow depending on what you do. Here are some rough numbers for calling SetPixel() in a tight loop:

  • On a Pi-2 and Pi-3, a Python script will be about 1/8 of the speed compared to the corresponding C++ program (pushing ~0.43 Megapixels/s Python vs. ~3.5 Megapixels/s C++ on a Pi-3 for instance)
  • On a Pi-1, the difference is even worse: 1/24 of the speed to the corresponding C++ program. Given that the Pi-1 is already about 1/10 the speed of a Pi-3, this almost makes Python unusable on a Pi-1 (~0.015 Megapixels/s Python vs. ~0.36 Megapixels/s C++)
  • Also interesting: Python3 is a little bit slower than Python2.7. So if you can, stick with Python2.7 for now.
  • The good news is, that this is due to overhead per function call. If you can do more per function call, then this is less problematic. For instance if you have an image to be displayed with SetImage(), that will much faster per pixel (internally this then copies the pixels natively).

The ~0.015 Megapixels/s on a Pi-1 means that you can update a 32x32 matrix at most with ~15fps. If you have chained 5, then you barely reach 3fps. In a Pi-3, you get about 400fps update rate (85fps for 5-chain) with a Python program (while with C++, you can do the same thing with a comfortable 3500fps (700fps for 5)). Keep in mind that this is if all you do is just calling SetPixel(), it does not include any time of what you actually want to do in your demo - so anything in addition to that will drop your update rate.

If you can prepare the animation you want to show, then you can either prepare images and then use the much faster call to SetImage(), or can fill entire offscreen-frames (create with CreateFrameCanvas()) and then swap with SwapOnVSync() (this is the fastest method).

Using the library

Be aware of the fact, that using the RGBMatrix requires root privileges. Therefore you will need to run all you python scripts as using sudo.

You find examples in the samples/ subdirectory. The examples all use the that provides some utility to all example programs, such as command-line parsing: all sample-programs accept --led-rows, --led-chain and --led-parallel as command line options to adapt to your configuration

cd samples
sudo ./ --led-chain=4

To use different wiring without recompiling the library to change the default, you can use --led-gpio-mapping (or -m). For example, to use Adafruit HAT:

sudo ./ --led-gpio-mapping=adafruit-hat

Here a complete example how to write an image viewer:

#!/usr/bin/env python
import time
import sys

from rgbmatrix import RGBMatrix, RGBMatrixOptions
from PIL import Image

if len(sys.argv) < 2:
    sys.exit("Require an image argument")
    image_file = sys.argv[1]

image =

# Configuration for the matrix
options = RGBMatrixOptions()
options.rows = 32
options.chain_length = 1
options.parallel = 1
options.hardware_mapping = 'regular'  # If you have an Adafruit HAT: 'adafruit-hat'

matrix = RGBMatrix(options = options)

# Make image fit our screen.
image.thumbnail((matrix.width, matrix.height), Image.ANTIALIAS)


    print("Press CTRL-C to stop.")
    while True:
except KeyboardInterrupt: