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How To Wire RGB LED Strip Without A Controller

A detailed guide on using RGB strips without a controller.

If you’ve used RGB LED strips before, you know that they usually come with a controller that helps you change the color of the lighting and even achieve transition effects. However, you may have lost the controller for your RGB LED strip or only used a part of the strip, so you have some leftover strip with no remote. Don’t worry because your strip doesn’t have to go to waste. Instead, you can learn how to wire RGB LED strip without a controller. 

Key Takeaways

  • You can wire RGB LED strips without a controller in different ways, like an external supply, battery pack, or Arduino microcontroller.
  • To control the individual colors, you have to connect each color to a separate power source, like a battery or power supply.
  • To get fading color effects, you can use an Arduino board.

Why You Need A Controller?

The controller that comes with your RGB LED strip is an input device that modifies the voltage flowing through the wires. When you press a certain button on the controller, the wires in your RGB LED strip will receive the necessary power to display the desired color. 

There’s a difference in how RGB-IC strips work compared to regular RGB LED strips. IC strips can show multiple colors on a strip simultaneously, while a simple RGB can only show one color at a time. When you don’t have a controller, changing the colors on your LED strip is difficult and may need manual work.

Also Read: How To Reset RGB LED Controller?

The controller handles the manual work by changing how much voltage goes to each colored LED. So when you don’t have a controller, it’s up to you to make the extra effort

Things to Know Before You Can Wire RGB LED Strip Without A Controller

Before attempting to wire an RGB LED strip without a controller, here are a few things to know.

Determine The Voltage Lines

Each LED bulb has three colored wires: ground, positive, and negative wires. The ground wire is usually white or grey in color and transmits electricity back to the circuit, while the wire carrying a positive charge is red. Finally, the black wire is the negative wire that carries electricity, so be careful while handling it. 

Know The Wiring Process

Once you know what each wire in your RGB LED strip does, you have to connect them to a power source. For each color of your RGB strip, there will be a separate pair or trio of wires that you must connect to a power source. That means you’ll have to connect the positive, negative, and ground wires separately for the red, green, and blue bulbs. 

Data Controller Connection

The data controller is what moves the pixels to display the desired color. You can solder the end of a data connector to the RGB LED strip with some wire connectors. Once you do that, it passes signals through the wire, changing the lights based on your commands.

Identifying Wires and Connecting Them

Each light on the RGB LED strip is a pixel with three prongs: positive, negative, and ground. You’ll have to connect the ground, positive, and negative wires on the power supply to those of the RGB LED strip. Before trying out one of the methods, take some time to identify the positive and negative wires in your LED strip. You’ll also have to determine which voltage line connects to each color.

How Your RGB LED Strip Will Work

The infrared controller that comes with your RGB LED strip sends signals to the wires, making the strip display certain colors. When you wire an RGB LED strip without a controller, you implement a replacement for the controller. One way you can do this is by using direct power sources for the wires corresponding to each color or reducing the flow of electricity with resistors.

While these methods power an RGB LED strip, achieving a custom look is difficult. To get a more customized output, you’ll require a complex device that controls the flow of electricity through your LED strip. That being said, let’s learn how to wire RGB LED strip without a controller.

How To Wire RGB LED Strip Without A Controller

You can use an external power supply to get specific colors when you have some leftover RGB LED strips without a controller. You’ll need a soldering kit and a 12v power supply, such as a wall adapter, for this method. You can also use a micro USB cable for the power supply, but if it delivers a higher voltage, you’ll need a converter to avoid damaging your RGB LED strip.

Start by stripping the wire on the adapter cable to expose the red and black wires. On your RGB LED strip, you’ll see that there are four points labeled +12v, G, R, and B. First, you have to solder the red wire, which is the positive wire, to the pad labeled +12v.

Then, you can solder the black wire, also known as the ground wire, to the pad corresponding to your desired color. So if you want blue-colored lights, touch the ground wire to the pad labeled B, and if you want green lights, touch it to the pad labeled G.

How to Wire RGB LED Strip without controller using external power supply
The different pads on an RGB LED strip

While we’re at it, it’s best to mention that you’re hardwiring the RGB LED strip to the power supply. That means this method only gives you solid colors rather than the color-changing effects you can achieve with a controller. Nevertheless, it’s much better than not being able to use your RBG LED strip at all.

Also Read: How To Check Insufficient Power Supply

Mixing Colors

Of course, you won’t be limited to the primary red, blue, or green colors since this method also allows you to mix colors. Just take an extra bit of wire and solder one end to the same pad as the ground wire and the other to the color you want to mix with. So if you soldered the ground wire to the blue pad, mix it with red to get a purple effect.

Controlling Individual Colors

In case you want to control individual colors rather than sticking to a single color, you’ll have to repeat the process for each color. That means soldering a separate power supply to each color pad. Then, you can turn on the power supply that corresponds to your desired color and turn off the one you don’t want. 

Wiring Your RGB LED Strip To A Battery Pack

A more straightforward method to control the colors of your RGB LED strip involves wiring your RGB LED strip to a battery pack. It’s similar to using an external power supply to power the strip, but the only difference is using a battery pack.

For this method, you’ll need a battery pack and clip. Simply connect the positive wire to the +12v pad and the ground wire to one of the color pads. And if you want to control all the colors of your RGB LED strip, you’ll have to connect a battery to each color pad on the strip instead of just a single pad. 

This method is relatively easy to set up since you’ll require a couple of battery packs and clips. The issue with this method is that you can’t control how brightly the colors light up. On the other hand, you reduce the risk of frying your LEDs since the batteries will run out before the wires overheat. 

Wire RGB LED strip to battery pack
Glowing LED strip

This method is relatively easy to set up since you’ll require a couple of battery packs and clips. The issue with this method is that you can’t control how brightly the colors light up. On the other hand, you reduce the risk of frying your LEDs since the batteries will run out before the wires overheat

Also Read: Extending Laptop Battery Life

Using Arduino To Wire RGB LED Strip Without Controller

While the above-mentioned ways allow you to control which color your RGB LED strip displays at a time, they can’t give you desired effects. One of the ways to control your RGB LED strip without a controller involves using an Arduino microcontroller. It’s a way to directly connect the positive, negative, and ground wires to your microcontroller.

Usually, your average 12v RGB LED strips, also known as SMD5050, come with infrared remote control, but when you don’t have one, Arduino can help you get a custom fading effect. Here’s how to do it:

What You’ll Need

To connect an Arduino to your 12v LED strip, you’ll have to gather the following parts: 

  • A 12v RGB LED strip
  • 1 Arduino UNO board
  • 3 10k resistors
  • hookup wires
  • 3 N-Channel MOSFETs (make sure they’re Logic Level)
  • 12v power supply
  • A breadboard

You’ll need MOSFETs when trying to control a component with a higher voltage than your microcontroller, as they prevent it from overheating and frying. Namely, MOSFETs have three terminals, the source (S), drain (D), and gate (G). The voltage that passes through the gate terminal controls the current passing through the drain and source terminals.

Moreover, a major benefit of using MOSFETs is that you can pass each color of your LED strip through the MOSFET to control how bright each color on your LED strip is. You need logic-level MOSFETs instead of standard ones because it ensures that the Arduino setup will work the way you want.

Connecting The Circuit

You can set up an Arduino and MOSFET circuit by following these steps:

  1. On the Arduino board, you’ll find numbered pins. Connect the pins market 5, 6, and 9 to the gate terminals of the three MOSFETs.
  2. Connect a 10k resistor in line with each gate terminal, securing each to the ground rail.
  3. Connect the source terminals to the ground rail of the board.
  4. Connect the red, blue, and green connectors on your LED strop to the Drain terminals.
  5. Take the 12v connector of your LED strip and connect it to the power rail.
  6. Connect the ground pin of your Arduino board to the ground rail.
  7. Take your 12v power supply and connect it to the power rail.
how to wire RGB LED strip without controller using Arduino
How to connect an RGB LED Arduino circuit

LED strips usually come with Dupont connectors, which make it easy to connect the strip to Arduino. In case your strip doesn’t have connectors, you may have to solder wires to your LED strip. In this case, you can power the board through the USB port. Once you’ve set up everything, you can prepare a simple Arduino code to control the LED strip.

Also Check: How To Connect RGB Fans To Motherboard

Fading The Lights

You can connect your computer to the Arduino board through a USB cable. 

Launch the Arduino IDE on your computer and ensure you’ve selected the right port and board numbers for your board by navigating to Tools > Port and Tools > Board. Open up a new sketch file and save it with a suitable name.

This Arduino sketch will fade the lights on your RGB strip, one color at a time. The lights will then stay on for a few seconds before fading completely.

To make the code, you’ll have to add the following:

  • Define which pins will control the MOSFETs.
  • Have an overall brightness variable of 255.
  • Have individual variables for each color.
  • Create a variable to control how quickly the colors will fade, which we’ll call our fadeSpeed value.
  • In the setup function, set the Arduino pins as the output.
  • Write the code for the TurnOn() method as 3 ‘for‘ loops that take red, blue, and green lights to their maximum brightness over a particular time.
  • Write the TurnOff() method code by applying the brightness variable to the red, blue, and green color pins, effectively taking them to zero over time.  

Testing The Sketch

The TurnOn() and TurnOff() methods should be empty loop methods to prevent errors during compilation. In the end, your code should look like this:

Full Code

#define RED_LED 6
#define BLUE_LED 5
#define GREEN_LED 9

int brightness = 255;

int gBright = 0;
int rBright = 0;
int bBright = 0;

int fadeSpeed = 10;

void setup() {


After completing the sketch, save the file, verify it, and upload it to the board. If you get any errors, go back and check the code again – you may have missed a semicolon or made a typo. When it works, you’ll see that each color on your 12v RGB LED strip lights up individually; the white light stays for 5 seconds and then fades completely.

Final Thoughts

If you want to learn how to wire RGB LED strip without a controller, there are many ways. You can connect it to an external power supply, individual battery packs, or an Arduino board. These techniques are effective when you’ve lost the controller or have some extra RGB LED strip you want to use. Some methods only allow you to get solid colors, while more complex methods like Arduino will also allow you to achieve transition effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I control the brightness of each color without a controller?

Yes, you can, but it would require building a complex circuit with a potentiometer connected to each color pad. By turning the potentiometer, you can increase or decrease the luminosity of the LED lights.

Do these techniques work for white LED strips as well?

In a regular white LED strip, there will only be two pads: the +12v and the pad for the white light. Simply connect the red wire to the +12v pad (as mentioned above) and the ground wire to the color pad.

What if I have a higher-voltage power supply?

Using a battery or power supply with a higher voltage can risk damaging your RGB LED strip. You can use a voltage booster/converter to reduce the voltage according to the required limit. And if you use a lower voltage, the RGB LED strip may not light up at all, and even if it does, it may be very dim.

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Wajih Hyder Chohan
Wajih Hyder Chohan
I am Wajih Hyder Chohan - a PC Hardware Nerd who always analyzes the latest products and reviews them. Usually, people call me boring, but I can't limit my love for Hardware!


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