Making your own projector screen is a great way of customizing your home theater and cutting down costs. However, it’s important you pick the right screen material or you’ll end up with a washed-out image that will dampen the entire cinematic experience.
For most, the best material for a DIY projector screen is white blackout cloth because it gives you bright and clear images, is inexpensive, and is readily available. Spandex, Flexiwhite, PVC/Vinyl sheets, Projector paint, etc are also good projector screen materials.
In this article, you’ll find an easy checklist to help you decide on the best screen material for your homemade projector screen.
It’s also loaded with a lot of useful links and how-to guides so you can get all set to enjoy your movie nights.
But first, we recommend you consider the unique conditions of your home theater setup. From our experience, what works well in one home theater setup may not work as well in another.
For example, if your home theater room has a lot of ambient light and you use a screen made of white blackout cloth, you might find the projected image to be a bit dull.
The same white blackout cloth screen would perform differently and give you excellent results if you used it in a dark room with a bright projector.
That’s why you need to consider factors such as your home theater environment, lighting conditions, projector type, your budget, etc before you buy the screen material.
Best DIY Projector Screen Materials
There are a lot of good options for screen materials available online and in stores, including these easy-to-install DIY kits.
The best surfaces for a projector screen are smooth, reflective, wrinkle-free, absorb enough light, and don’t add an unwanted tint to your image.
Here are some of our top choices, we’ve listed out the pros and cons of each screen material, and also mentioned which environment it is best suited to.
1. Blackout cloth
Easily available at fabric stores, blackout cloth has been traditionally used to line curtains to block out light.
It is most often a blend of polyester and cotton and absorbs light well. Matte white is the most popular for a DIY screen.
You can also purchase blackout cloth that is specially designed to be used for a DIY projection screen. These are better as they usually have a PVC coating or vinyl to improve their reflectivity.
Carl’s Blackout cloth is a favorite pick for most DIY enthusiasts.
Advantages of using Blackout Cloth for a DIY projection screen
- Blackout cloth is easily available
- It usually works well as a screen because it absorbs light and makes the images pop.
- It’s also pretty easy to cut to the size you want. You can mount it on a wood frame or stretch it between poles.
- Comes at an affordable price
- The great thing is it is often available in widths to create a large 16:9 screen (106 inches).
- Durable when used indoors
- Easy to clean
Disadvantages of using Blackout Cloth for a DIY projection screen
- It can be prone to wrinkles and therefore requires effort to stretch it out properly and secure it tightly.
- Doesn’t work as well outdoors
- Images can appear washed out if the room is too bright
- It can have limited viewing angles.
Who should use Blackout Cloth for a DIY projection screen?
Blackout cloth is best for front projection indoors where you can control the ambient light.
What is the best Blackout Cloth for a DIY projection screen?
The best blackout cloth is matte-white because it reflects light evenly and gives a clear, detailed image with good color saturation.
For best results, we recommend blackout cloth specially designed for projection screens such as Carl’s blackout cloth.
2. Spandex fabric
Made from Nylon or polyester along with spandex, this fabric is smooth and stretchable.
It is ideal for making a tensioned projection screen, where the fabric is stretched tightly over a frame. It works as a perforated screen because of its tiny holes that allow sound to pass through.
Advantages of using Spandex for a DIY projection screen
- Has a smooth surface so you won’t have to worry about creases and wrinkles.
- Its stretchability and light weight make it easy to use in a DIY project
- Can be used for both front and rear projection
- Some say it has acoustic transparency, which means you can place speakers behind it.
Disadvantages of using Spandex for a DIY projection screen
- It has a lower gain (reflectivity) compared to other screens
- Can get easily damaged if not handled properly
Who should use Spandex for a DIY projection screen?
You can use Spandex for front or rear projection in an outdoor setting. It can also work well in small rooms with lower-powered projectors. Some recommend using multiple layers to make the screen.
What is the best Spandex to use for a DIY projection screen?
Matte milliskin spandex is a popular choice among DIY enthusiasts on AVS forum.
However, you should make sure you are getting the right size large enough for your screen so that it doesn’t require seams.
Here’s a helpful tutorial on how to make a projector screen from spandex.
3. Specialist PVC/Vinyl projector screen fabrics
Many brands offer PVC-based fabrics, vinyl-based, and polymer fabrics that are specifically designed for the best quality home theater projection. They have a special coating to increase their reflectivity
Advantages of using PVC/Vinyl based screen material for a DIY projection screen
- Good for both dark and well-lit spaces
- Better quality smooth surface
- Versatile – can be used both indoors and outdoors
- High gain and brightness
- Good viewing angle
Disadvantages of using PVC/Vinyl based screen material for a DIY projection screen
- Some complain it is fragile, so you need to be careful when handling it.
- Some brands tend to be quite expensive
Who should use specialist PVC/Vinyl projector screen fabrics for a DIY projection screen?
Anyone. You can find detailed guidance and specs on the company’s website which will help you decide which is most suitable for you.
What is the best PVC/Vinyl projector screen to use for a DIY projection screen?
The best PVC/Vinyl projector screens are those which have smooth, reflective surfaces that can absorb enough light to produce a bright and sharp image.
FlexiWhite, a PVC-based projection screen material offered by Carl’s Place, in our view, is a winner among them.
For just under $60 you get sturdy, yet flexible projector screen material that gives you a beautiful, bright, and vivid image. You can buy it by the yard or by pre-cut sheets.
Another great option is PVC vinyl. Silver Ticket offers some of the best quality projector screen material on request. However, it is more expensive than Flexiwhite.
4. Projector screen paint
You can turn your wall into a permanent screen by using projector screen paint.
Projector paint is paint that is specially treated to enhance brightness and bring high contrast to an image. It is highly reflective and will make the image appear brighter.
This type of screen needs more investment in terms of time and effort since you need to prepare the wall surface and paint the wall evenly.
Advantages of using Projector paint for a DIY projection screen
- High gain and brightness
- Suitable for larger screen sizes
- Can be painted to go with your decor
- Permanent screen
- Better viewing angle
Disadvantages of using Projector paint for a DIY projection screen
- The image may not be as sharp as on other projector screen materials
- Difficult to achieve absolute smoothness- any bump or texture can distort the image
Who should use Projector paint for a DIY projection screen?
Those who have a permanent home theater room and don’t mind putting in a lot of time and effort.
What is the best type of projector paint to use for a DIY projection screen?
Choose paint with a satin finish, which is neither too glossy nor too much of matte.
For most home theater rooms, grey projector paint gives you a good balance of brightness, color, and better contrast.
But if your projector is not that bright, go with white screen paint as that reflects the most light.
Some examples of projector paints include- Screen Goo, Paint on Screen, and Digital Image Ultra White High Definition Screen Paint.
5. White sheet
As a cheap alternative, white sheets can work as projector screens. However, the image may not be as bright as other screen options.
If you have decided to go with a bedsheet for the screen, make sure you pick a smooth, plain white sheet with a higher thread count (about 400). A lower thread count would allow too much light to pass through and result in a dull image.
Create a backing for the sheet with a dark-colored sheet. This is done so that it helps trap the light and makes the image brighter.
Make sure both sheets are well-ironed and free of wrinkles.
Next, cut it to the desired shape and size and fix it on a frame. For more details, you can check out this helpful article.
Canvas is also an inexpensive projector screen material. You can use drop-down cloth or an artist’s canvas.
However, keep in mind that it might not be suitable for viewing up close because you will be able to see the weaves.
To make the surface smooth and more reflective, you can use white paint. Here’s an article with a step-by-step guide for making a DIY projector screen from Canvas.
Can I make a projector screen at home? What can I use as a homemade projector screen?
Yes, making a projector screen at home is perfectly achievable, depending on the type of screen you choose to make.
Some DIY projector screens are simple to make and can be finished within a day (such as fabric screens), while others are more labor-intensive and take longer (painting a wall).
Homemade projector screens can be made from screen materials such as blackout cloth, spandex, PVC/Vinyl fabric, or by painting your wall with projector paint.
If you’re on a shoestring budget you can also make a white screen from cheaper material available like a white bed sheet, canvas, wrapping paper, window shades, shower curtain or even on a plain white wall with matte white paint.
For more on cheap DIY screens, check out our article 7 Cheap Projector Screen Alternatives.
However, you may have to compromise on the results, as the quality of the image projected will not be as good compared to specialist projection screen material.
Is making a projector screen at home worth the effort?
That really depends on your personal preferences. At Home Theater Academy, we believe that if your budget for a DIY screen is going over $300, you’re much better off going for a readymade projector screen.
Many affordable projector screens offer great picture quality with good brightness and contrast and wide viewing angles.
Not sure whether to go for DIY or an actual projector screen? Check out my top picks for Best Projector Screens for Home Theater.
What is the best thing to use for an outdoor projector screen?
If you’re making an outdoor projector screen, choose a projector screen material that’s smooth and sturdy, weather resistant, can withstand direct sunlight, and can produce a bright and clear image.
Outdoor fabric such as Tyvek, PVC or vinyl sheets, matt white spandex fabric, and even tarp are good projector screen materials.
For an in-depth look at projector screen material specifically for DIY outdoor projector screens, check out our article- 8 Best Materials for Outdoor Projector Screen.
How do you make a screen for a projector screen?
There are several ways you can make a projector screen. Whether you’re a genius with woodwork or even if you’re all thumbs when it comes to woodwork, there are DIY options to suit all skill levels.
You could make a fabric screen, simply by using blackout cloth and a clothesline. Here’s a helpful video tutorial on How to make a DIY projection screen using Blackout cloth.
If you have some basic woodworking skills, you could make a frame out of wood or PVC pipes, attach fabric like spandex or blackout cloth and fix it on your wall.
Proud of your painting abilities? A DIY-painted projector screen might be the project for you. If you’re a DIY pro, you can even try making a stand for a portable screen.
While the process of making a projector screen will vary according to material and type of screen, here are some common steps in making a projector screen-
- First, select your material according to your budget, projector type, home theater space, ambient light, etc.
- Next, decide on the screen size. For this, you’ll need to figure out your throw distance- i.e. the distance between your projector and screen.
- Based on the type of projector and the size of your room, you can calculate your throw distance. Here’s a website that can help. This will help you determine what size the projection should be.
- Measure the desired size for your DIY screen and mark it out on the material you have chosen. You’ll need to add a couple of inches to account for fabric that is lost when you fold it and hem it. Next, cut the sheet.
Make The Frame
Now it’s time to create the frame. You can pick the type of frame based on your skill level.
Option 1: Super easy. Put up the screen using a clothesline and hold it up using clothespins. Secure the screen by sewing in a PVC pipe. This will help the screen fall straight and make it easy to roll up.
Option 2: Use two hook stands (the ones you use for hanging plants) and place a curtain rod in the curve of the hook. Sew in the material over the curtain rod.
Option 3: Wooden frame- If you’re fond of DIY projects, you can make your own wooden frame. Here’s a helpful tutorial.
Option 4: Make a portable stand using PVC pipes. Here’s a budget-friendly DIY stand on instructables.
Attach the Material
Once you made the frame, it’s time to secure the screen material to the frame. Depending on the material, you can either use staples or sew it in.
Make sure you stretch it as tightly as possible to avoid any wrinkles or creases which can distort the projected image.
After you have mounted your screen, it’s time to test out your screen setup. Adjust the screen settings to optimize your image quality.
For specific step-by-step instructions on how to make different types of DIY projector screens, check out our article on 4 DIY Projector Screen Types (Paint, Fabric, Frame & Stand).
How to use your wall as a projection screen
If you plan on painting your wall, here’s a video guide on how to go about it.
Here are the steps involved:
- Prepare the wall and make it smooth and even as possible. Any bumps or crevices can end up creating tiny shadows or distorting the image. Use sandpaper or a power sander to sand the area with rough spots.
- Fill any small holes in the wall. To find them, turn your lights off and shine a torchlight on the wall. Mark out the areas that need to be smoothened up or filled.
- Next, you should use a cloth to gently wipe away the dust. Prep your wall with paint primer and leave it to dry.
- Now it’s time to decide on the screen size. You can figure this out by turning on the projector and using the projected image as a guide.
- Create an outline of the area in which you want the projection to be with a light pencil or painter’s tape.
- Paint it with projector screen paint or white paint. For more information, read this article on What Type & Color Of Paint To Use For A Projector Screen?
- Create a border frame in a contrasting color such as black to help define the image and increase contrast. You can do this by using black velvet projector screen tape.
Alternatively, you can paint the wall around the border in non-reflective paint in a color darker than the screen. Mark the border with painter’s tape to prevent the paint from running.
The best material for a DIY projector screen will depend on your budget, projector, home theater space, ambient light, the purpose of use as well as your woodworking skills and painting skills.
Whatever DIY projector screen material you choose, do make sure to create a matte black border as that will provide high contrast and enhance the quality of the image.
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.