What is Customizable on a Character LCD?

When we picture an LCD, we commonly think of TV screens, tablets, car dashboards, and other everyday technology. But one of these useful digital interfaces that we often pay no mind to is the character LCD. It’s simple, versatile, and can convey information quickly and crisply with no frills. A character LCD is customizable in many ways, which adds to its versatility.

Although it may look and sound like a dated concept, the character LCD remains important. They are a dependable part of small handheld devices, medical apparatus, corporate equipment, and more. It’s so reliable, in fact, that despite the lure of new technologies, its usage is still commonplace.

At first glance, it might appear like a simple screen that only displays letters and numbers. However, beneath its exterior, it’s powered by an intricate system that can be customized in more ways than you’d expect. 

How Does a Character LCD Work?

Character LCDs are quite self-explanatory – they’re displays that display characters, including upper and lower case letters, punctuation marks, and numbers. In some cases, custom and advanced character LCDs can even create charts and graphics. These types of LCDs are typically inexpensive, long-lasting, and easily programmable.

Each display is consists of several parts, including the ITO glass, fluids, a backlight, an LCD driver and in most cases a PCB. They display characters through a dot configuration, most typically a 5×8 configuration that has five dots on an X-axis and eight dots on the Y. Certain dots light up depending on the character being created.

Customizable Character LCD Options

There are many benefits of a simple character LCD. Easy replacement, low chance of obsolescence, and low power consumption to name a few. Arguably, its biggest draw, however, is its high customizability. Depending on the LCD’s application, certain customizable features can enhance the user experience.

  • Number of Characters – Especially if the function of your LCD hinges on visual layout and readability, being able to decide the number of characters displayed on the interface is a great asset. Manufacturers can configure columns and rows depending on your needs, whether you need a 20×4 screen or a 16×2 one.
  • Custom Characters – Character LCDs usually have a range of characters and symbols built into the system, but there’s also the option to design and display characters outside of the LCD’s built-in character generator. This could be anything from a company logo to a specific language character if you want to translate your display. In these cases, the design format is a hexadecimal code or binary data for the LCD to render.
  • Mechanical Footprint – Character displays use a monochrome technology. which allows just about any mechanical aspect of the design to be customized including aspect ratio, height and width, pin location or type, and even shape with certain limitations.
  • Backlight Color – For both aesthetic and readability purposes, character LCDs can have a custom colored backlight. There is often a preset range of colors to pick from, but otherwise, RGB settings can help you create your own unique color. For example, this Focus Displays customer wanted a specific shade of orange for their LED backlight to match their company colors.
  • Text Appearance – Text appearances serve to enhance user interaction, making the display more visually stimulating. There’s the option to adjust font sizes to prioritize certain bits of information. One can change the font style, adjust contrast levels to make text stand out. Adjusting formatting to change alignment and how the text looks on the screen. Scrolling and blanking effects that convey a sense of urgency.
  • Display Modes – Display modes allow users to manipulate how information is displayed and data is sent to the LCD. Users might want to conserve the microcontroller output by using 4-bit mode or speed up data transfer with 8-bit mode. If there’s a need to display two sets of information at once, users can take advantage of the 2-line mode.

Character LCDs also permit modifications that go past the display level and concern custom pins, mounting holes, PCB boards, and more. There’s also the option to increase the brightness of a backlight. Additionally, you could add a heater for situations where cold weather may be an issue. The possibilities are endless with character LCDs, which is a true testament to their adaptive nature.

How Customization Impacts the User Experience

While customization plays a huge role in aesthetics, it goes beyond visuals to enhance the overall customer experience. Even with such a basic display, these tweaks go a long way to impact engagement and satisfaction. 

For example, customizing a character display to have a brighter backlight can benefit electric car charging stations and other parking meters in broad daylight. Large character displays can be important for products that need to be readable from long distances. For example, security alarm panels and sprinkler timers. 

Character LCDs can be paired with tactile buttons and display characters in two lines for security panels, which need to stick around and not go to their End of Life (EOL) phase. Manufacturing equipment that lives outdoors in fluctuating climates needs to withstand humid and frigid temperatures, and heaters and regulators can help mitigate these issues.


These instances show just how deep customization can go, letting character LCDs function optimally in a variety of industries. From scientific research equipment to industrial control equipment to point-of-sale systems, there are not many areas where character LCDs aren’t incredibly useful. Their adaptability and functionality change the way we present and receive information across many applications. Being able to blend simplicity with advanced customization means that seemingly simple changes in backlight color or display modes can truly shape how a user interacts with this technology. Even in a world that thrives off the latest OLED and 4K displays, customizable character LCDs have stood the test of time.