Around the 1970s, classrooms began using whiteboards to cut down on chalk dust, and now most schools and offices have at least one on each of their walls.
Businesses are naturally always looking for ways to cut costs by purchasing multi-purpose products, and with education funding dwindling, and space sometimes an issue, teachers, in particular, are looking for whiteboards that can double as projector screens.
A whiteboard can be used as a projector screen. Although the standard inexpensive dry-erase whiteboards don’t provide the optimal surface for projected images, innovations in whiteboard materials make the newer ones, made with matte or other non-glare finishes, more suitable for this additional use.
Check out my top picks for home theater projector screens.
This article will elaborate on the different types of whiteboards and various materials used to make them. It will identify those that are multi-purpose, noting the best and worst surfaces for use as a projector screen.
It will also recommend a few multi-purpose whiteboards that can be purchased online and provide suggestions for less expensive alternatives that can be used for both dry-erase marking and projection or either purpose.
Also read: Pros and Cons of Using a Sheet as a Projector Screen
What Is a Whiteboard?
Traditional whiteboards used for teaching or other presentations are those on which information, graphics, etc. are written or drawn using dry-erase markers (which, thankfully, are now not as toxic as they were in the last century).
These whiteboards, which come in various sizes, are usually mounted on walls in classrooms or offices.
Whiteboards became popular for use in schools because they were considered a healthier alternative to chalk dust, which caused allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
If you are considering purchasing one for dual-purpose use, as a dry-erase board and projector screen, then it would be best to buy one with a matte finish.
Also, we now have interactive whiteboards and Microsoft and Google digital whiteboards, the former providing another projector screen option.
Materials Used to Make Whiteboards
Melamine is the material used on the least expensive and most commonly used whiteboards. More specifically, a plywood board is laminated with melamine, a hard plastic. The problem with this material is that its glossy finish creates a glare that makes projected images hard to see.
Another problem reported with these boards is accumulation of “ghost” images left from markings due to the fact that melamine is somewhat porous.
Magnatag describes four other “Common Dry Erase Surfaces,”—Porcelain, Glass, Laminate Steel—only one of which may be suitable, without further modification, to use as a projector screen.
Also described as enamel on steel, porcelain whiteboards are generally considered the best for dry-erase marker use, but too glossy for projection.
However, Ghent, one whiteboard manufacturer, claims to have fixed the glare issue—mostly—with its 4.5 (11.43 cm) x 8.5 – Inch (21.59 cm) “Aluminum Frame Porcelain Magnetic Projection Whiteboard,” which features a “special white, textured surface that reduces projection glare by 70 percent compared to standard marker boards.”
Another choice would be one made by Projection Plus, a magnetic porcelain steel board, claiming to reduce glare by 60 percent and be “ideal for dry-erase markers” as well.
Both of these, however, cost around $700, which is a lot more expensive than the price of standard whiteboards. Another version, also by Ghent and claiming a 70 percent reduction in glare, is much more affordable.
Magnatag says the glass boards have outstanding surfaces for dry-erase markers—”one of the most aesthetically pleasing to write upon.” This has to do with their non-porous nature.
However, these versions are very heavy, hard to ship, and not good for projected images, due to their translucent and reflective qualities, adds Magnatag. However, again, Ghent advertises an updated version of glass whiteboards with a non-glare surface that is suitable for projection.
Whiteboards With Proprietary Steel Coatings
Magnatag describes these steel-coated boards as offering “the best compromise of price and value on the market today.”
It says the coatings used are modern ones that allow manufacturers to “match the dry erase quality…of porcelain and tempered glass surfaces, while simultaneously ensuring the integrity of the board’s magnetism and durability.”
However, there’s no information on whether or not these surfaces work well with projector images. The jury is still out on the question of whether or not low-priced porcelain on steel whiteboards are good as projector screens, so you may want to contact School Outfitters and ask.
Other Multi-Purpose Whiteboards
Elite advertises one of the costliest multi-purpose whiteboards, apparently not made of any of the standard materials discussed above. It comes with a “VersaWhite 1.1 Gain projection surface.”
At the cost of about $1000, it claims to provide the most projector-friendly surface available—not just reduced glare, but no glare. Its product description boasts:
- A “cutting-edge design” that combines a dry-erase board and projection screen into one “space-saving economical product.”
- “Function as a theater-grade projection material with a full Lambertian diffuser.”
- Outperformance of conventional whiteboards, providing a clear picture with true color and without glare.
- A magnetic surface.
- A clear picture when viewed from any angle.
- A “heavy-duty pen tray.”
- Four sizes, up to 5′ by 10′ (1.5 – 3 meters).
- Two and three-year warranties.
What Is an Interactive Whiteboard?
Interactive whiteboards may soon be found in all classrooms and offices, making standard whiteboards obsolete.
Wikipedia defines this type of whiteboard (IWB) as a device that “can either be a standalone computer or a large, functioning touchpad for computers to use.”
Clearly, this board comes with a suitable screen coating, since a digital projector is used to project images onto the interactive whiteboard surface.
According to Ireland primary school principal Simon Lewis on Anseo.net, you can get one of these that does it all—one that allows you to use a “magic” pen, dry-erase markers, and your finger.
However, he adds that only about half those on the market at the time (in 2017) provided all these options. Smart Technologies used interactive whiteboard comes with a projector but does not mention dry-erase capability.
What if You Have a Standard Whiteboard and Can’t Afford a New Matte or Interactive Version?
If you aren’t able to purchase the more expensive projector-friendly whiteboards or aren’t ready to learn how to use an interactive one, much less pay for it, other options are available.
Some use a special wall paint (not cheap, but less expensive than matte boards) that acts as either a whiteboard or projector screen or both.
Also, folding paper or cloth projector screens, like the NIERBO Projector Screen, which has excellent reviews, can be purchased online.
Some cloth screens come with grommets that can allow you to mount them over your existing melamine whiteboard if space is limited. You can also purchase projector screen material and build your own.
This video may help you decide if an alternative to a traditional whiteboard might meet your needs:
Online advice for choosing a multi-purpose whiteboard, provided five years ago, is not up-to-date enough for consumers seeking the best materials available today unless you’re only looking for whiteboards to use with dry-erase markers.
These melamine boards are cheap and plentiful and can be used as projector screens; however, they create a very compromised image.
With new innovations occurring frequently in this product area, you may want to do some research before spending what it takes to get the upgraded versions more suitable for use as projector screens.
Keep in mind that the ones ordered online seem to often have shipping damage issues, so seek those that have good reviews and customer service, and be careful when buying the cheaper folding screens, papers, or allegedly projector-friendly whiteboards.
Some users complain that they are no better than a melamine whiteboard, as far as glare is concerned.
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.