Have you ever sat in front of your TV to watch a movie and wished you had a bigger screen? We bet you have because most people did. No matter how big it is, your TV will always be just a TV, while watching anything on a big projector screen makes us feel kind of special, which is similar to the feeling we get in big movie theaters.
DIY projector screens are still kind of unusual and special objects for watching video content, mostly films. However, these are not the only reasons why so many people decide to build their own home theaters. Many people build them because, believe it or not, buying a projector and building a projector screen is way cheaper than buying a large TV.
This happens because projector screens can be made even for a few bucks. If you have more money at your disposal, you can buy more quality materials and build a more stable and durable screen. Even if you add a price of a pair of larger inexpensive speakers to the total price, the result will still be smaller than the price of a brand-new TV.
However, the price is proportional to the quality, which means that cheaper screen models don’t last as long more expensive ones and that the picture quality won’t be as good.
This article is designed to offer the answers to many questions that you might have regarding home-made projector screens.
Basic Steps in Building a DIY Projector Screen
Building a DIY projector screen does sound like a great idea, especially after you watch a few YouTube videos and see how simple it is. However, it is so simple when other people do it but it can get complicated and messy when an inexperienced person does the same thing. If you have never built a DIY projector screen before, stay with us and we will guide you through the process step by step.
Some of the advice mentioned in the following text can be applied in all situations but some of them can only be applied in certain situations (depending on the type of screen you have chosen to build). Read the steps carefully and act only after a thorough consideration of all the factors that may affect the process. Making a projector screen can be very interesting but it can turn into a messy disaster if you don’t prepare all the calculations and all the materials correctly.
Step 1 – Define your budget and projector screen purpose
We put the budget planning and defining the screen’s purpose in the first place because this is, although it may sound quite strange, the crucial activity. The amount of money you can spend on building a DIY projector screen affects the overall quality of the final product. DIY projector screen can be built of both cheap and expensive materials that cost a few bucks or a few hundred bucks. That’s not a problem. The problem is that, if you make your screen using cheap materials, you can’t expect it to last long. On the other hand, the fact that you can’t spend much doesn’t mean that you have to make an expensive screen at all costs.
Also, the quality of your future projector screen and its price can be affected by its purpose and frequency of use. If you don’t plan to use the screen often, you can go with a cheap version but if your job requires a constant use or you simply want to use it often, you should really save some money and make a more stable and durable version.
Step 2 – Choose the right location
The second step is also very important for the process of building a DIY projector screen. The perfect location depends on many factors including free space in your house/apartment, projector’s features, aspect ratio, etc. The location and position affect the screen dimensions. It also affects the type of building material and it is also related to the furniture arrangement, sitting position, etc. This is why choosing the right screen location requires a lot of time, thinking, and energy.
We advise you to pay attention to the projector’s specifications and see the information about the picture quality, throw distance, zoom ratio, etc. These are the characteristics that can easily make you change the previously planned placement. Also, make sure that the bottom of the screen is 24-36 inches above the floor and that the eyesight is somewhere between 2/3 from the top and 1/3 from the bottom, as this can help you avoid neck and eye fatigue.
One more thing – never place your screen in front of a window. It should be placed on the opposite side of the room in order to reflect and diffuse as little light as possible.
Step 3 – Determine the perfect screen size
The projector screen size will depend on the projector’s placement, its specifications, and also on the aspect ratio. First of all, you should know that you can choose between 4:3, 16:9 and 2.35:1 screen ratio. You should choose the ratio depending on the seating position, the distance from the screen, the distance between the screen and the projector, viewing angle and visibility, but most people choose 16:9 and this ratio works best in most cases. After you choose the best ratio, you can search for web pages where you can calculate the preferable dimensions. When you get the preferable dimensions, you should take into account the fact that 5 more inches of screen cloth will go around and beyond the frame and that 2-3 inches of the screen’s surface will be covered with black tape or frame on the front side. The diagonal you get as a result of these calculations will be the diagonal of your viewing surface.
Step 4 – Choose the right screen material
Many different materials can be used for building a projector screen. Some people use cardboard boxes, others take some old sheets but if you want a high-quality image, you will probably take this task more seriously.
When looking for the perfect material, you should pay attention to stretchable and non-stretchable materials as well as the amount of light they can diffuse. Stretchable materials are commonly used for building these screens because they can withstand some tension and they can be seriously stretched in order to create a perfectly flat surface. It is also important that this material is matte white or dark gray (if you want to create the contrast), or you can simply buy some matte paint and paint the material you already have.
If you want darker images, you can buy high contrast fabric as it reflects less light. However, if your projector has low brightness, you should use low-contrast fabrics with higher gain in order to create colorful images.
In case you want or have to place the speakers behind the screen, the best option is perforated screen fabric as it has small holes that enable the sound to go through the fabric and create a pleasing sound quality.
Step 5 – Find the best screen frame material
When it comes to screen frame material, your choice depends on your budget but also on the screen’s purpose, use, and placement. You can make the frame of different materials, even PVC or metal pipes (if you’re making a temporary projector screen for your backyard) but people usually use wood in combination with metal pieces because it ensures the stability and durability of the entire construction. The best option is to use pieces of wood screwed together with metal connectors.
Step 6 – Gather all the necessary tools
Apart from the screen cloth, you will need many other materials and tools in order to build your projector screen. In order to make the frame, you will need 5 pieces of wood, metal connectors, screws, and an electric drill.
You will also need a heavy-duty stapler, black felt tape, utility knife or scissors to cut the extra screen material and the edges of the black tape, pocket hole jig, and a miter saw.
After you gather all these tools and materials, you can start building your own DIY projector screen.
Step 7 – Build your screen
The first thing you should do is to cut 5 pieces of wood and screw them together using the metal connectors. After that, you can take the screen fabric and staple it to the frame. It is really important that you do it using the special pattern in order to get a completely flat surface. First, you should place several staples at the center of the top plank. After that, you should do the same thing on the bottom plank, making sure that the fabric is nicely and evenly stretched. You should continue adding staples to the top and bottom alternately until the fabric is nicely distributed and fixed to the frame.
After stapling, you can cut the backband trim in order to fit the frame. If your screen is white, the backband trim should be black. Once you have screwed the trim to the frame, add the black felt tape in order to make the contrast to the screen and border the viewing space.
Finally, don’t forget to remove the unnecessary parts of the fabric and build the screen hangers on the back side of the frame so you can hang the screen.
After this, the only thing left is to turn on your projector, stream your favorite film, sit, relax, and enjoy the benefits of your hard work.