I am working on an Arduino project where I need to display a black and white (no gray) image to the serial monitor. It doesn't need to be high resolution, so something like 20x20 would work. I will be using this several times a second to make video of a sort, but it doesn't need to be a very high fps (4 or 5 would work). Currently I am just using unicode blocks and printing them (at a baud rate of 500,000) to the serial monitor, but it ends up having a very bad screen tear sort of effect. Is there any way to do this better, or at the very least make the serial monitor print everything at once instead of each character individually?


  • I think the serial monitor is clearly not the right output device for this kind of information at that update rate. It is text-line oriented and you have so little control over the "device". Consider one of the many low-res LCD or OLED displays. Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 15:04
  • Is the "screen tear" a result of not using fixed spacing fonts? I think you can set the font to be used under File:Preferences, and it not then perhaps in preferences.txt (restart the IDE to see it).
    – CrossRoads
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 15:05
  • "everything at once", I think you'll be limited to the speed of sending 20 lines across, either as 20 discrete Serial.write's, or in a for:loop.
    – CrossRoads
    Commented Apr 3, 2018 at 15:09

2 Answers 2


The Arduino IDE's serial monitor is, to put it bluntly, awful.

Switch to a proper ANSI compatible serial terminal emulator (Tera Term, Putty, Minicom, whatever) and use ANSI control sequences to manipulate the screen.

The simplest ones to use are:

Serial.print("\e[2J"); // Clear the screen
Serial.print("\e[1;1H"); // Move the cursor to coordinate (1,1)

Use the first one to clear the screen in setup(), then use the second one at the start of the loop to move to the top-left corner of the screen (1,1 is top left - the coordinates are given as Y;X not X;Y and start from 1 not 0).

Print your 20 lines of 20 characters as either space (nothing) or your chosen "pixel" character. The spaces overwrite the existing characters to help reduce flicker (clearing the screen every time would be just awful).

The way serial works (sending one character at a time sequentially) there is no such thing as "All at once". The above is the best you can get without writing your own program to interpret incoming serial data representing an image frame and displaying it.


Is there any way to do this better, or at the very least make the serial monitor print everything at once instead of each character individually?

No, serial isn't the right technology for that. By its very definition, it transmits data one bit at a time, one byte after the other. What you're after is to transmit the data in parallel. You're already making the closest approximation to parallel you can using serial - transmitting the data at the highest rate you can to minimize the skew. The longer the time between frames and the shorter the time to transmit one frame, the better your result will be. But you may have reached the limit for 5fps with the available serial hardware.

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