Nothing beats a media room that uses high-quality projectors. However, the viewing experience you’ll get from projectors can only be as good as the screen, which can cost upwards of $500!
A DIY projector screen is the best workaround; it’s cheaper, allowing you to use that savings to upgrade your sound system, and, sometimes, even better than the ones that you can get from stores.
If you want to construct a DIY projector screen, you have four options. You can build a painted screen, build a curtain screen, build a fixed screen, or build a portable screen. Each has its own unique construction requirements, but all are doable by yourself.
Check out my top picks for home theater projector screens.
Obviously, a painted wall is the easiest way to have a projector screen, but it’s dull and prone to imperfections. So, let’s build all of these projector screens to help you find the best for your media room. Stick around as we discuss these in great detail, and, hopefully, help you save a few hundred dollars to upgrade your entertainment system.
Calculating Your DIY Projector Screen
Before anything else, it’s important to understand the distance you need to create between your projector and screen. We refer to it as the “Throw Distance.” It will always be proportionate with the image size that you’ll project on the screen.
If your projector has a built-in zoom lens, you’ll be able to increase the size of the image without changing your projector’s distance from the screen.
It can be complicated to go through all the details that you need to know about throw distance, but we got you covered! Here’s a handy-dandy Projection Calculator that you can use to calculate the distance you’ll need for almost any projector.
You’re welcome! Now, let’s move on to building your projector screens based on the throw distance for your projector, shall we?
Method #1: DIY Projector Screen with Paint
If you have a limited budget and don’t want to spend too much time, the easiest way to build a projector screen is by finding a wall, large enough to serve as your screen. Once you find it, the only thing left for you to do is to deal with the biggest drawback of painted screens—uneven surfaces.
If you have a smooth wall, you only need to paint the section you’ll use as your screen. Things will get a bit different, though, if you have an uneven surface. Even if you use pieces of plyboard, it’ll still be prone to imperfections, which can directly affect your viewing experience. A painted wall screen may be the easiest and cheapest, but it’s not for everyone.
So before you start this method, be sure that your wall is free from imperfections. Once you have it sorted out, then you can proceed with the following steps:
1. Get the big picture before building your screen
Before you start working on anything, the first step that you should do is to figure out how big your screen should be. Calculate your throw distance to determine how far your projector should be from the screen, and how big the projection will be.
2. Paint the entire section of your wall
Sure, you’re not going to use the whole section of your wall as the screen. But you still need to repaint it to get rid of imperfections visible on the wall. It also creates contrast and prevents the paint from dripping on your screen.
When painting, we prefer to use the paints recommended in this article. The article also serves as a guide on which type and color of paint to use.
3. Paint the area that you’ll use as your screen
Take your time when painting, and make sure that it’s free from any imperfection that could affect your viewing experience. Here are some tips that can help you create a perfectly painted screen:
- Use sandpaper to smoothen the area and get rid of holes, cracks, or bumps that could affect your projector screen’s surface and distort images.
- Use masking tape to create the border for your screen, but make sure that you place it outside the border. We prefer to use Scotch 1.88″ masking tape from Amazon because it creates enough room for error when painting the screen.
- Apply the primer before the first coat to improve adhesion and durability of your screen.
- When painting, it would be best to use a small paint roller to even out the surface and prevent paint from dripping to the edges.
- Apply additional coat as needed until you achieve a smooth, flawless finish.
4. Add a frame as a finishing touch to create more depth
This step is optional, but it brings a painted projector screen to a whole new level. It can be as simple as replacing your masking tape with black velvet or felt tape. For this process, we prefer using Pllieay 1.96″ felt tape (Amazon)
That’s it! With the right set up, you’ll be able to create a beautiful, painted projector screen without spending a lot of time, money, and effort in building one.
Method #2: DIY Screen with Fabric or Blackout Cloth
If a painted projector screen isn’t your thing, and you don’t like the idea of getting down to the nitty-gritty of fixed or portable screens, then, perhaps, a curtain screen would be perfect for you. It’s a curtain that uses white sheet, white canvas, curtain backing, or, preferably, blackout cloth, which will serve as a backdrop for your projector.
There are several ways you can suspend your curtain screen, but the easiest and most economical is through a clothesline. It works great for both indoor and outdoor viewing because it’s easy to set up. Plus, you don’t have to get the measurement of your throw distance down to the last inch.
Building a curtain screen is easy, you’ll only need a high-quality blackout cloth, like the Nicetown white curtain panels (Amazon). You can then drape these panels flat to a clothesline, then hold it in place with a clothespin. Just make sure that it won’t have creases or folds when placed because it’ll ruin your viewing experience.
This setup is excellent as it is when indoors. But for outdoors, you may have to attach a weighted rod or PVC pipe at the bottom to avoid wayward breeze from distorting the projection. You see, it’s effortless to build a curtain screen—probably much faster than painting a whole section of your wall—but it’s prone to several disadvantages, such as the following:
- When indoors, it won’t look as sleek as painted, fixed, or portable screens because it just hangs to a clothesline, and you’ll have to be extra creative to minimize it’s unappealing aesthetic.
- Even with a weighted rod holding the curtains down, your screen will still be susceptible to distortion, especially when you use it for outdoor viewing.
- You’ll have to check it carefully every time you’ll use it to make sure that it doesn’t have creases, folds, or any imperfections that can affect your projection.
Also read: Using a Sheet as a Projector Screen
Method #3: DIY Projector Fixed Frame Screen
A fixed screen is probably your best bet when you’re trying to build the best projector screen. It allows you to have a sturdy screen that isn’t prone to imperfections or distortions when viewing. Plus, it’s one of the only two methods that you can use to create a screen that resembles a large flat TV. That’s something we all want for our media room, right?
There are two caveats with fixed screens, though—it’s more expensive, and you’ll have to spend a bit more time to get the measurements right, down to the last inch. If you’re okay with those things, the next step is to choose the material that you’ll use for the frame:
- Wood is the best material that you can use for your screen because it’s sturdy. It also gives you better flexibility when building and designing frames.
- PVC is lightweight, making it easier for you to mount your screen to the wall. You can create a sturdy screen with it, but you may not have enough flexibility to be creative with the frame.
- Metal is the heaviest material that you can use, but it’s the least flexible of the three. This material is excellent for building screens that can last for years.
Different materials have different ways of attaching blackout cloth. So before we move on to building your screen, let’s figure out how to attach your fabric to these materials:
- When working on a wooden frame, you can lay the cloth flat, then use staples, nails, or glue gun to fasten it to the frame.
- When working on a PVC frame, you only have two options: either sew the fabric on edge or use a glue gun to keep it in place.
- When working on a metal frame, you’ll need two flat bars, held in place with screws, and the canvas in between the bars to keep the fabric in place.
Here is a video explaining the process:
Now that you know how different materials work for your projector screen, let’s get it down to the details. Here’s how you can build a fixed projector screen:
1. Calculate the screen size that you need, based on the throw distance of your projector
Remember, unless your projector has a built-in zoom lens, the throw distance will always be proportionate with the size of the screen that you’ll build.
2. Start looking for the best space in your media room
When finding a place where you can hang your screen, here are three things that you need to consider:
- Your screen’s size should be congruent with your room’s size.
- Your room should have enough space for the projector’s throw distance.
- Your wall should have enough space to accommodate the screen and its frame.
3. Pick the materials that you’ll use
Now that you have the measurements in place, it’ll be easier to determine the suitable materials for your projector screen.
- For the canvas, we prefer using The Yard’s Roc-lon White Blackout Fabric because it’s easy to stretch, and we find it ideal when building projector screens.
- For the frame, you can use wood, PVC, or metal, depending on how you want your screen to look. We prefer wood, but you may have to create additional braces to support its weight.
- Leave at least 5 inches of blackout cloth that you’ll attach to the back of the frame.
4. Build your projector screen’s frame
It should be the specifications that you get from your projector’s throw distance. Be sure to keep the measurements within the screen, and don’t include the space for your frame.
5. Attach your screen to your frame
This step is where a lot of people are having problems, but it’s because of the quality of the cloth they used. If you used a nice blackout cloth, you’d be able to stretch it evenly and prevent distortion with the projection. Here are a few things that you need to remember when attaching your screen:
- Lay your screen flat on the floor, before the frame. Never build your screen with the frame first.
- Staple the fabric on a wooden frame. Stitch the edges when using PVC or metal frames.
- Keep pulling the extra screen material as you attach it to the frame to minimize wrinkles or creases.
6. Mount the screen on your wall for testing
Don’t use too many staples or stitches before testing, because you might need some adjustments on your screen.
7. If everything looks good, unmount it, then go around the frame to staple it again
Leave 5 inches of space in between each staple, then add your finishing touches.
Method #4: Build a Portable Screen (with Stand)
If everything else won’t work for the media room you’re planning to build, you might want to consider a portable projector screen. It’s also a great option if you’re looking for a projector screen that you can use indoor, outdoor, and even in large spaces.
It’ll take more time when building a portable projector screen, but it’s easier than “duct-taping” a cloth or hanging it on a clothesline whenever you need to watch something. And it looks nicer too! So if you have the time and budget for it, stick around as we show you how to make one!
Here are the materials that you’ll need to build your portable projector screen:
- Saw or cutter for cutting the PVC pipes
- Strong glue that can hold PVC pipes together
- Drill to create holes across the PVC pipes
- Six pieces of 10 feet (3 meters) long, 1-inch PVC pipes
- Eight pieces of 1-inch, 90-degree elbows
- Two pieces of 1 inch, 45-degree elbows
- A straight connector
- Six pieces of 1-inch T-connectors
- Tape to hold everything in place
- 6×8 feet white paper, tarp or blackout cloth
The best thing about portable projector screens is that they don’t follow the strict measurements that you have to do when building fixed screens. As you may have already noticed, we’re trying to make a screen at least twice the size of most projector screens. It’ll give you better flexibility, allowing you to watch movies even outdoors!
Here are the steps that you can follow when building your portable screen:
1. Cut the pipes according to the size of your blackout cloth. We’re going to use 6×8 feet of fabric, so we’ll need to cut PVC pipes to have the following:
- Two pieces of 102 inches (2.6 meters) pipes
- Two pieces of 78 inches (2 meters) pipes
- Two pieces of 75 inches (1.9 meters) pipes
Note: Don’t throw away scraps, because we’ll use it for the brace.
2. Build a rectangular frame and position the elbows to create a brace that will support the frame. Here’s how you can build the frame and support for your screen:
- Connect the two 102-inch pipes to the 78-inch pipes using the 90-degree elbows.
- Insert three T-connectors to each of the 102-inch pipes with a distance of two feet from each other.
- Place the 75-inch pipes into the T-connectors closest to the corners.
- Put 90-degree elbows on these pipes, then add an 18-inch PVC pipe to each of them.
- Place the 45-degree elbows at the end of these short pipes.
- Connect the 75-inch pipes to these elbows, then to the front T-connectors.
- Use a straight connector to join the two 45-inch pipes. Add a 90-degree elbow to each end.
- Create a 3-inch pipe that you’ll use to connect the long pipes to the center T-connectors.
3. Attach the fabric to the edges of the frame and stretch it out as much as you can. To make it portable, you’ll have to attach it to the frame using twine that goes through the holes in your pipe. It’ll allow you to remove the cloth when you need to store it.
Building a projector screen is easy, and it gives you enough room for creativity to have something congruent with your setup. Here are the four ways you can build a projector screen:
- Paint the best section of your wall, then use velvet or felt tape to resemble a TV screen.
- Use a dropdown curtain hanging from a clothesline for indoor and outdoor use.
- Create a fixed screen using wood, PVC, or metal frame to resemble a large flat screen.
- Build a portable frame with a removable screen for easier viewing indoor, outdoor, and even in large spaces.
Thanks for reading! Check out my top recommendations for projector screens.
- How to Make a DIY Projector Screen with Blackout Cloth
- Projection Calculator Pro – Projector to Screen Distance
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.