Projectors work by propelling colored light from a lens onto a flat surface. As such, some projectors struggle to produce black shades. So, it’s crucial to consider projector black levels when attempting to view media that primarily consists of dark hues.
Projectors with higher black levels display deeper, darker blacks, while projectors with lower black levels may show lighter black colors that appear gray. You can increase black levels via a projector’s settings. Adjusting a room’s ambient light can help you achieve darker, richer black hues.
This guide will discuss everything you need to know about projector black levels, including how to increase them. You can use this information to improve the performance of your at-home or business projector.
Projector black levels are essentially the opposite of projector brightness levels. Black levels influence how dark projected images can appear. The higher the black level on a projector, the deeper and richer the dark shades it displays.
If you’ve ever watched a movie or television show on a projector and noticed that particular objects appear gray when they should look black, you may need to adjust your projector’s black level settings.
Lowering the projector’s brightness and increasing contrast can also help dark hues appear more vibrant and authentic.
It’s entirely possible to enjoy deep black hues while using a projector. One of the simplest ways to achieve this is to enter your projector’s settings menu and locate the black level adjustment panel. From there, you can increase or decrease image brightness to achieve richer black shades.
Of course, your projector’s manual can walk you through this adjustment process. If you’re unsure where your projector’s manual is, and you’d like to adjust the color and image settings, check out this helpful walkthrough video that explains the process:
Now that we’ve established that projectors struggle to display true black, it’s time to explore the reasons why projectors often suffer from poor black levels.
Projectors struggle with dark hues, including black, because they don’t emit black. Black is essentially the absence of light. And projectors work by pushing bright light through a small lens. So the only way for projectors to display true black is to block the light.
Unfortunately, lamp projectors cannot block their display light without obscuring some of the light used to display bright colors. As such, most projectors continue to struggle to display dark hues.
However, laser projectors can help you achieve darker blacks. This is because they utilize individual colored lasers to project images and when they encounter black shades that simply don’t engage any lasers for that area. As such, they do what lamp projectors can’t.
Projectors use a bright light to display images on flat surfaces. As such, most projectors aren’t capable of producing true black hues. That said, pairing a high-quality projector with a black projector screen can help you enjoy darker black shades.
Unlike white projector screens, black projector screens absorb light. This feature allows projected images to appear darker than they would on a white screen. Consequently, one of the best ways to improve black levels and enjoy true black is to invest in a black screen.
That said, a black projector screen isn’t the only way to achieve darker, richer black.
The best way to increase the black level on a projector is to access the projector’s image settings and locate the black level settings. From there, you can increase the black level to make the darker hues of projected images darker and more true to life.
If you’re unsure how to access your projector’s image settings, refer to the user manual.
Once you’ve accessed the projector’s settings menu, you’ll generally want to follow a few quick steps:
- Open the image settings or advanced settings menu.
- Locate and open the Black Level menu sub-menu.
- Select Color Adjustment Settings.
- Ensure that all RGB sliders are set to zero.
If you still notice that the black areas of your projected images are appearing gray, you can try three other potential solutions:
- Reducing ambient light in the room.
- Projecting onto a black projector screen.
- Using a gray projector screen.
- Investing in a higher-quality projector.
Let’s explore these options in greater detail to ensure you find a solution that works for your budget and preferences.
Ambient light can make it challenging to see a projected image’s darker hues. Therefore, it’s an excellent idea to reduce ambient light in your projection room. To do this, you’ll want to turn off all lights and draw curtains over sunlit windows.
The only remaining light should be the light streaming through the projector lens. While this solution makes it nearly impossible to see anything except the projected image, it could be a viable option for at-home theaters.
Those hoping to produce darker black shades in an office setting may prefer a black projector screen.
Traditional projector screens are made of white material. This bright background allows colors to be more vibrant, but it can also sap their dark hues. That’s why you may want to consider using a black projector screen instead.
After all, black absorbs light instead of reflecting it. When the light from a projector hits a dark screen, the bright colors are slightly dimmed, but the black hues are enhanced. This reaction makes black projector screens ideal for both offices and at-home theaters.
Fortunately, there are hundreds of black projector screens to choose from, including standalone screens and wall-mounted screens.
Still, even the highest-quality black projector screen can struggle to deepen darker hues when paired with a low-quality projector. So, if you’re using an old or cheap projector, you might want to consider upgrading to a higher-quality 4K model.
Black projector screens can be challenging to find. Additionally, black projection screens are often far pricier than white projector screens. If you’re looking for a more accessible and affordable alternative to black screens, a gray projector screen may be your best bet.
Gray screens absorb more light than white screens. While they don’t absorb as much light as black projection screens, they can increase color contrast and maintain natural black levels.
Naturally, gray projector screens work best in rooms with little or no ambient lighting. This absence of non-projector light sources ensures that projected images remain vibrant.
Like the other projector screens, gray projector screens are available in several styles. For example, you could use a fixed screen for dedicated home theaters or a portable screen for on-the-go projection.
The Elite Screens CineGray 3D Fixed Frame (available on Amazon.com) screen is an excellent option for home theaters, as it mounts to the wall for semi-permanent viewing.
Notably, this screen’s material can diminish light glare from ambient light sources. This feature is advantageous for those hoping to enjoy projected videos or images in rooms with ceiling or floor lights.
Of course, you can also choose to build your own portable or fixed frame projection screen. To do so, you’ll need to purchase high-quality gray screen material.
Fortunately, Elite Screens Designer Cut CineGray (available on Amazon.com) screens are affordable and customizable. For example, you can invest in a 135in (3.4m) screen for less than $200.
You can also choose from several screen materials, including CineGray 3D, the more reflective CineGray 5D, and CineWhite with light-absorbing black backing.
Budget-friendly projectors might be a great way to enjoy projected images and videos without spending thousands of dollars, but they typically don’t offer black level adjustment settings. As such, the image you get is what you’re stuck with.
Investing in a pricier high-quality projector could be one of the better long-term solutions to inadequate black levels. For example, 4K projectors have black level adjustment settings and produce deeper and more satisfying black shades than standard HD projectors.
The Epson Home Cinema 5050UB 4K PRO-UHD (available on Amazon.com) is one of the best options for those looking to enjoy darker black levels.
It’s outfitted with a special compensation filter that helps reduce glare while enhancing dark hues, ensuring that black images remain black after passing through the projection lens.
Pairing this projector with a black projector screen is an excellent way to enhance its advanced black levels. When you opt for this solution, you’ll be able to watch your favorite dark-toned films and view presentations with dark images more comfortably and clearly than ever before.
Projector black levels influence how dark and deep black and dark colors appear when projected onto a surface. To improve a projector’s black levels, you’ll want to eliminate ambient lighting, adjust the projector’s black level settings, or use a black projector screen.
- YouTube: Projector Brightness Contrast and Color Calibration | Lifestyle Lab
- West Texas A&M University | Science Questions with Surprising Answers: How Do Projectors Project the Color Black?
- DIB Audio Visual: Lamp vs. Laser Projection, What’s the Difference?
- Columbia Daily Tribune: Why Do Black Materials Absorb Light and White Materials Reflect It?
- Projector Central: Should I Use Classic White or High Contrast Gray?