How to create custom characters on 16×2 LCD using PIC18F4550

The 16×2 character LCD can also be used to display custom characters other than numerals, alphabets & special characters. Refer LCD interfacing with PIC. Some special shapes like hearts, arrows, smileys etc. can easily be displayed on the 5×8 pixel pattern of character LCD. These shapes are first stored at a special location in LCD’s controller and then displayed on the LCD module. This procedure has been explained here by using PIC18F4550.

The special characters are generated by bit-mapping of LCD’s 5×8 bit pixel matrix. Refer Creating custom characters on LCD using 8051 for more details on bitmap generation and storing custom values in custom generator (CG) RAM of LCD’s controller. 

The mikroC IDE provides LCD Custom Character tool to create the bitmap of user defined custom character. (Also see Working with mikroC) To create the bitmaps using this tool, following steps are to be followed:

1. Go to Tools -> LCD Custom Character

How to create custom characters on 16×2 LCD using PIC18F4550

LCD Custom Character” title=”Screenshot Of MikroC IDE screen with Tools menu -> LCD Custom Character” />

2. Select 5×7 + cursor line font and start filling the pixels in the matrix by clicking on them to create a custom character. The following figure depicts the generation of heart shape’s bitmap.

Heart shape’s bitmap Generated on MikroC IDE Screen with PIC18F4550

3. After creating the character and click on GENERATE button. A window will appear containing the bitmap values of designed custom character as highlighted in the following figure.

Bitmap Values Of Designed Custom Character in MikroC IDE

4. These bitmap values can now be used in the code.

Bitmap Values used in Code for creating custom Character in PIC

The bitmap values of a custom character are stored in CGRAM of LCD controller module. The CGRAM can store up to 8 custom characters’ bitmaps. For more details, refer Custom character display using 8051. The addresses of CGRAM where bitmaps are stored are shown in the following table.
Base Address


 The following programming steps are used to store the bitmap values into CGRAM and display the corresponding custom character on LCD. An example is also given at the end to understand the code and concept.
Programming Steps:
·            Select the base address of CGRAM where the bitmap values are to be stored. This address is sent as command instruction (RS=0).
·            After the address, the bitmap values are sent one by one as data (RS=1).
·            Next the LCD location is sent where the character is to be displayed.
·            The corresponding ASCII value of the base address of the CGRAM is sent to print the stored character. This is sent as data value (RS=1).
The above steps are integrated into a single function special_char() which makes it easier to display the custom characters on LCD.
void special_char(unsigned char cgram_loc, unsigned char lcd_loc, unsigned char *data)
unsigned int j=0;
          lcdcmd(cgram_loc);         // sends location of CGRAM
                    lcddata(data[j]);      // sends bitmap values of the character
          lcdcmd(lcd_loc);           // sends LCD location where the character is to displayed
          lcddata((cgram_loc-64)/8); //ASCII value of corresponding base address.
If a data array value[] (containing bitmap values) is to be stored at CGRAM location 64 (base address), and is to be displayed at 0x82 location on LCD (i.e., first line, third column); then the above function is called as follows.

Project Source Code


// Program to display custom characters on 16×2 LCD using PIC18F4550 Microcontroller

// Configuration bits
/* _CPUDIV_OSC1_PLL2_1L, // Divide clock by 2
_FOSC_HS_1H, // Select High Speed (HS) oscillator
_WDT_OFF_2H, // Watchdog Timer off
MCLRE_ON_3H // Master Clear on

//LCD Control pins
#define rs LATA.F0
#define rw LATA.F1
#define en LATA.F2

//LCD Data pins
#define lcdport LATB

void lcd_ini();
void lcdcmd(unsigned char);
void lcddata(unsigned char);
void special_char(unsigned char, unsigned char, unsigned char *);
unsigned char data1[]={10,21,17,17,17,10,4,0}; // Bitmap values of “heart” shape
unsigned char data2[]={12,18,1,2,4,8,0,8};
unsigned char data3[]={1,3,5,9,9,11,27,24};
unsigned int i=0;

void main(void)
TRISA=0; // Configure Port A as output port
TRISB=0; // Configure Port B as output port
lcd_ini(); // LCD initialization
special_char(64,0×82,data1); // Function call to store “Heart” shape’s bitmap at 64th base address
// and print it at 0x82 location on LCD

void special_char(unsigned char cgram_loc, unsigned char lcd_loc, unsigned char *data)
unsigned int j=0;
lcdcmd(cgram_loc); // Send location of CGRAM
lcddata(data[j]); // Send bitmap values of the character
lcdcmd(lcd_loc); // Send LCD location where the character is to displayed
lcddata((cgram_loc-64)/8); // ASCII value of corresponding base address

void lcd_ini()
lcdcmd(0x38); // Configure the LCD in 8-bit mode, 2 line and 5×7 font
lcdcmd(0x0C); // Display On and Cursor Off
lcdcmd(0x01); // Clear display screen
lcdcmd(0x06); // Increment cursor
lcdcmd(0x80); // Set cursor position to 1st line, 1st column

void lcdcmd(unsigned char cmdout)
lcdport=cmdout; //Send command to lcdport=PORTB

void lcddata(unsigned char dataout)
lcdport=dataout; //Send data to lcdport=PORTB


Circuit Diagrams

Circuit Diagrams. 1

Project Components

Project Video

Source: How to create custom characters on 16×2 LCD using PIC18F4550

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