I am doing a project with bi-color led matrix 8x8 and MAX7219 as the LED driver. I want to implement a fading effect on the LEDs, like mixing the two colors by varying the individual duty cycles.

My idea is the use of the Iset parameter; I would connect the PWM pin from Arduino through the Rset resistor and feed that into the Iset of the MAX7129 instead of 5V supply. Please suggest whether or not this is possible, if not what can be the alternative approach?

1 Answer 1


This is possible in two ways:

  1. The MAX72xx has its own internal intensity control register. From the datasheet:

Digital control of display brightness is provided by an internal pulse-width modulator [...]. The modulator scales the average segment current in 16 steps from a maximum of 31/32 down to 1/32 of the peak current set by RSET [...].

This of course requires no extra components or effort, but you are limited slightly by only a 4-bit intensity resolution. Also, there is no 'off' so you'd have to either manually blank the displays or put the ICs into shutdown mode.

  1. Your suggested way is possible. However, the low frequency of the Arduino's PWM may lead to flickering if the MAX7219's internal segment current reference driver needs a steady voltage. You'll have to consider smoothing the PWM output through a low pass filter - the TL072/TL082 has two op-amps so you can use one for colour A and the other for colour B. I'd choose an op-amp over passive filtering because the current drawn from the Arduino will be negligible and the stability of the current into the MAX7219 will be improved.

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