How to Add a Touchscreen to Your Raspberry Pi Projects

A monitor with attached keyboard and a small Phillips screwdriver

You only need a Raspberry Pi, a touchscreen, and a screwdriver.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

You probably already know How versatile is the Raspberry Pi computer?. But it’s not until you add a monitor that you really experience the true power and versatility of the platform.

And not any old screens, but touchscreens.

Here’s what you need to do to build a touchscreen computer using a Raspberry Pi.

First, you need a Raspberries. Easier said than done because they are inside short supplybut search around and you’ll probably find one (here’s ZDNET’s advice on where to buy Raspberry Pi 4 and alternatives).

If you have an older Raspberry Pi 3, you can use it with this monitor.

Also: These are my 3 must-have Raspberry Pi accessories

This is mine – it’s 8GB Raspberry Pi 4B.

Raspberry Pi 4 in the box

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Then you need a monitor.

There are several monitors out there, but the one I’m using here is Official Raspberry Pi 7-inch 800 x 480 pixel touch screen.

That, plus a Phillips-head screwdriver, is the bare minimum you need, but I went a little further here and added one more carrying case.

The case helps protect the Raspberry Pi and screen from damage, and makes it feel like a real computer rather than a homebrew project.

Now that you have all the parts you need, here’s the process for adding a touchscreen to your Raspberry Pi.

1. Extremely important ribbon cable connection

Finger next to where the ribbon cable connects to the display controller on the left edge

Connect the ribbon cable to the display controller.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Mounting the monitor is fairly easy, but the first part is also a bit tricky to use as it involves the use of a small ribbon cable.

To attach the ribbon cable to the connector on the display, first find the display connector. There is a small gray plastic tab on this connector that must be slid back to allow the tape cable to be inserted. Push the ribbon as far as you can and then push the gray tab back into place to secure the ribbon.

Also: I just solved one of my biggest Raspberry Pi headaches

The ribbon cable in my kit has a blue side and the instructions say that this side faces the breadboard. Your ribbon cable may be different, so check your instructions.

2. Attach the Raspberry Pi to the display controller

Screwdriver on the edge of the display panel

Attach the Raspberry Pi to the display board.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Next, I inserted the Raspberry Pi into the board, attaching it with four screws.

You don’t need to over tighten these screws!

3. Connect the jumper

Four wires of different colors are plugged into the side panel of the monitor

The jumper powers the monitor.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

I also need to connect four jumper wires to the monitor’s panel. It doesn’t matter which colors you connect where, but you need to know which ones because you’ll need to connect them to the appropriate pins on the Raspberry Pi in a moment.

For reference, here are the four connections and which pins on the Raspberry Pi they need to be connected to:

  • 5V -> Pin 2 or Pin 4
  • GND -> Pin 6
  • SDA (data) -> Pin 3
  • SCL (clock) -> Pin 5

Looking at the Raspberry Pi board with the writing in the right direction, pin 1 on the 40-pin connector along the top is on the bottom left and pin 40 on the top right.

4. Connect that important ribbon cable to the Raspberry Pi

The ribbon cable connects to the left edge of the Raspberry Pi

Connect the other end of the ribbon cable.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Remember that ribbon cable you connected to the display controller?

Now is a good time to connect the other end to the Raspberry Pi. The process is the same as that of connecting it to the display controller.

5. Put everything in the case

Clear box screwdriver for Raspberry Pi and monitor

Put everything in the case.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Next, I stuffed the whole set into the box. It took a bit of fiddling to get the display right into the box, but everything seemed to be in place once the screws were in. You can tell when it’s in place because the ports will line up with the cutouts.

Transparent cover shows holes for ports

What it looks like when everything lines up.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

Again, you don’t need to over tighten these screws.

6. You’re done!

You have added a touch screen to your Raspberry Pi! Fire up your Raspberry Pi and update the software, and you’re ready to take your projects to the next level.


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