ESP8266 WS2812 "Partycat" controller

I made a 3’x3’ light box full of WS2812 strips and white LED strips to be used as a SAD Alarm Clock. It hangs on our bedroom wall and at 6am it begins a sunrise colour sequence lasting about 20 minutes and ultimately shines brite white light until we get out of bed. I’ll post more about this project eventually (firmware on github). I need to take some better photos and video of it.

The controller is a board I designed which combines an ESP8266 with the necessary bits for this project, but I think I made it suitable for pretty much any project that needs colourful lights and wifi for under tenbucks.

  • Level-shifted GPIO pins, including one for a WS2812 strip
  • A footprint that lets you solder the end of the strip right to the board
  • WS2812 is on the I2S port, so it can use DMA using this hack (or the Arduino-compatible version)
  • an auxiliary high-current PWM channel with a power MOSFET (I use this for white LED strips to make brighter white than the WS2812s can do on their own)
  • Programming using a standard 6-pin FTDI cable (no onboard USB you wuss)

I got 3 boards, used one for my project, and made kits for @Rob_MacKenzie and @Jarrett since they expressed interest in this board. If there is enough interest I can make more. Comments and feedback for improvement welcome!


I’ll take 2 or 3 boards if you end up ordering more…

Nice project! How much did the whole build cost you, if I may ask? (and how long did it take, if you have any idea?)

I’m totally up for building this since I have most of the parts. Would be
in for 3 boards if you re-order. Thanks for the build details. This is

I’ll take 2 boards if you order more

I’ll take 2 please, these look sweet.

edit: Please make this a workshop Luke really want a colour shifting wake up lamp been looking at setting this up for a while now, just been to busy.

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Please put me down for 5!

Thanks again, @lukecyca!

Great board, and really easy to put together, even if I’m rushing and have to run out in the middle of my reflow cycle and drop half my components :slight_smile: (Although @Shane saved me from complete disaster here)

These are the answers to questions I asked while building it:

  • Pin 1 of the level-shifter IC is closest to the LED output
  • Turns out the USB/Serial bridge pinout is not universal. Luke uses a Sparkfun FTDI cable, while I had a cheap Chinese dongle. Will still work by connecting wires between TX, RX, and GND using the Sparkfun link as a guide.
  • Board was tested by flashing it using the Arduino environment, and the included WS2812B DMA driver library, I think.
  • To boot the ESP into programming mode, hold the PGM button as a modifier, and then press RESET.

I’ve put in an order for PCBs. With luck they’ll be here before the new year.


Wooo! Thanks Luke.

what ESP modules will it work with?
will it work with the ESP-07 modules?

It should work fine with ESP-07, ESP-12, ESP-12E, or ESP-12F.

I have a few extra ESP-07 modules if anyone needs some…

Do you have a picture of the light box you used?
Something that shows how you laid out the led strips and such?

Yeah, I made a whole build video!


Great video…
I have a project that I want to do a video for but have been afraid to try…
My resolution for the new year is to do it and post it no matter how horrible I think it is…


Sorry this took so long. I’ve finally made a few dozen kits. I will be selling them for $15 including an ESP8266 chip, or $10 without.


Here are some instructions for building and programming, and details about what is in each kit:

Party Cat Instructions.pdf (1.0 MB)

To order one

Send me the appropriate amount on PayPal and a note with how many you want. If you don’t Paypal, PM me and we’ll work something out.

I will be at open house tomorrow (April 18) to distribute them, and can also leave them in the Drop Box if you like.

At the next SMD workshop, I’ll try to be on hand to help build them and program them and answer any questions.

Party on!


7 please… Maybe more, but I want everyone to have some. (this is for me and a friend at work)

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If people want to build the Party Cat together I’ll open the space for such an occasion. Let me know.


I’m going to need soooo much help with this…