Setting up the perfect outdoor home theater space can seem like a daunting task- although if you are here, you are likely up for the challenge. If you are looking to replace a professional projection screen with another material, you might be considering a white tarp.
Unfortunately, white tarps should not be used as a projector screen as they are typically vinyl causing a shiny glare that can distort the image. Additionally, white tarps when used as a projector screen, display a lower resolution and potentially distorted or blurred projected image.
Of course, if you do not care that the projected image will be slightly distorted, then this might not be of great concern to you. For example, if you just want to have a good time with friends and family under a wide-open sky, then a tarp could work.
But, if you are looking for a clear picture- especially one that is projected in HD- then consider another alternative for your projector screen. Let’s take a closer look.
How to Use a White Tarp for a Projector Screen
If you are not planning on giving up your idea of using a white tarp for a projector screen, then you need to embrace a few suggestions to make this an enjoyable experience for you.
After all, while you can definitely save a bit of cash using a makeshift projector screen instead of a professional one, you will not be providing yourself an enjoyable movie viewing time if your tarp is dysfunctional.
To avoid this, there are a few tips for using a white tarp for a projector screen. Consider finding a screen with an even surface, using a matte coat of paint to reduce shine, removing ridges and unevenness, securely fastening the tarp, and using a tarp that is wind and rain resistant.
Taking these considerations into play will allow you to have a more enjoyable experience with a slightly enhanced visual appeal as well as a more sturdy structure.
Do keep in mind, though, that a tarp is not going to provide you with the same quality of visual experience that you would get from a professional projector screen. Still, let’s take a closer look at why those tips would help.
1. Find a screen with an even surface.
If you are planning to use a white tarp for a projector screen, it can be a bit difficult to expect a high-quality projection. A lot of this has to do with the surface that tarps are typically made from.
Often, you will find that looking close on a tarp will reveal a ridged pattern made in the material itself. While this is certainly fine for other tasks that you may have in mind, disruption to the surface of the screen will lead to distorted images that are projected.
So, when you are choosing to use a white tarp for a projector screen, look closely at the details of the material that the tarp is made from.
Of course, there will always be slightly visible details on any screen, but they should not change the surface of the screen to be uneven or cause any changes in the way that the light from the projector will hit the screen.
2. Use a matte coat of paint on top of the tarp to reduce shine and glare.
As mentioned above, using a white tarp for a projector screen can be a bit tricky considering the vinyl material that most tarps are made from can cause a shine or glare once the light from the projected image hits it.
This will mean that not only will the image be distorted, but it can be uncomfortable to look at for a prolonged period- like the length of time that it takes to stream a movie, for example.
To help avoid this issue, you can choose a tarp that has a light gray coloration to it- something that will not be quite as reflective- or you can use a matte coat of paint on top of the tarp.
To do this, you will need to lay the tarp out completely flat. Then, you can add an extremely thin layer of paint to the tarp. Of course, you will want to ensure that there are no additional ridges or paint marks that add to the uneven surface of the tarp.
You can also choose to paint it in sections to ensure a high-quality job is completed and to avoid any mishaps with the paint. Another alternative is to use a stain- even something that is white or light gray- instead of paint. This will at least help with the coloration even if the matte is not there to reduce the shine.
Using a light gray color for your projector screen can help to bring out the contrast of colors in the image which, in turn, provides a more easily visible projected image.
Remove ridges and unevenness.
Another concern about using a white tarp is the ridges and unevenness that can come with a lower-quality material compared to a professional projector screen. Still, it is possible to make this work if you are diligent about removing ridges and unevenness.
As mentioned above, the smoothness of the projector screen surface is imperative to the image quality. When there is a crease- even a mild one- this can change the shape of an actor on screen or can even make it difficult to see the image clearly at all. Of course, the depth of the unevenness or ridged crease would determine how distorted the image would be.
Still, you will want to remove the ridges as best as possible. This can be a bit difficult with a vinyl material because the creases, once pressed, can seem as if they will never go away.
However, you can apply a very low heat and a considerable amount of pressure carefully to attempt to “iron” out the creases. Of course, you will need to be careful as this material is sensitive.
Securely fasten the screen to avoid sag.
Saggyness is something that is rarely appealing- especially in the case of a projector screen. When the projector screen is not drawn taut, there can be ridges that form causing an uneven surface-based image distortion.
Along with that, too much sag can even cause the screen to droop out of proportion with the projector. This can mean that your projector will be sending off the projection into the unknown as the tarp will not be there to “catch” the rays of light.
To avoid any of these related issues, it is imperative to securely fasten the screen. This can also help to decrease the ridges and unevenness as addressed above.
Ideally, you will have a mount that can securely fasten the top, bottom, and both sides. Again, you will want to make sure that the tarp is pulled as tightly as possible without causing damage to the material.
If you do not have a mount, you will want to at least secure the tarp at the top and the bottom edges at the very minimum. While this will mean that the sides can still sway in the wind, it does eliminate some of the issues of sag when the tarp is at least weighed down similarly resembling a scroll.
Use a tarp that is wind and rain resistant.
Finally, if you are going to go the route of using a white tarp for a projector screen (which is still not recommended but is unavoidable for some), you want to try to find one that is wind and rain resistant.
While these seem to go hand-in-hand, there are advantages to having a tarp that is both wind resistant and rain resistant for a few distinct reasons.
First, you want your tarp to be wind resistant when it is serving as a projector screen. This will mean that it is a high-quality material that can take a beating when it comes to the wind that will naturally hit it when it is an outdoor setup.
While you might not be experiencing high winds in your area, even the slightest bit of wind can add quite a bit of pressure to the screen (as well as the mount that you are using to hold it up).
If you have ever tried to run head-on into the wind, then you know the type of resistance that it can add. Now, try doing that with a giant vertical parachute that is plastered into a square mount.
The screen would act as the giant square here, and it needs to be able to withstand the pressure of low to high wind speeds to be a functional projector screen outdoors.
Along with that, the tarp needs to be rain resistant. This will help you to avoid distortion (especially on a white screen) if it becomes wet, and it will also save you quite a headache should a rainstorm roll in. Fortunately, vinyl tarps are generally pretty water-resistant, but be sure to check the specifications.
Check out my recommended outdoor projector screens.