How to Program LED Light Strips: A Guide - gindestarled

How to Program LED Light Strips: A Guide

Addressable LED strip displaying different colors
Source: Pinterest

When you want to add some zest to your lighting, LED strips are always a great option to explore. They cover a much larger area than traditional light fixtures and have a diverse range of cool effects. No more boring monotone lighting for you.

That said, to enjoy the dynamic capabilities of some LED strips, you will need to program them during the initial set up. If you are not big on electronic skills that may sound a bit daunting but it does not have to be. With some guidance, you will have your programmable LED strips running in no time.

Here is a guide to help you with your set up.

Table of Contents

What Type of LED Strips Can You Program?

Addressable LED strips

As you shop for LED strips, you will come across:

RGB and RGBWW LED strips

Addressable LED strips

They are all solid choices but each offers different features. The CCT LED strip is ideal if you would like warm cozy lighting. For more color options, aim for the RGB and RGBWW LED strips. However, if you would like both color and vibrant displays, then the .go right ahead and order some addressable LED strips.

Further, among the 3, addressable LED strips are the programmable choice. This is because, unlike the other LED strips, they are controlled using data signals and not by adjusting power supply to its LEDs.

Why Do You Need to Program LED Strips?

Source: Pexel

There are hundreds of effects that you can create using addressable LED strips. Programming your LED strip gives you a chance to decide which of these possibilities you would like to implement. Think of it as customizing how your LED strips work as opposed to them working arbitrarily.

Programming Tools

An Arduino unit on a laptop

For the programming process and subsequent control of the LED strips, you will need:

An Arduino interface

A computer

An addressable LED strip

A 5V power source – if you intend to run a lengthy LED strip

The Set-Up

An illustration of an Arduino controller set up

Arduino is an open-source interface with a physical board that is controlled using software. It is connected to a computer to enable you to manipulate the software to program the LED strip.

In essence, the Arduino is being applied as a microcontroller. The code you input on the computer is relayed to the physical board of the Arduino which relays it to the addressable LED strip as a data signal.

The resistor is between the Arduino and the LED strip is meant to protect the addressable LED strip from power surges. It also helps to reduce the annoying vibrating hum that sometimes occurs in such connections.

Finally, the 5V extra power supply is essential if your connection is going to be lengthy. This is because more addressable LED strips may have a higher current draw than what the Arduino can supply.

The Programming

A person writing code on a computer
Source: Pexels

As opposed to writing software from scratch which would require significant skill, there are libraries that you can download. The term library here refers to software that is like a sketch with a basic programming framework. Once you install it, you can then add some code to create your preferred effects.

On the computer, add the downloaded library to the Arduino library folder. Open the library and use the steps below to navigate the initial set up.

On the second line of code, put in how many LEDs you are running.

Specify the type of LED strip you are running based on the integrated circuit chip of your addressable LED strip. Examples include WS2812 and WS2812b.

Specify what PIN on the Arduino is connected to the data pin of the addressable LED strip. This maps out a path for the control prompts to follow.

Enter the order of the colors you would like the LED strip to display. For example, Blue, Green, Red.

Name your code. This will be the same name as you entered in step 2 with the number of LEDs again in the end; this is meant to specify how many LEDs the data signal is to be relayed to.

The Arduino ‘reads’ and executes the code line by line and so it is important to follow the steps in sequence. Once you have this initial set up in place, you could choose to copy-paste code if you feel out of your depth with writing your own. Some effects you could create through programming include RGB chase, rainbow, or a blue and orange flash.


At first glance, programming can seem extremely complex and impossible for an average user. However, as you may have gleaned from this guide, anyone can do it. As you practice and learn from other user’s coding, you will get an even firmer grasp of how to navigate it. Lastly, remember to always adhere to safety precautions and connection recommendations as specified by your preferred LED strip manufacturer.

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