There's no escaping that projection screens are expensive, but a viewing experience is only as good as the screen on which it is watched; That's what ardent projectionists believe, however they may not be correct.
DIY projection screens, if well-constructed with good materials are capable of excellent clarity and resolution in all modern formats. What's more, they are inexpensive, easy to make, and some types offer the versatility to screen outdoor movie nights.
Types of Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Projector Screens
There are three main types of DIY Projector screens: painted, fixed frame, and portable.
Painting a surface to project movies onto is a relatively inexpensive and straightforward job. A basic screen requires little more than a can of non-reflective paint and some masking tape, although you can spend more time and money and make it into a feature.
Painted screens are ideal where there is little space to store free-standing models. They are also easily hidden behind furniture or artwork.
How to Create a Painted Projector Screen
- Choose the best wall in your media room and spend time thoroughly filling any cracks and sanding back lumps and bumps. The smoother the surface, the better the quality image achieved. You might be surprised how much the smallest blemish affects picture quality.
- Calculate the throw distance; the optimum length a projector should be from the screen (usually provided by the manufacturer). Another, less accurate method is to position the projector, turn it on, and trace the perfect screen size.
- Use masking tape to mark the border and use non-reflective paint for the wall outside this area. Choose a deeper color than the screen shade; it contrasts well and adds to the definition.
- When the paint is dry, remove the masking tape. Add some more to the outer edge of the border and give the screen area a coat of primer. It adds durability to the screen, helps cover any imperfections, and the screen paint has something to bond.
- Use a small roller for a smoother finish, apply 2-coats of screen paint, allowing for the recommended drying time between layers.
- To finish, create a frame. Black velvet border tape looks professional and is easy to fit.
Advantages of Painted Projection Screens
Painted surfaces don't lead to hot-spotting like some fabric surfaces, and when done well, can result in picture-perfect 1080p and 4K HD clarity.
Screen paint has unique qualities that help to prevent issues with ambient light.
Fixed screens are another affordable option, especially when the wall is too uneven to consider projector screen paint.
They are a permanent solution, and as such, don't face the creasing problems that retractable screens suffer.
How to Create a Fixed Frame Projector Screen
- Calculate the exact image size required – easiest to do by turning on the projector and setting it to 'test image.' Mark out the accurate measurements before ordering the wood; remember to allow extra for any borders.
- Using 3" x 1" timber, create a frame braced together with 'L' brackets. For larger screens, add an extra internal beam for additional support – screw it in place using 'T' brackets. Secure hanging brackets in place at this point.
- Sand all of the edges, joints, and corners to create a smooth finish to prevent your chosen screen material from snagging.
- Lay your projection screen fabric (blackout cloth) on a flat surface, ensuring that it is dirt and dust-free. It should be 3” bigger than the framework to securely attach it.
- Start at the center of one length of the frame and staple the material into position. Gradually work out to the corners, stretching the fabric as you go, pulling out any creases or wrinkles.
- Flip it over and trim the edges with black velvet border tape. Not only does this add a professional-looking finishing touch, but it also reduces light flection.
- Finally, with the aid of a level, mount the screen using the hanging brackets.
Advantages of Fixed Frame Projector Screens
Due to their rigid construction, fixed screens produce crisp and focused pictures. They don't wrinkle or crease; they remain in situ, giving any home movie theater a true cinema style.
There are an array of fabric and color choices. Most are polyester/cotton composites with a centralized blackout core. There is a material to suit all screen formats in a color of your preference; white, grey, or black.
Hand-made fixed screens are capable of high-quality pictures with superb contrast, clarity and, colors. It is available for a fraction of the price of their manufactured counterparts.
Portable Projection Screens
Portable projection screens are ideally suited for outdoor use or indoors in large spaces.
They probably aren't the best option for a home theater or media room, but a fun and convenient change from crowding around a TV screen.
It is easiest for us to provide a shopping list of things you'll need. Some of the lengths of pipe are very long for two reasons; the offcuts are part of the construction, and the screen will end up around twice the size of an average one. Thankfully, it eliminates the need for accurate measuring.
- 6 x 120” PVC pipes
- 8 x 1” diameter 90° elbow joints
- 2 x 1” diameter 45° elbow joints
- 1 x 1” straight connector
- 6 x 1” T connectors
- 1 x 72” x 96” white tarp or piece of blackout cloth.
- Glue, twine, or strong tape
- Wipeable felt tip pens to color-code the pipes
How to Create a Portable Projector Screen
- Cut the 6 long pipes to the following lengths, ensuring to keep the offcuts for later use. 2 x 102" 2 x 78" 2 x 75"
- Using the plastic components, proceed to build the frame thus;
- Connect the 102” and 78” using 90° elbows
- Insert 3 x T connectors into each 102”, at 24” intervals
- Connect the 75” into those T's closest to the corners
- Put 90° elbows on these, then add an 18" (offcut)
- At the other end of the short pipe, place a 45° elbow
- Connect the 75" to these elbows and then to the front T connectors
- Using the straight connector, join the two 45" pipes (offcuts) and add a 90° elbow at the ends
- Cut a remaining scrap to 3"; this will connect the long pipes to the center T connectors.
Finally, attach the tarp or blackout fabric using either glue or duct tape. You might prefer to drill holes in the corners of the pipe to secure a screen with rope or twine. This method works particularly well with a tarp as it enables it to be pulled very tight for better picture quality.
The Advantages of Portable Projector Screens
If there is a supply of electricity, portable screens make it possible to watch a movie, presentation, or TV show.
They are cheap, lightweight, and any size you want them to be. With no strict measurements to adhere to, they are fun and easy to build.
Portable projector screens are for indoor or outdoor use.
Innovative technology within paint and fabric results in projection surfaces that rival high-end screens that cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars.