Morphing Digital Clock




A quick video about this project. I have since implemented a way to set timezone.

Thanks to the work of the Arduino and ESP8266 community, this cool clock is a surprisingly easy to build!

  1. Just two main components: Display (obviously) and a WiFi MicroController
  2. No soldering required
  3. No programming skill required, code is provided!

Let's get started!

Step 1: Parts List

Although I've included links to where I bought my parts, these parts can be easily purchased from other vendors all around the world.

  • P3 64x32 RGB LED Matrix $20
  • NodeMCU 32MB ESP8266 WiFi Microcontroller module $4.95
  • Female to Female 20cm Dupont jumper wires $0.85
  • Micro USB Data/Sync cable and 5V phone charger wall adapter (I had these and didn't have to buy it)
  • 5V 2A MINIMUM Power Supply (I had this and didn't have to buy it) $7.95
  • Solderless Female barrel connector to connect the Power Supply to the display power cable.


  • Some USB cables are designed just for power delivery (charging) -- these are ok to power the finished clock, but to upload code to the ESP we will need a data/sync USB cable.
  • The P3 RGB Matrix has over 6000 LEDs. For this clock, we will never turn all of them at once, so 2 Amp is more than sufficient. However, if you plan on doing more with the display and have all LEDs set to white, the recommended power supply is 8 Amp minimum.

Step 2: Wiring Summary

There are a lot of wires, but don't worry. All we're doing is connecting one pin to another.

Just take your time. Double check each connection before and after you plug it in.

Make sure the wires are fully inserted so they would not accidentally come undone. They are quite snug when fully inserted.

Step 3: ESP Wiring

First, let's put jumper wires on the ESP. Don't worry if your wire colors are different than mine. Which pair of pins are connected by each wire is what is important.

Do NOT connect the ESP to your PC YET. We need to complete all wiring before we power anything up.

We are using pins D0 through D8 and two GND.

We can skip the 3V pin because the ESP will be powered via the USB port.

We also skip the Transmit and Receive pins because we will communicate to the ESP via USB or WiFi.

Step 4: Matrix Wiring Part 1

Next, take the other end of the jumper wires we've just hooked up to the ESP and plug them into the matrix.

Again, the chart includes the colors of the wires that I used, but of course your colors might be different.

What is important is that you connect the ESP pins to the matrix as shown in the table.

The matrix is NOT symmetrical, there is a left/right, up/down. Please note the white arrows.

Connectors on my matrix are not labeled, so I've added a photo with labels. Your matrix might be slightly different. These resources discuss other board versions in great detail:

Step 5: Matrix Wiring Part 2

Second set of jumper wires connect the left connector to the right connector of the matrix.

Third photo shows the right side of the matrix.

Step 6: Power Wiring

The display power cable were designed for screw terminals.

You could cut off the solder lug and strip the wire, but I opted to bend the prongs and use additional heat shrink tubing to ensure that there are no exposed metal. Whatever you do, make sure the wires make good contact, securely attached and insulated.

Obviously Red wire should be connected to (+) and Black wire to (-)

Plug the other end to the display, again noting polarity: Red goes to VCC and Black goes to GND.

If your cable is designed to simultaneously power two displays, it does not matter which one you connect to your one display. It is however VERY IMPORTANT that you do not reverse the red(+) and black(-)

If you haven't already, now is a good time to double check to make sure all the jumper wires are are connected to the correct pins (before we apply power).

Check polarity of the power cable AGAIN, make sure that PLUS and MINUS are NOT REVERSED!

Hey, we're done with wiring! But don't plug it in YET!

Step 7: Install Arduino IDE

To upload the code to the ESP, you will need the Arduino software and a few libraries:

Follow installation instructions on the Arduino website.

Arduino has done so much for the maker community, so you should contribute to Arduino, but it is optional.

Click "Just download" to download without contributing.

Step 8: Install Libraries

Once installed, launch the Arduino IDE then:

  • Click the Sketch menu > Include Library > Manage Libraries...
  • Search and install the latest version of the following libraries:
    • AdaFruit Gfx library
    • PxMatrix by Dominic Buchstaller
    • ArduinoJSON version 5.13.2 by Benoit Blanchon
    • WiFiManager by Tzapu
    • DoubleResetDetector by Stephen Denne aka Datacute

Notice that at the time of this writing, ArduinoJSON version 6.x beta does not work with Morph Clock. Doing so causes compile errors. Make sure you specify version 5.13.2 when you install/update ArduinoJSON.
Thanks to user lmirel for noticing this.

Step 9: Install ESP8266 Support

We also need ESP8266 support

  • Close Manage Libraries, but stay in Arduino IDE
  • Go to File > Preferences
  • Click the icon to the right of Additional Board Manager URLs
  • Paste this URL on a separate line (sequence does not matter).
  • Click Ok to get out of Preferences
  • Navigate to: Tools > Board xyz > Board Manager...
  • Search for 8266
  • Install esp8266 by ESP8266 Community.

Step 10: Install CH340 Driver

The last thing to install is the device driver so our PC can talk to the ESP.

Download and install the driver for your computer from the bottom of the manufacturer's driver page.

If you need help, there is a nice tutorial on how to install Arduino Nano CH340 by samuel123abc. The same CH340/CH341 that is on the NodeMCU ESP is on the Arduino Nano clone.

Step 11: Upload the Code

We're almost there...

  1. Download and unzip the latest Morphing Clock code.
    • (see picture above if you're unfamiliar with github)
    • Unzip the downloaded zip file then double-click MorphingClock.ino
  2. Compile and Upload
    • Before we plug in the NodeMCU to your PC via the Micro USB cable, have you double-checked your wiring? :-)
    • Make sure that the pins of the NodeMCU are not being shorted by any metal objects on your desk while the NodeMCU is on.
    • When you plug in USB, you should hear the usual "ding" as Windows recognize a USB device being plugged in.
    • Setup the options in Arduino IDE > Tools as pictured
      • Your COM port might be different.
      • I had to change Flash Size to 4M(1M SPIFFS) your ESP might be different.
    • Click the Upload button as pictured. This will take some time (about a 30 seconds), and there will be warnings, but it will eventually upload to the NodeMCU.


  • If the upload fails because it could not connect, make sure you choose the port where the ESP is plugged into under Tools > Port.
  • If there is no enabled option under Tools > Port
    • Make sure you've installed CH340 driver (see previous step)
    • Make sure you are using a data/sync cable. Test it by connecting your phone and PC with that cable. If you could see files on the phone from the PC, then you have a good data cable.
  • If the compile fails before it tries to upload, scroll up in the black background window and then slowly scroll down and note the first error it reports. If you cannot figure out what it's saying, post that first error and I will try to help. There will be some warnings - those are OK, they do not stop the compile.
  • if you get a JSON-related error when compiling, use JSON library version 5.13.2 instead of the latest version (6-beta) -- Thanks lmirel !

  • If the compile succeeded, upload succeeded but the clock does not work, open serial monitor in Arduino IDE, press reset on the ESP. If the errors are a bunch of hex numbers, try changing the Flash Size to 4M(1M SPIFFS) and reupload.
  • If the error is in English, it should tell you what it's having trouble with. Post what it says if you need help deciphering what it's trying to say :-)
  • Matrix works, but the ESP never shows up as an access point. I've seen this happen on the smaller NodeMCU that is based ESP-12E and 1M SPIFF and use this ESP-12E version of MorphClk.
    Unfortunately, I've only been able to work around the problem by decreasing the refresh rate of the display, so the display is not as bright compared to the original version.

Step 12: Configuration

Once the upload is completed, you should see the word: "Connecting" on the display.

The ESP is trying to connect to your WiFi to fetch the current time. However, it doesn't know the password to your WiFi Access Point (AP) yet.

  • Press the reset (RST) button on the ESP twice in a row about one second apart.
  • The display will show you AP: MorphClk,Pwd: HariFun, and
  • At this time, the ESP is acting as WiFi access point named MorphClk with password HariFun.
  • Go to your computer/phone to change your WiFi connection from your normal WiFi to MorphClk.
  • To switch WiFi, on Windows, the icon is on bottom right corner, on a Mac it's on top right.
  • You might see a warning saying that your phone cannot find the Internet. It's OK. Your phone is now connected JUST to the ESP and the ESP is not connected to the Internet (yet).
  • Using a web browser on your computer/phone, visit, this is a website being served by the ESP.
  • Tap "Configure WiFi" and select YOUR WiFi access point and enter your WiFi password. It will then save that information in permanent storage so you will never to enter it again.
  • This is also where you choose timezone
    Use this website to find the TimeZone offset for your location. Don't forget to enter the minus sign.
  • Enter Y in the 24Hr field to show hours in military format, or enter N if you prefer to 12 hour format. I do not yet have an AM/PM indicator. Maybe you could add that feature and share how you did it?
  • Don't forget to switch your computer/phone back to your normal WiFi access point or you will not have internet access.

Step 13: All Done!

Well, that's it!

All that's left is to make a pretty case for it.

You no longer need the computer/phone. You can use any phone charger to power the ESP.

Please let me know if you see anything that I could improve on this instructable. I will do my best to answer questions too.

If you build this, please click the "I Made It" button and show off your version. Have fun making!

Step 14: Contributed Code

The wonderful people of the Internet have improved this project! Let me know if you've made improvements you'd like to share here. Thank you everyone!

Morphing Clock Remix by lmirel

Date, Temperature, Relative Humidify by VincentD6714

Clocks Contest

Runner Up in the
Clocks Contest

28 People Made This Project!


  • Arduino Contest 2019

    Arduino Contest 2019
  • Trash to Treasure

    Trash to Treasure
  • Tape Contest

    Tape Contest

442 Discussions


Question 6 days ago on Step 13

Hello Hari,
After setting the digital clock, I noticed that my clock displays time an hour later, it resets to the standard time everyday, not to the Daylight Saving Time.
Any suggestions to synchronize it to the DST?

Best Regards,
Abet F.

2 answers

Reply 5 days ago

Abet, my code versions do not support daylight savings time. All I did for mine is to manually change the timezone offset twice every year using the double-reset and connecting to it using a PC/phone. Once that is changed, I can't think of any reason how it would revert by itself. :-( Are you sure it's not just running behind because it cannot connect to the time server? I've seen that happen before, but that was solved by connecting to google time server which has been reliable for me.


Reply 2 days ago

Hi Hari,
Thanks for the reply. I did manually change the time zone offset, using the double-reset and using a my iPhone.

After observing the clock for a while, I haven't changed nor reset the time so far to this date. I'll keep you posted, should it happen again.
Best Regards,
Abet F.


16 days ago

Thanks for creating this project. I am having a problem getting it working and am looking for some help. I purchased all the parts from the links listed in the instructions. All the wires are connected as outlined in the instructions and triple checked. The software appears to have loaded correctly and I can access the web page to configure the wireless and timezone as expected. The issue is when the panel is powered up, it displays red diagonal lines as shown in the attached photos. After that, sometimes the screen will then go dark and not light any leds and other times the red diagonal lines will remain lit. It only displays each configuration of leds for a few seconds. Any suggestions on what else to check?


Reply 22 days ago

Ok, got a new panel and the esp32 is now working with your board. One last question. I started with VincentD67's sketch version and I have the same flickering he described with esp32. Did you run into this and were you able to fix it? Or just living with it.
Thanks again.


Reply 5 weeks ago

Hi, I got your boards (very nice) and I'm trying to get them working with the ESP32 MH-ET Live. The code is running and outputs time to the monitor but nothing on the matrix display. I know you called this usage experimental so I'm wondering if you have had it working. If so I'd like to compare the pin mapping you used to what I have. It looks to me like the pins in the sketch have to be repinned as well as pins in the header file. Correct?
#define P_LAT 26
#define P_A 22
#define P_B 21
#define P_C 5
#define P_D 19
#define P_E 13
#define P_OE 16

#define SPI_BUS_CLK 18
#define SPI_BUS_MOSI 23
#define SPI_BUS_MISO 19
#define SPI_BUS_SS 21


Reply 5 weeks ago

Absolutely, you are correct, I got it working with an ESP32 and 64x64 display and display also topic from MQTT but I needed to do some change in the 2 files you mentioned as follow. I think you got an issue with SPI_SS pin.

First display.h of the project
#if defined(ESP8266)
#define P_LAT 16
#define P_A 5
#define P_B 4
#define P_C 15
#define P_D 12
#define P_E 0 // not needed on 64x32
#define P_OE 2
#elif defined(ESP32)
#define P_LAT 26
#define P_A 22
#define P_B 21
#define P_C 5
#define P_D 19
#define P_E 17 // not needed on 64x32
#define P_OE 16
#error "Target not supported, please select a ESP8266 or ESP32 Board"

Then the PxMatrix.h of the library also to fix SPI pins

//#define SPI_BUS_CLK 14
//#define SPI_BUS_MOSI 13
//#define SPI_BUS_MISO 12
//#define SPI_BUS_SS 4
#define SPI_BUS_CLK 18
#define SPI_BUS_MOSI 23
#define SPI_BUS_MISO 19
#define SPI_BUS_SS 5


Reply 5 weeks ago

Thanks for the quick reply. That didn't get it working but knowing that your's works I'll keep at it. I had it working with a proto board and 8266 but like you I have bigger plans for the display, and I need the esp32. I'm using a 2.5amp cell phone power supply to the micro usb then wires from your board to the display power connector. Maybe I need a bit more power. It's also possible I damaged the display with the proto board I tried...


Reply 7 months ago

V1.2 is out now, same as V1.1 but added footprint for a photoresistor (LDR) +resistor to be able to measure ambiant light and thus auto adjust luminosity


Reply 7 months ago

Just to let you know I mounted and tested PCB, all work fine but needed adjustment on out connector (was missing B1 I needed to grab elsewhere)
So I released V1.1 with some enhancement such as output connector pin alignement to Matrix, see on the repo


Reply 7 months ago

Hi i got the version 1.0 PCB 6 pin connector not matching with the output pins on display i have to solder all the display output pin to input pins



Reply 7 months ago

Thanks very much - I ordered some and they are being made right now - can i ask - do you have a BOM for the board? really all I am looking for is what the part is for the power on the bottom left and middle of the board. I get that all the others are pins. Glad I found this as i could not find any means of how I would contact anyone on it off the pcb site.


Reply 7 months ago

Awesome - Perfect THANK YOU. Since the boards get printed X4 I will likely have several extra, but I appreciate the help! I wanted a clean build and the board did just the trick! Nice work.



Reply 7 months ago

Did you tried them? Did they works? I still waiting my PCB


Reply 8 months ago

Fantastic, thanks for sharing, want to make something more permanent...have ordered some!


Reply 8 months ago

CharlyBoy, that's great!
Thank you for doing that and sharing!