capabilities of rainbowduino


I just ordered a rainbowduino to go along with my 8x8 rgb led matrix’s. My question is what is the biggest difference between what I can do with a rainbowduino versus what I can do using just PWM with only the arduino and some shift registers? Is it mainly just brightness?



Hi Tony,

Yes it is basically a much higher output current capacity than you would get with just an arduino and some shift registers.

Apart from that the main advantages for me were:

  1. Firmware: all the basic work to get colour images and text displayed on the matrix is already done, including driving it by I2C if you need that
  2. Package: having everything (except USB input) all in one fairly small package is convenient
  3. Price: it’s cheaper than an arduino board + driver chip(s) + protoshield or PCB
  4. Chaining: if you need to chain multiple boards it is nicely set up physically to do that

I think I’m confused as to what the rainbowduino is. I thought it was an arduino add on card with registers and a led driver. But I guess what you’re saying is that it IS the arduino? Nothing else needed after it’s been programmed?

Or am I wrong?


And by Add On card I mean like a shield for the arduino. So I can use one my Arduino Mega to program the Rainbow duino?

Do I need a power supply per rainbowduino?


the rainbowduino is an arduino clone specialized in lighting up rgb led’s

it has the atmega168 on board and can be programmed with an isp or you can use the UartSB to program it.

it does require external power so if your picking one up, dont forget to have a wall wart ready or some other line of power or this little guy

you can hook up the rainbowduino to an arduino but thats only to send it commands, its not like a shield it is a stand alone unit.

hope this helps

Thanks. I’m just getting started out with these rgb matrix’s. I got 4 of them on eBay awhile back. I also picked up an Arduino Mega with a bunch of 7hc595 shift registers with the intention of making a little 16x16 “playground”. I don’t really know what I’m doing, I’ve only used the Arudino’s with USB onboard. So it sounds like I need to pick up a programming interface cable of some kind. I ordered a power supply and the breadboard adaptor along with the Rainbowduino.

Thanks for your help,