How To Make Projector Screens

How To Make Projector Screens

So, you have ditched the old flat screen and taken the plunge into the world of projection systems for your home theater. Congratulations. However, selecting the right projection system for you is only half the equation. Without a proper screen, your investment will seem to provide a lower-quality picture than a television. Your choice in screens comes down to two issues:

  1. Whether you have a nice, big piece of wall or whether you prefer a standalone screen
  2. Cost

Here, we review both your options in this arena.

Any screen you construct should be proportional to the maximal dimensions of your projector output. The most common projection ratio is 16:9.

Related Article: Projector Native Resolution: A Guide For The Confused Buyer

Option 1: The Wall

How To Make Projector Screens
Project Time: 8 hours
Cost: $80-100
Materials: 60-80 grit sandpaper (optional), 100-120 grit sandpaper (optional), painters’ drop cloth, painters’ tape, flat white paint, painting kit, sanding block

Place your projector where you wish it to sit, turn it on, and project it to the area of wall you wish to use. Be certain the projector is at 16:9 resolution or another viewing ratio you prefer.

If your projector will be positioned to the side of your viewing area, be certain to keystone the projection beam so that the projection area is rectangular. Mark the corners of the projection area with a pencil.

Use painters’ tape to mask off a rectangular area with the pencil marks at the corners. This will be the projection area you will prepare.

If you have a textured drywall, use 60-80 grit sandpaper with a sanding block to smooth the surface. You do not want a textured surface for your screen. Always use gentle, circular motions.

Before painting, prepare the surface by gently sanding with 100-120 grit sandpaper. Dust off the sanded surface with a moistened cloth.
Apply flat white paint to the projection area with a small paint roller. Use vertical and diagonal strokes to evenly apply the paint. Allow the paint to dry (typically 2-3 hours). Repeat application two more times for a thorough coating.

Option 2: The Board

Cardboard Screen

Project Time: 30 minutes
Cost: $15-25
Materials: sheet carboard, gift paper with white backing, packing tape, double-sided tape

If you are on a tight budget, an acceptable screen can be easily constructed with a few inexpensive, simple materials. Purchase a sheet of corrugated cardboard (never folded) or paper-backed foam board from an art supply store or home supply store. The board should be as wide or slightly wider than a long roll of gift-wrapping paper. These screens are functional but relatively small and useful for close viewing distances.

Arrange the free end of the gift paper near the edge of the board, pattern down, with the roll of the paper sitting to the side of the board. Apply an even strip of packing tape to attach the paper to the board. Turn the board over.

Place long strips of double-backed tape across the board diagonally, about a hand-span apart. Strips may overlap. Apply a double strip of double-backed tape at the top and bottom of the board within the width of the gift paper.

Carefully unroll the gift paper across the board, being certain to prevent and wrinkles. You should be looking at the white, non-patterned side of the paper. Wrap the paper over the far end of the board and secure on the reverse side of the board with tape as you did in the beginning.
Press down evenly across the front of the board to set the paper on the tape.

Sailcloth Screen

How To Make Projector Screens
Project Time: 10 hours
Cost: $60-80
Materials: cotton duck, metal grommeting kit, fray lock, two 2 x 2-inch boards, screw-in metal hooks

A more durable projection screen can be made in a short time from cotton canvas material. Canvas screens can be used both indoors and outdoors and tailored to any size. This design can also be cleaned.

Use a number 8 (11 oz.) or a number 10 (9 oz.) white cotton duck (cotton canvas), cut to the correct dimensions (16:9). The size will depend on the desired viewing distance and the luminal intensity of your projector, so take these factors into consideration when sizing the fabric.

Apply a fabric glue (such as Dritz fray check) to the edges of the canvas, following the manufacturer instructions. This will prevent fraying of the fabric without a need to sew over the edges. Drying time is typically 8 hours.

If you prefer sewn edges, you will either need a sewing machine that can run canvas or you will need to sew by hand using an appropriate gauge thread (upholstery thread).

When the cloth edges are prepared (glue dried or sewn), fold over the top edge of the fabric. Follow the manufacturer directions in the grommeting kit regarding application for hole punch and setting of the grommets. The width of the fold will depend on the grommet size you select. Space grommets evenly about 10 cm (about 4 inches) apart. Repeat on the lower edge of the fabric.

Cut two 2 x 2-inch boards to slightly longer (approximately 3 cm or about an inch) than the top and bottom widths of the cloth. Center the top, grommeted edge of the cloth on one board and mark the center of each grommet on the board with a pencil. Insert screw-in hooks on the marks to the same depth. Repeat for the bottom of the cloth.
The screen may be wall- or rack-mounted as needed.

HD Screen

Project Time: 4 hours
Cost: $120-160
Materials: 1 x 4-inch boards, flat corner braces with countersink holes, flat T-braces with countersink holes, 3/8-inch countersink wood screws, drill and bits, HD screen material, staple gun and staples

The HD screen material recommended here comes with a rubberized, blackout backing that makes stretching to a wrinkle-free surface rather easy. It is sold in precut sizes, so the frame wood will need to adhere to the size of the material you select. We recommend marking the corners of your projection area as above in the painted wall screen instructions.

The example provided here is for a 144-inch (diagonal) projection screen. The projection screen material is in a 71 x 126-inch sheet (16:9 ratio). Cut two 1 x 4-inch boards to the width of your projection screen fabric (in this example, 126 inches). Cut four 1 x 4-inch boards to the height of your screen material minus 7 inches (64 inches in this example; 1 x 4-inch boards are actually 3.5 inches in width when cured).

Lay out your top and bottom boards on the floor, in parallel. Place all four of the shorter cross boards at equal intervals perpendicular to the top and bottom boards. Align edges of the outer two short boards with the ends of the top and bottom boards to form a rectangular frame.

Place flat corner braces at the outer corners, ensuring that the boards are flush together (no gaps). Place the T-braces at the junction of the top and bottom with the shorter cross boards. Mark the hole centers in the braces with a pencil.

Drill pilot holes using a drill bit that matches the shank diameter of the wood screws. Screw in the braces.

Roll out the cloth on the floor. Turn the frame over on to the cloth. Align the cloth with the top edge of the frame, ensuring that it is centered, allowing for a half-inch overlap on the back side (visible side) of the top board. Begin applying staples spaced 2-inches apart, taking care to prevent wrinkles.

Repeat for the bottom board of the frame, stretching the material slightly. The rubberized backing of the material will allow for some stretch and helps to prevent wrinkling. Stretch the material slightly over each end, stapling at 2-inch intervals.

Carefully fold the corners in, as if you were finishing wrapping a gift with paper and apply several staples to secure the corner. Hang the screen as you would a painting, 3-4 screws or brackets, depending on the availability of wall studs.

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