Animated Pixel Art with ESP8266

Reporting from Shanghai, China
Aug 30, 2019

Ryan Bates, a Pittsburg-based engineer, electronics teacher and DIY kits creator, has made an animated toe-tapping Sonic sprite on a 64×32 LED matrix, based on ESP8266.

Ryan Bates’ creativity and engineering skills are well known to locals in the Pittsburg area in the United States, but as Jeremy S. Cook’s article on shows, Ryan’s work should be known by more people. In a tutorial originally intended to help people get to know alternative ways of using active matrix screens, Ryan Bates made and demonstrated an excellent display of an animated toe-tapping Sonic sprite on a 64x32 LED matrix.


To bring his project to life, Ryan used an ESP8266 development board, more specifically a variant known as the Wemos D1 mini board. However, as he says himself on his YouTube channel: “this project would really benefit from the extra power of ESP32”.

So, in Ryan’s project the Wemos D1 mini board was used for establishing control, and was interfaced with a 64×32 LED RGB panel, via Brian Lough’s D1 mini matrix shield, for easy attachment. Ryan, then, modified Lough’s “LED-Matrix-Banana-Dance-Display” to instead show a toe-tapping Sonic sprite. Although it was pretty straightforward for Ryan to “just” plug in the new values for each frame, the fact that each frame weighs in at 2,048 hex values meant he could only store 8-9 frames before running out of flash, as Jeremy S. Cook pointed out on

The Sprite that Ryan used for his project can be found here, and the image conversion can be done via this website, meaning that you, too, can make your own animations with a relatively straightforward procedure.

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