Rotary Encoder - Illuminated (Red/Green)

Rotary encoders are used similarly to potentiometers. They're different from potentiometers in that an encoder has full rotation without limits. They output gray code so that you can tell how much and in which direction the encoder has been turned.

This encoder is especially cool because it has a red/green LED built in, as well as a push-button. Look below for the clear knob that goes with this potentiometer.

  • Switch Travel: 0.5mm
  • Shaft Diameter: 6.0mm
  • Shaft Length: 18mm
  • Vertical Through-Hole Mount
  • Red/Green LED
  • Pushbutton

Rotary Encoder - Illuminated (Red/Green) Product Help and Resources

Common Cathode

If you look at the dimensional drawing, the LEDs and button are common cathode. If you are using code in the GitHub repository, make sure that you flip the logic on the LEDs to properly light up and use a pull UP resistor on the switch.

Core Skill: Soldering

This skill defines how difficult the soldering is on a particular product. It might be a couple simple solder joints, or require special reflow tools.

1 Soldering

Skill Level: Noob - Some basic soldering is required, but it is limited to a just a few pins, basic through-hole soldering, and couple (if any) polarized components. A basic soldering iron is all you should need.
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Core Skill: Electrical Prototyping

If it requires power, you need to know how much, what all the pins do, and how to hook it up. You may need to reference datasheets, schematics, and know the ins and outs of electronics.

2 Electrical Prototyping

Skill Level: Rookie - You may be required to know a bit more about the component, such as orientation, or how to hook it up, in addition to power requirements. You will need to understand polarized components.
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Looking for answers to technical questions?

We welcome your comments and suggestions below. However, if you are looking for solutions to technical questions please see our Technical Assistance page.

  • Member #1358979 / about 5 years ago / 1

    Could someone identify the board shown in the 4th product image — the one with the ring of LEDs(?) surrounding the encoder? I've looked through all the LED/EL products on the site and didn't find anything like this. I would LOVE something that would let me combine a rotary encoder with a visual indicator of the current position; it would be perfect for controlling synthesizers.

  • Tutorial link invalid, 404 error

  • Member #436937 / about 8 years ago / 1

    Does anyone know the durability of this encoder? We want to attach it to a motor that will operate at 100 rpm max.

  • Member #345810 / about 8 years ago / 1

    This may be a silly question, but can both red and green be illuminated at once to produce yellow? Or are the colors limited to red or green?

    • OldFar-SeeingArt / about 8 years ago / 2

      Yes - the leds are independent of each other. You can energize them one at a time or both together. I bought one of these a few years back and just got it out yesterday to wire to an Adafruit Pro Trinket with their USB volume control software. I added a bit of pwm code to run the leds from green to yellow to red as the volume goes up.

  • One of the most important property of a rotary encoder is how many pulses it sends out for a full 360° rotation. You guys should get in the habit of putting this in the product post (it is 24 for this one).

    • Member #367049 / about 11 years ago / 1

      Hey, relatively new to the platform. Can you tell me if it is 24 pulses for 360 rotation for each of the channels (so we get a total of 48 pulses every rotation), or is 12 per channel (so we get total of 24 pulses every rotation) ?

  • Blacklab1 / about 13 years ago / 5

    I wish they set this up for RGB LEDs.
    Also when is the break out board going to be released?

  • ThatOtherOtherGuy / about 13 years ago / 3

    Never mind... I had skipped the dimensional drawing. Circuit detail is there. While one might RTFM, one must also RTOFM.

  • Duffy / about 13 years ago * / 3

    QUADRATURE output, same as most rotary encoders. Calling the 2 bits "Gray Code" is like calling a pipe's T-fitting a "manifold".

    • fugalster / about 12 years ago / 1

      Agreed. While quadrature is technically a form of Grey Code, Grey Code is so much more. For example, absolute rotary encoders are capable of telling you exactly where they are in their rotation to n bits of accuracy (even through a power cycle!), where n is the number of rings on the encoder.

      Quadrature is 2 bit Grey Code (channel A, channel B), but is not set up to give absolute angle, only relative motion. Good thing, too, since 2 bits of resolution would only be able to give you 90 degree increments.

  • rstaph / about 13 years ago / 3

    This would be even more awesome if you had the same thing in panel-mount.

    • Member #172174 / about 13 years ago / 1

      +1 for panel mount :)

    • rwizard / about 13 years ago / 1

      I'd like to give rstaph a strong second on this. I have a lot more use for panel mount controls than pcb mount. Not only does panel mount provide more layout flexibility, but it isolates the PCB from a lot of physical stress and strain. Besides, I can usually PCB mount a panel mount control, but not the other way around. I hope whoever does the control shopping for SFE will keep panel mounting fans in mind.

      • I'd like something that would let me mount everything to a PCB, with a light guide/diffuser for the LEDs, that can then be mounted to a panel. Maybe in black or white. Or brushed aluminum.

  • Architect / about 12 years ago / 2

    Do you have an ETA for this part to become available again?

    Thank you, Valentin

  • BigJon / about 13 years ago / 2

    Comments elsewhere seem to suggest these encoders contain mechanical switches ? rather than digital switches ? Is this correct ? do you need to debounce the signals ?

    • John.H / about 13 years ago / 3

      The big advantage to the Gray code output (thanks, Frank Gray!) is that debounce becomes a non-issue. According to the data sheet, you know you're at the detent when A=1. You're between detents when A=0 but you can wait to declare the cange complete until A=1 again. When there's chatter on A, B will be rock-solid telling you the change is clockwise or counter-clockwise. Once you decide you're at the new detent, you need to move a full half detent to get to the previous value. It's a fun mental exercise to run through an application with chatter.

    • dbc / about 13 years ago / 1

      d/l the data sheet. It's Chinglish, but sufficiently clear to answer your questions. Yes, they are mechanical switches. Yes, you need to debounce them. The data sheet says a max of 3 mSec of bounce.

      • Sleepwalker3 / about 13 years ago / 1

        Yes, how about an optical version Sparkfun? Mechanicals ones won't last all that long if used frequently and bounce will increase over time too.

  • Member #721314 / about 9 years ago / 1

    For the lilypad mp3 can i use an RG encoder or do i have to use the RGB encoder?

  • Member #726066 / about 9 years ago / 1

    Does this rotary encoder have noticeable clicks or resistance? I want to use it to measure the speed of an RC car and I’d like to simply connect it to the axis using a rubber band.

    • Lotharyx / about 8 years ago / 1

      There's a significant amount of rotational friction. This would not be a suitable part for your application. I suggest, if there's room in your car's chassis, rig up an optical rotation counter -- glue some sort of small flag to the axle, which will pass through the channel of an optointerrupter such as this one, or paint a shiny spot on the axle and use a reflective sensor like this one. Then you'll have a single pulse per rotation (which at RC car speeds, is more than enough). Measure the period of one pulse (or count pulses for a set amount of time) and multiply by tire circumference to get speed.

  • Member #699566 / about 9 years ago / 1

    Hi I am new to programing and have a question In you code there is this

    include ChangeNotification.h

    what is this can any one help

  • Member #486541 / about 9 years ago / 1

    I would like advice on modifying code between the RGB rotary encoder and the RG rotary encoder. My code with the RGB creates green/red blinking with the RG rotary encoder. Any suggestions or resources?

  • JeffC / about 10 years ago * / 1

    I just ran some tests with a scope to get a sense of the jitter. The test rig had a 56K pull-up resistor (roughly what Atmel claims for the internal pull-ups on an Atmega328) to a 5V supply. Here's what I found:

    • With no debouncing cap, I got a lot of jitter when turning the knob slowly, especially when a line transitioned low-to-high. The amount was inconsistent but often bounced 800uS or longer.

    • The recommended 0.01uF caps debounced nicely, with a fairly smooth 1 ms rise to 4V even when turning the knob slowly (which is very close to the 0.9 ms you'd expect from the RC time constant). They were also able to keep up with a quick spin of the knob. I used Kemet C320C103K1R5TA caps for this test.

    • Using a standard 0.1uF decoupling cap led to voltage drops when I turned the knob quickly. The weak pull-up resistor couldn't charge the cap quickly enough to keep up with the pulses.

    Edited to add:

    I also got pure software debouncing to work last night. Here's how. The firmware I'm writing has a system-wide 1ms clock. When a pin change interrupt fires for one of the encoder's lines, it starts a 4-tick (3-4ms) timer for that pin, but only if the pin's timer isn't already running. (If the pin's timer is already running, it ignores the interrupt.) When the timer expires, the code samples the pin's value. It ignores any cases in which A and B both change or where A and B both have the original value. If only one of the two has changed, it declares a rotation event which is clockwise if old B != new A and otherwise counterclockwise. We'll see how the scheme holds up as the encoder wears.

  • Member #439309 / about 11 years ago / 1

    dragon fly's butter fly's horse fly's rotary encoder?.....................................................nope doesn't fit the pattern

  • mwwalk / about 11 years ago / 1

    I used one of these following the bildr tutorial on an arduino and it worked fine, but when I tried to use it on an ATtiny, I ran into problems. Turning the knob didn't adjust the value at all, though at least there was no change when I wasn't moving it. I can't for the life of me figure out why. The ATtiny is operating at slightly slower speed (8MHz as opposed to 16MHz) but should be more than enough when all it's doing is checking an encoder. The first thing I suspected was that the Software Serial was causing problems. So I took it out and used an led to represent the turning. Still didn't fix it. I originally had the software serial tx pin as digital pin 2 on the ATtiny (using pins 0,1 for encoder). I thought maybe this was causing problems so I moved it to pin 4. It started to work better but not near as well as when it was on the arduino. It moved very very slowly when I turned the knob; maybe +- four values for a full rotation. The next thing I tried was changing the bildr code since it declared variables every time it went through the ISR (Interrupt Service Routine) loop. I moved the declarations outside the loop but that didn't help anything. The final thing I did was to get rid of the interrupts and just have it check the status of the encoder pins every time it went through the loop. After this it worked perfectly, even when I moved the Software Serial back to pin 2. So I still don't know what the problem was, but I know it works this way. The only real downside for me is that you can't use any kind of delay in the loop because it may miss part of the encoder turn. If anybody can tell me what my problem was or has had similar experiences, please leave me a comment. You can view a more detailed description here:

  • jmlynesjr / about 11 years ago * / 1

    After trying several versions of the decoding methods listed in the references in "Documents" above, below listed is what I have found to work best for me. This encoder seems to have a lot of jitter/bounce/noise and apparently doesn't stay where set, as you can get outputs without moving the shaft. The 3ms delay/software debounce seems to clear up most of this, but counts seem to be getting missed as well. I think hardware debounce will be needed to clean this up further.


    // RotaryEncoderISR3.pde
    // Interrupt driven rotary encoder library for the chipKIT UNO
    // Uses the Pin Change Library by Majenko from the chipKIT Forum
    // Uses Sparkfun Rotary Encoder - Illuminated(Red/Green) COM-10956
    // and Sparkfun Rotary Encoder Breakout - Illuminated(Red/Green) BOB 10954
    // Last Modified: 12/30/2012 James M. Lynes, Jr.
    // The average rotary encoder has three pins, seen from front: A C B
    // Clockwise rotation A(on)->B(on)->A(off)->B(off)
    // CounterCW rotation B(on)->A(on)->B(off)->A(off)
    // and maybe a push switch with another two pins and led backlights
    // usually the rotary encoders three pins have the ground pin in the middle
    // Rotary encoder decoding using two interrupt lines.
    // (Original Program sketch is for SparkFun Rotary Encoder sku: COM-09117)
    // Adapted from code at:
    // Connect the middle pin of the three to ground.
    // The outside two pins of the three are connected to
    // digital pins 14 and 15
    #include ChangeNotification.h
    int encoderPin1 = 14;                                    // Pin 14 / A0 / CN_4
    int encoderPin2 = 15;                                    // Pin 15 / A1 / CN_6
    volatile int number = 0;                        // Testnumber, print it when it changes value,
                                                    // used in loop and both interrupt routines
    volatile boolean halfleft = false;              // Used in both interrupt routines
    volatile boolean halfright = false;             // Used in both interrupt routines
    int oldnumber = number;
    void setup(){
      pinMode(encoderPin1, INPUT);
      digitalWrite(encoderPin1, HIGH);                  // Turn on internal pullup resistor
      pinMode(encoderPin2, INPUT);
      digitalWrite(encoderPin2, HIGH);                  // Turn on internal pullup resistor
      attachInterrupt(CN_4, isr_A, FALLING);        // Call isr_2 when digital pin 2 goes LOW
      attachInterrupt(CN_6, isr_B, FALLING);        // Call isr_3 when digital pin 3 goes LOW
      Serial.println("Starting Driver");
    void loop(){
      if(number != oldnumber){                      // Change in value ?
        Serial.println(number);                     // Yes, print it (or whatever)
        oldnumber = number;
    void isr_A(){                                           // A went LOW
      delay(3);                                             // Debounce time
                                                            // Trade off bounce vs missed counts
      int bits = PORTB;                                     // Atomic read of encoder inputs
      int LSB = (bits >> 2) & 0x01;
      int MSB = (bits >> 4) & 0x01;
      if(LSB == LOW){                                   // A still LOW ?
        if(MSB == HIGH && halfright == false){          // CW
          halfright = true;                                 // One half click clockwise
        if(MSB == LOW && halfleft == true){             // CCW
          halfleft = false;                                 // One whole click counter-
          number--;                                         // clockwise
     void isr_B(){                                          // B went LOW
      delay(3);                                             // Debounce time
                                                            // Trade off bounce vs missed counts
      int bits = PORTB;                                     // Atomic read of encoder inputs
      int LSB = (bits >> 2) & 0x01;
      int MSB = (bits >> 4) & 0x01;
      if(MSB == LOW){                                   // A still LOW ?
        if(LSB == HIGH && halfleft == false){           // CCW
          halfleft = true;                                  // One half  click counter-
        }                                                   // clockwise
        if(LSB == LOW && halfright == true){                // CW
          halfright = false;                                // One whole click clockwise

    • I'm actually surprised you found so much jitter , and I wonder if you just got a bad unit. I've been using this encoder for several months, as I was testing it for a Wixel based application, and I was finding it to be very stable... certainly very rare a transition would happen without even touching it. Couple of things though. First, I realized a big difference is that I am "polling" (sampling) the encoder at a rapid but constant rate rather than interrupting on change as you are. My premise is that regular polling offers some of the protection from excessive processing that a denounce routine would offer. You could do the same thing with an interrupt based on a timer rather than on a state change. I basically calculated the max reasonable number of transitions I could expect within a given time, with someone making a fairly rapid adjustment. As long as I was "polling" at least 2X or 4X faster, I'd be safe from losing ANY counts. (In actual use, usually losing SOME counts from a human operated control is acceptable too). Anyway, it seems to have worked out well. There's no way to make an interrupt on state change intelligent, as the interrupt has to do some time based processing just to see if it was valid. And really, doing any kind of delays or waits within an interrupt is asking for trouble, because a badly jittering contact could start eating all your CPU time. The other thing, as I'm sure you've heard before, is that with the gray code output from these encoders, the worst that could happen with a properly written routine is that the final output (the accumulated count) might be +/- 1 off. But really, +/- 1 counts is considered to be the maximum practical accuracy in any digitally acquired count.

      • jmlynesjr / about 11 years ago / 1

        PP: Yes, could just be a flaky unit. I don't have an o-scope to check it out in detail. Works ok for my needs as is. Worth $2.95 plus the BOB. I have a polled version also that works about the same as the interrupt version. Haven't tried hardware debounce yet. I saw timer based code out there as well. With the 32bit 80mhz chipKIT I'm not worried about a few cycles.


  • Member #299668 / about 12 years ago / 1
  • Member #224197 / about 12 years ago / 1

    Is this an absolute encoder?

  • microtherion / about 12 years ago / 1

    Fun, but not very breadboard friendly (It's just about possible to use it, but the pins especially on the LED/switch side tend to lose contact unless I'm pushing down all the time)

  • AtermicMaN / about 12 years ago / 1

    Will you receive more soon? Or it will be replaced by the new RGB version? I prefer these ones, because the others have detents. What should I do? Should I wait?

  • Member #255102 / about 13 years ago / 1

    hello all, I'm new in this field. Does anyone has any code example for using the LED? I don't understand how they are being implemented in applications.

  • Member #248908 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Can anyone elaborate on how the pins need to be connected to read the encoder and use the LED. The Dimensional Drawing didn't answer any questions for me, and the datasheet is useless.

    • Check the dimensional drawing again. A, B, and C are for the encoder output, and 1, 2, 3 and 4 is for the switch and LEDs.
      Check the example above (or anything you find on the net regarding reading grey code), and connect A, B, and C.

  • mes_backlab / about 13 years ago / 1

    am i wrong or do they come from here
    they also seem to have an rgb version of the encoders.
    their product video seems quite ... strange... but promising

    • Member #252230 / about 13 years ago / 1

      Yeah, these are the top-up ones.
      I hope Sparkfun gets the RGB ones next: EC12PLRGBSDVBF-D

  • ThatOtherOtherGuy / about 13 years ago / 1

    Help! I've RTFM'ed but I can't figure out the pin-out. If we put the three at the top, four at the bottom and starting in the upper left hand corner and go clockwise, what am I looking at?

  • Rambo / about 13 years ago / 1

    I can't feel a thing...
    ...which is fine by me but random "detention" might be annoying in some application where several encoders are used.

  • Devin_S / about 13 years ago / 1

    It looks like the datasheet does not call for a current limiting resistor for the LED but at the same time I do not see one anywhere in the specs. Has anyone hooked it up to see if it does or does not require the resistor?

    • Kamiquasi / about 13 years ago / 1

      All LEDs require a current limiting resistor when not using a current driver, or you risk (however rare) damaging the LED. Page 9 contains the forward voltage and current ratings / test values.

  • jsfetzik / about 13 years ago / 1

    I got one of these and they are pretty nifty. What I would really love is this same encoder with through hole mounting.

    • Kamiquasi / about 13 years ago / 1

      Isn't it already through-hole? (per description and product photos). Did you mean surface mount?

      • jsfetzik / about 13 years ago * / 1

        I mean through hole mounting, with a threaded section around the shaft. Not through ole soldering.
        With this one you need to solder to a board and then mount the board so the shaft goes through any sort of panel.

  • SD / about 13 years ago / 1

    Can a pot be replaced with a rotary encoder? Or are rotary encoders used for totally different things than what a pot is used for?

    • CF / about 13 years ago / 1

      Well, that depends on what you want to use it for. Yes in general, but if you need a analog output a pot would be easier. You could do analog with a encoder but then you would need a digital pot to go with it if you needed a analog output.

  • rhino / about 13 years ago / 1

    Do these encoders have "clicking" in between each step like the COM-09117 or do they have smooth rotation?

    • There are detents, yes. You can feel very small steps. It's not completely smooth, but it doesn't necessarily click either.

      • Corey H. / about 7 years ago / 1

        Mine had no detents either. Pretty disappointed.

      • OldFar-SeeingArt / about 13 years ago / 2

        Either they vary unit to unit or I'm losing my sense of feel!
        I bought one and absolutely cannot feel the slightest detent. Not that I mind - I didn't buy it for the detent, just for the cool factor. Got one of the circular bar graphs as well. Now I need to make some sort of cool framistat with them.
        Keep the fun new products coming; you will soon own my bank account.

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