Neopixels are Adafruit's brand for WS2812 indivually-addressable RGB color pixel strips. In this tutorial we will use the term Neopixel to refer to any WS2812 compatible LED strip (including the SK6812, which have an additional white LED, and thus an existing color byte for each LED).

Neopixels are connected in series. Each LED has a data input pin (DI) and a data output pin (DO). The DO pin of the first LED is connected to the DI pin of the second LED, and so on. The DO pin of the last LED is not connected to anything.

When the first LED receives a signal on its DI pin, it will read the first 24 bits (or 32 bits for SK6812) of the signal and then pass the rest on to the next LED. The first 24 bits are interpreted as three 8-bit color values: red, green and blue (and white for SK6812). The LED will then light up with the specified color, and pass the rest of the signal on to the next LED.


We assume that you have set up your development environment as described in the IDE tutorial.

We also assume that you have flashed your device with Jaguar and that you are familiar with running Toit programs on it. If not, have a look at the Hello world tutorial.


Connect the LED strip as follows:

  • Connect the 5V/power pin of the LED strip to the 5V pin of the ESP32. The 5V pin of the ESP32 is often marked as VIN, since that's the 5V input that is provided by the USB connector.
  • Connect the GND pin of the LED strip to the GND pin of the ESP32.
  • Connect pin 13 of the ESP32 to the DI pin of the LED strip.
Wiring diagram for a Neopixel LED strip
Wiring diagram for a Neopixel LED strip
Schematics for a Neopixel LED strip
Schematics for a Neopixel LED strip


The driver for pixel strips is not part of the standard Toit distribution, but must be downloaded as package. See the packages tutorial for details.

We are using the pixel_strip package. To install it, run the following command in your project directory:

jag pkg install

You can probably just write jag pkg install pixel-strip, but the full ID together with the version is more explicit, and will make sure you get the right package.


Open a new file and save it as neopixel.toit,and watch it with Jaguar.

Insert the following program:

import gpio
import pixel-strip show PixelStrip

PIXELS ::= 12

  pin := gpio.Pin 13
  strip := PixelStrip.uart PIXELS --pin=pin

  r := ByteArray PIXELS
  g := ByteArray PIXELS
  b := ByteArray PIXELS

  current := 0
  while true:
    // Decrease intensity of all LEDs.
      r[it] = r[it] / 3
      g[it] = g[it] / 3
      b[it] = b[it] / 3

    // Set the current LED to full brightness.
    r[current] = 255
    g[current] = 255
    b[current] = 255

    // Show the current configuration.
    strip.output r g b

    // Sleep.
    sleep --ms=70

    // Prepare for the next round.
    current = (current + 1) % PIXELS

We are using the Uart version of the pixel-strip class. This means that the package uses the ESP32's UART peripheral to implement the WS2812 protocol. Since the UART functionality is well optimized the Toit program can continue running while the LEDs are updated. In our case there are only 12 LEDs, and communicating with them doesn't take a long time, but when a pixel string has 300 LEDs or more, it's crucial that the hardware does most of the work.

We allocate three byte arrays. Each has PIXELS (set to 12) elements, and can be used to set the red, green or blue color-components respectively. Initially each byte is set to 0.

We then start an infinite loop (while true). Inside it we first decrease the existing values by a factor of 3. In the very first iteration all values are 0 and therefore nothing happens, but in later iterations this will dim all lights.

Then we set the current LED to full brightness.

Finally, we send the new values to the strip, and wait 70ms.

Before the next iteration we move to the next LED.


The LED ring can draw a lot of power if many LEDs are at full brightness. This can lead to brownouts where the ESP32 doesn't get enough power and reboots/shuts down.

If this happens for installed containers, Jaguar might be unable to change the installed program, leading to a boot-loop. In this case just unplug the power for the LEDs and install a program that uses less power.

  • Change the speed of the cycling LED.
  • Change the color of the cycling LED. Google for RGB values to find some interesting colors.
  • Instead of dimming the existing values equally, divide the individual color components differently. For example /2 for red, /3 for green and /4 for blue.
  • Show a color wheel. Search for "RGB color wheel".
  • Turn that wheel.