Pixel Resources

For those just starting out with pixels, or even a few “veterans”, I’m hoping this list will be helpful. This is only a starting-point of course, there are new vendors and Web sites emerging all the time. I try to update this every few months, and more frequently starting in the Fall. These are ones I have either worked with or that have been highly recommended by folks I trust. While I don’t endorse any of these, I will remove any I’ve personally had a bad experience with.

Of course, I like to think that this Web site is a good resource too! In particular, especially if you are new, you also want to check out my Terminology page.

๐ŸŽ„ = Personal Favorites that I use frequently.

Updated September 2022

Pixel Resources - A Differential Receiver

Software

xLights๐ŸŽ„

xLights is sequencing software used to create your light show. It is free and open source and has an active development team with support for Windows and Mac. Beyond just sequencing, it’s also a complete show management platform for the most commonly used controller, lighting and SFX hardware. It is purpose built for musically sequenced light shows. It makes it easy to manage your controllers, props, and layouts, and works with FPP (below) to provide a complete package for bringing your show ideas to reality.

FPP๐ŸŽ„

FalconPlayer, formerly Falcon Pi Player, is a show-runner/scheduler used by most to run their light shows. It runs on Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone SBC (Singe Board Computers). xLights can “talk” to it to upload controller data, playlists, sequences, and media. It is managed through an easy-to-use Web Interface. FPP has a complete scheduler and playlist management system, and an extensive API with the ability to create plug-ins to expand its functionality. It has a robust syncing system that allows for extensive shows running dozens of controllers to stay in sync via WIFI and Ethernet. Like xLights- it has free and open source and has a dedicated team of volunteer programmers constantly improving it.

ESPixelStick

Firmware to build entry-level WIFI pixel controllers using cheap NodeMCU/ESP hardware. If you don’t mind soldering and compiling code (for the newest features)- this is a great way to get started. Released versions come as a Java flash utility- so no compiling necessary. You can run ESPixelStick on ESPixelStick hardware, or roll your own using D1 Mini, ESP-12 (ESP8266), or ESP-32 (compiling newest beta build required) microcontrollers.

It is important to note that working with ESPixelStick and similar software/hardware solutions generally involves some knowledge of microcontrollers, like Arduino and similar boards. It’s easy to learn, but if you are uncomfortable dealing with computers or electronics- you may want to look for pre-built controller solutions like those from Kulp or Falcon (below).

If you are looking for an inexpensive controller solution, especially to get started, that doesn’t involve soldering, you can buy pre-built ESPixelStick hardware on Amazon…

WLED

WLED is a great all-in one pixel controller, built on ESP/Node MCU hardware, similar to ESPixelStick. It has many more features than ESPixelStick for running as a stand-alone controller (with a large included library of effects), but also has more overhead when running as as show controller. It is very easy to install using distribution binaries, and very easy to configure and update over-the-air.

Similar to ESPixelStick (above), if you aren’t comfortable dealing with the “nitty gritty” of computers or electronics- I recommend you look at pre-built controllers like those below from Falcon or Kulp.

Controllers and Hardware Vendors

Falcon (Pixelcontroller.com)

Falcon is one of the largest and oldest manufacturers of LED pixel control boards. I don’t personally run their controllers (just their differential receivers), but they are one of two I recommend looking at. The other one is…

Kulp Lights๐ŸŽ„

Kulp is one of the leading manufacturers of LED pixel control boards. I use Kulp boards for most of my display. Kulp has the advantage in that their controllers are “capes” driven by Beaglebone SBCs running FPP. Daniel Kulp is also one of the primary developers working on FPP. So- Kulp controllers are an ideal stand-alone solution.

Hanson Electronics

Another vendor of pixel control boards and accessories. They are in Australia, so shipping times can be a bit longer (but much-much shorter than Chinese suppliers). He has very well-built products, and the exchange rate makes them very reasonable for US customers. I buy differential boards and some accessories from him.

Wired Watts๐ŸŽ„

Outstanding US vendor of pixels, pixel supplies, accessories, and controller hardware. Excellent customer service. Very fast shipping. I highly recommend them. They sell Kulp controllers, and are a great source if Daniel’s own store is sold out.

Experience Lights

Carries a unique range of hardware, including next generation pixel controllers with a unique feature set.

JBoards

Another great source of pixel supplies and accessories at reasonable prices. One I wish I had found earlier in this hobby!

Wizard of Wire๐ŸŽ„

Great source for PSUs, power distribution, and their specialty- wireframe props! This is another vendor I wish I had known about when I was getting started. They have combo power distribution boards with differential receivers that I make heavy use of.

Scott Hanson

No relation to Hanson Electronics (above).
Want a quality DIY option? Scott Hanson has created a line of open source controllers and related components! You can order the circuit boards and components using his excellent instructions, do a bit of soldering, and have your own fully-featured controllers similar to the “big guys”. This is a good option if you are unable to buy pre-made controller boards, or just want to do things yourself. His controllers use FPP and run on PocketBeagles or Beagle Bones. This became a great option in 2021-2022 with widespread controller shortages, although unfortunately some of the components are hard to get, which is why there was a shortage in the first place. I haven’t built any of his full controllers, but have built and used his differential receivers, which work great!

Holiday Lighting โ€ 

One of the cheapest sources for Mean Well PSUs. Also carries power distribution boards and kits, and splicing PCBs.

Wally’s Lights โ€ 

Popular controller, floodlight, and pixel source. They are very highly recommended by others. In 2022 they introduced their own controllers in a partnership with Scott Hanson (above).

Amazon.com

Generally pixel controllers and some of the more specialized hardware are not available from them, or are very expensive compared to the above vendors. Amazon often has better pricing on commodity items like power supplies, connectors, and wire. They are also a good “in a pinch” source of pixels if you need them in a hurry and can’t wait on an order from China. Amazon probably has the best return policies as-well.

I use Amazon Associate links to help support my hosting costs for this site. While I encourage everyone to look to a variety of vendors for the best prices, using links like the one below helps support this site.

McMaster-Carr

One of the best online industrial suppliers out there. Looking for a project box, fastener, odd part, plastic caps, sealants, wire, tools, pretty much anything you can’t find on Amazon, especially in larger quantities? You can probably find it here. Reasonable quantities, prices and shipping.

eBay

Venerable eBay is a great source for things like connectors and wire. I always check their pricing, especially when buying anything in larger quantities. Keep an eye on the actual source and shipping information though- eBay has a lot of Chinese suppliers, and you can often get better deals on the same stuff from…

AliExpress

AliExpress is the retail side of Alibaba, essentially Chinese Amazon. I buy almost all of my pixels from one vendor there:

Bluebell Lighting Store๐ŸŽ„

They are inexpensive and their quality has been great, and if you buy in larger quantities they have free or low-cost rush shipping via DHL or UPS. Most of my orders have arrived within a couple of weeks. I’ve had a very-very low failure rate, less than 2 per 1000 (updated 2021) overall.

There are many-many pixel vendors on AliExpress, including several others that sell “Bluebell” pixels. The latter seem to be of similar quality regardless of who you buy them from. There are a few “big-name” vendors there you will find highly-recommended by others: Ray Woo, Paul Zang, and Daniel Zhang. I personally don’t buy from them because they focus on 12v pixels, and I’m happy with inexpensive 5v ones. In any case- I recommend you shop around for prices, and I recommend buying a small quantity first so you can check out the quality, before diving in with an order for 1000s.

Beware Chinese holidays, or a better term would be “festivals”. Some of these are from 5-8 days long, and generally NOTHING gets done during them. These can delay orders for 1-2 weeks. Most of them are based on the lunar calendar and the dates change every year.
For more info:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_holidays_in_China

Props/Misc.

Boscoyo Studios๐ŸŽ„

Boscoyo is one of the oldest and largest “coro” prop vendors out there. They also sell pixel strips, matrix grids, and many other accessories. I’ve bought all of my strips and and many coro props from them.

GE (Gilbert Engineering)๐ŸŽ„

Another outstanding player in the “coro” prop market. They make creative coro props like the Hattitude Quartet above our front porch, which is a high-density wreath/spinner with multiple singing faces. They are famous for large and extremely high-density spinners and wreaths. They were also one of the first to feature printed coro props that look just as good in the daytime as they do at night.

Mattos Design

Best known for their outstanding metalwork and box-steel mega-trees that can probably survive a hurricane, they have added a significant number of additional products to their lineup including ready-to-run controllers, tools, fog machines, and outdoor projector systems.

Holiday Coro

Popular source for coro props at reasonable prices, with fast shipping. They sell controllers, pixels, and DIY kits too, but I’ve only bought coro props from them, and they have been very good quality and arrived quickly.

Inspire Light Shows

If you don’t have a 3D printer- these guys print and sell a lot of great mounts and adapters for controller boards, PSUs, and coro props. They also sell or give away STL (3D) files for their products and others, and have started selling xLights sequences as-well. I’m making fairly extensive use of some of their prop holder prints starting in 2021.

Sequences

Sequencing lights to music is an art, and is very challenging and time-consuming. Most of us don’t have the time or aptitude to do it well. For this reason- many of us either buy or download freely-given sequences to either use as-is, or to adapt for our own shows. Our show is a mix of free, paid, and self-made sequences.

xLights actually has a built-in library of free sequences to get you started. You can access it from within the xLights app: Tools -> Download Sequences/Lyrics. You can also access free sequences and graphics via their Resources page: https://xlights.org/resources/

Free sequences can be hit-and-miss. Some are great others are pretty bad, but- free is free and I appreciate everyone who donates their time and talent to make them available. Most of the paid vendors (below) release a few sequences for free each year to promote their work.

For paid sequences there are dozens of vendors. Just google “xlights sequences” to find them. There are a wide variety of tastes and prices, so for this you really should do your own research. Some have excellent sequences for under $30, others are “premium” and can cost $70-100 or more. A lot depends on the number of props supported, quality, and frankly- the market. I’ve seen a lot of the same songs and similar sequences from $30 vendors that others are selling for $60. Shop around. They all have demo videos- so watch them before you decide. When you do- watch for what you CAN use for YOUR setup and future plans. That premium sequence with moving head spotlights, smoke machines, whole-house matrix, and three huge mega-trees probably won’t translate well to your layout if you are just starting out, or don’t ever want to go to that extreme.

I’ve used these vendors for paid sequences. Some of them offer free sequences at various times throughout the year as samples. Many also have “year end” or “seasonal” sales. This is not a complete list, just ones I have personally used, in no particular order:

RGB Sequences๐ŸŽ„

Showstopper Sequences๐ŸŽ„

Pixel Fairy Dust

Extreme Sequences

Holiday Sequences

Magical Light Shows

Starry Night Displays (Lights On Morrison)

Syracuse Lights โ€ 

OG Sequences โ€ 

Other

AtmosFX

If you are looking for additional “ambient” holiday effects, take a look at AtmosFX. You can turn a rear-projection window or other video display into something special using their videos. I use AtmosFX with some of my ambient lighting when I’m not running musical sequences.

JLCPCB

I use them for prototype boards and manufacturing Open Hardware circuit boards, such as those produced by Scott Hanson. If you need circuit boards fast and cheap- they can do it! They will even source parts and assemble them if you really want them to, and are willing to pay a premium.

Digi-key

Need electronic components? They are the go-to for many electronics hobbyists. Sometimes you can find commodity parts (like resistors and fuses) cheaper on Amazon or eBay, but if you need an exact part number chip or specialty connector, for example, they can usually ship them to you fast. They also have excellent reference and substitution tools.

Other Web Sites

Bostick Family Light Show

Great source of information including video tutorials. Also has sequences for sale!

Facebook

I spend a significant amount of time in these Facebook Groups, and recommend them for everyone in this hobby:

Official xLights Support Group*
Official xLights Sharing Group
xLights Wireless Support Group
FPP, Falcon Player*
xLights Sequence Sharers
xLights Around The World
3D Printing For Holiday Lighting Enthusiasts Group

*These are official support channels for xLights and FPP.

YouTube

Canispater Christmas

Jeff is entertaining and a wealth of information from running his own display for many years. A LOT of information I’ve used has come from him.

Dr. Zzs

Very popular source of DIY LED Pixel information, along with home automation and 3D printing!

Learn Christmas Lighting

Another fantastic and in-depth resource for Christmas Lighting. Especially good for those just starting out.

xLights

Every “newbie” should check out the xLights Beginner Seminar series. The xEssentials videos are a deep-dive into getting the most from xLights. These are updated every year (after the holidays).

โ€  Full-disclosure: These vendors are highly recommended by others, but I have not actually purchased from them. If/when I do, I will update.
๐ŸŽ„ = Personal Favorites that I use frequently.