6 Displays to Output Data From Your Arduino

Ian Buckley 12-10-2017

So, you’ve got an Arduino. You’ve learned some of the basics, maybe you have followed a beginner’s guide Getting Started With Arduino: A Beginner's Guide Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. Read More to get you started. What next?


Adding a display to your Arduino can serve many purposes. Since a common use for microcontrollers is reading data from sensors, a display allows you to see this data in real time without needing to use the serial monitor within the Arduino IDE. It also allows you to give your projects a personal touch with text, images, or even interactivity through a touch screen.

Many Arduino starter kits What’s Included In An Arduino Starter Kit? [MakeUseOf Explains] I have previously introduced the Arduino open-source hardware here on MakeUseOf, but you’re going need more than just the actual Arduino to build something out of it and actually get started. Arduino "starter kits" are... Read More come with some form of simple display. There are also a variety of pre-built Arduino shields The Top 4 Arduino Shields To Superpower Your Projects You’ve bought an Arduino starter kit, you’ve followed all the basic guides, but now you’ve hit a stumbling block - you need more bits and bobs to realise your electronics dream. Luckily, if you have... Read More which have screens incorporated into them. While we have covered larger displays designed for the Raspberry Pi How to Setup Your Raspberry Pi Touchscreen The Raspberry Pi comes with a variety of useful add-ons, but one piece of kit that has proved particularly popular is the Raspberry Pi 7-inch Touchscreen Display. Here's how to set one up. Read More previously, there are several options available which are better suited to Arduino based projects.

In this article we will take you through the different types of display available, where to get them, and how to set them up.

1. Liquid Crystal Display

The liquid crystal display (LCD) is the most common display to find in DIY projects and home appliances alike. This is no surprise as they are simple to operate, low powered, and incredibly cheap.

This type of display can vary in design. Some are larger, with more character spaces and rows, some come with a backlight. Most attach directly to the board through 8 or 12 connections to the Arduino pins, making them incompatible with boards with fewer pins available. In this instance, buy a screen with an I2C adapter, allowing control using only 4 pins.

arduino display lcd

Available for only a few dollars (or as little as $1.95 on Aliexpress with included I2C adapter), these simple displays can be used to give realtime feedback to any project.

The screens are capable of a large variety of preset characters which cover most use cases in a variety of languages. Control your LCD using the Liquid Crystal Library provided by Arduino. The display() and noDisplay() methods write to the LCD, as shown in the official tutorial on the Arduino website.

arduino display lcd

Note: If you are using an I2C adapter for your LCD screen you will need to use the LiquidCrystal_I2C library instead.

If you prefer video tutorials, Circuit Basics have a great run through of setting up and using a 16×2 LCD:

2. Seven-Segment Displays

Are you looking for something simple to display numbers and a few basic characters? Maybe you are looking for something with that old school arcade feel? A seven-segment display might suit your needs.

If you haven’t come across these handy little displays before, our Buzz Wire Game uses one to display the game status:

These simple boards are made up of 7 LEDs (8 if you include the dot), and work much like normal LEDs with a common Anode or Cathode connection. This allows them to take one connection to V+ (or GND for common cathode) and be controlled from the pins of your Arduino. By combining these pins in code, you can create numbers and several letters, along with more abstract designs — anything you can dream up using the segments available!

For a full primer on how these displays work, look no further than this extensive beginner’s guide from AllAboutCircuits.

For a video guide to follow along with, Kristian Blåsol dedicated an episode of his Anything Arduino series to seven-segment displays:

3. 5110 Display

Next on our list is the 5110 display, also affectionately known as the Nokia display due to its wide use in the beloved and nigh indestructible Nokia 3310.

arduino display 5110

These tiny LCD screens are monochrome and have a screen size of 84 x 48 pixels, but don’t let that fool you. Coming in at under $2 on Aliexpress, these displays are incredibly cheap and usually come with a backlight as standard.

Depending on which library you use, the screen can display multiple lines of text in various fonts. It’s also capable of displaying images, and there is free software designed to help get your creations on screen. While the refresh rate is too slow for detailed animations, these screens are hardy enough to be included in long-term, always-on projects.

Sparkfun have an extensive guide to using these little LCDs, or for a quick introduction to the 5110, check out this video from MKMe Lab:

4. OLED Displays

For a step up in resolution and functionality, an OLED display might be what you are looking for. At first glance, these screens look similar to the 5110 screens, but they are a significant upgrade. The standard 0.96 Inch screens are 128 x 64 monochrome, and come with a backlight as standard.

They connect to your Arduino using I2C, meaning that alongside the V+ and GND pins, only two further pins are required to communicate with the screen. With various sizes and full color options available, these displays are incredibly versatile.

arduino display oled

For a project to get you started with OLED displays, our Electronic D20 build will teach you everything you need to know — and you’ll end up with the ultimate geeky digital dice for your gaming sessions!

These displays can be used in the same way as the others we have mentioned so far, but their refresh rate allows for much more ambitious projects. The basic monochrome screen is available on Amazon.

LANMU OLED LCD Display, 0.96" I2C IIC SPI Serial 128X64 White OLED LCD Shield Board OLED Module for Arduino 51 Msp420 Stim32 SCR LANMU OLED LCD Display, 0.96" I2C IIC SPI Serial 128X64 White OLED LCD Shield Board OLED Module for Arduino 51 Msp420 Stim32 SCR Buy Now On Amazon


Thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal displays (TFT LCDs) are in many ways another step up in quality when it comes to options for adding a screen to your Arduino. Available with or without touchscreen functionality, they also add the ability to load bitmap files from an on-board micro SD card slot.

Arduino have an official guide for setting up their non-touchscreen TFT LCD screen. For a video tutorial teaching you the basics of setting up the touchscreen version, YouTuber has you covered:

With the basic version of these screens costing less than $4, and the touchscreen editions coming in at under $10 [Broken Link Removed], these displays are another great choice for when you need a nice looking display for your project.

6. E-Paper Displays

Looking for something a little different? An E-paper (or E-ink depending on who you ask) display might be right for you. These screens differ from the others giving a much more natural reading experience, it is no surprise that this technology is the cornerstone of almost every e-reader available.

arduino display e-ink

The reason these displays look so good is down to the way they function. Each “pixel” contains charged particles between two electrodes. By switching the charge of each electrode you can influence the negatively charged black particles to swap places with the positively charged white particles.

This is what gives e-paper such a natural feel. As a bonus, once the ink is moved to its location, it uses no power to keep it there. This makes these displays naturally low power to operate.

These hi-tech displays do come at a higher cost, with the 4.3-inch Waveshare screen coming in at over $50. For a full rundown of how to wire up and program these displays, YouTuber once again is here to help:

Screen Dreams

This article has covered most options available for Arduino displays, though there are definitely more weird and wonderful ways to add feedback to your DIY devices.

Now that you have an idea what is out there, why not incorporate a screen into your DIY smart home set up How to Remote Control Your Home With an Arduino, 5 DIY Projects The smart home revolution is happening now! We show you how to make your own smart home gadgets using nothing more than a simple Arduino. Read More ? If retro gaming is more your thing, why not create your own tiny version of retro classic Pong on the Arduino Arduino Retro Gaming With an OLED Display Ever wondered just how much work it takes to write your own retro games? How easy is Pong to code for the Arduino? Read More ?

The possibilities are endless, and we’d love to hear how you incorporated any of these displays into your projects. Have you come up with an unusual use for an Arduino Display? Are you using a screen we simply didn’t think of in your project?

Let us know in the comment section below!

Whatsapp Pinterest

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!

Enter your Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Andrew Mitchell
    January 30, 2019 at 11:59 am

    One big problem with the 128 x 64 OLED is the vulnerability of the edge of the glass in the post, some shippers just put them rattling around loose in a jiffy bag! If buying on eBay, choose a supplier who states they will be packed securely (I've found one who uses a plastic case, inside a cardboard box).

  2. Andrew Mitchell
    January 30, 2019 at 11:53 am

    One thing to consider is the display buffer required, which can eat into available memory on the Arduino. The 7-segment LED is best for this, followed by the text LCD. OLEDs require a substantial buffer when used in graphics mode, but text only libraries exist to reduce this overhead. One factor for 7-segment LED displays is the larger number of pins required (unless you multiplex the digital output and have a decoder chip to drive the display(s), the illustrated 4 digit display would require 28 digital outputs (assuming the decimal points are not used), only possible on larger Arduinos such as the Mega. 14 or 16-segment "starburst" LED displays are available which can be used similarly to the 7 segment displays, but can display the whole alphabet.

  3. Derek Read
    June 4, 2018 at 11:14 pm

    One thing to note about e-paper is that the refresh is typically very slow when compared to LCD or TFT. So, while amazing for reading and viewing images don't plan on displaying video on one, or even intermittently updated content (unless you plan to shell out some big money, or write smart code that updates partial sections if the screen supports that).

    The fastest refresh rate I've seen quoted for a typical inexpensive 800x600px module is 1.5 seconds, though many average around 15 seconds and some even take up to 27 seconds. Dimensions are not necessarily the deciding factor either, as smaller screens typically come with slower processors (the slowest I've seen is 157x157px with 3 colours, the one that takes 27 seconds to fully refresh).