100 Inch Projector Screen for $20

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Intro: 100 Inch Projector Screen for $20

This extremely cheap and easy project took me roughly 15 minutes to
complete, and 10 of that was clearing space enough on my floor to cut the panel and lay out the location on the wall using the projector itself as a guide.

I researched many different methods and materials before starting, some of which may be better, some not. I saw possible materials ranging from black out cloth to paper to just paint on a wall. I decided to use none of those things when I stumbled upon 8'x4' plastic wall panels at my local Home Depot.

I chose the plastic paneling in the end for a few reasons; ease of cleaning (spray with any cleaner you wish & wipe), strength (paper could tear easily, as could black-out cloth), it's light weight, and most important, it's cheaper than any other method except the paper.

Step 1: The Necessities

You will need the following materials:

And the following tools:

  • Snips, shears, or razor knife
  • 4' Level (also use as straight edge to mark any cut lines)
  • Cordless drill (or screwdriver)

Step 2: Hang It

Using straight cut tin snips (the yellow handled type) I cut the plastic down to 5'x4' to accommodate the space I had available on the wall, as well as the distance from the projector to said wall. It could also be easily cut with a razor knife or shears, the snips were simply the closest tool to my hand at the time.

You could choose to leave it 8'x4' for an even more preponderant screen, or cut it to a specific aspect ratio and size if you wish. The largest 16:9 you can get from an 8'x4' panel is 85"x48" I believe.

Also keep in mind that required ratios can vary greatly depending on your chosen media format. For example: HDTV=1.78:1, normal TV=1.33:1, DVD=whatever they felt like on the given day they made it; with some movies going all the way to 2.35:1. I decided that I could fit a decent sized picture within any of those ratios onto a 5'x4' (5:4) screen without an annoying amount of white space left over.

I mounted it with four 1/2" screws across the top, three across the bottom, and finally one on each side in the middle. I didn't bother with anchors because it's very light weight and has been in place for a few weeks now with no shifting.

Hanging it level was a cinch to do solo, though an extra pair of hands wouldn't hurt. Use silver screws and keep them within an inch or so of the edge so they can be covered with a border if you use one, and won't stand out much if you don't. I hardly even see them when the room is dark and the projector is...well, projecting.

It has different textures on either side; I used the smoother of the two. I can't say this is any better than the other, only that I'm quite happy with the picture quality as is.

The contrast is at least as crisp as it was on an old Da Lite Flyer I was using before. The color is actually better due to the fact that the old screen had picked up a yellowish tint throughout the years, and anyone familiar knows cleaning them isn't really feasible.

Inevitably somebody will tell me how easily they can clean their screens, so let me just say that the 40"x40" Da Lite was also too small and too square.

Step 3: Watch Stuff on It & Postscript

I've read many places that adding black borders or trim to a screen makes a huge difference in the viewing experience, though I've never really read why exactly. Some say it makes the image pop more, some that it improves contrast, others that it keeps the light contained, but most just say "you should do this".
They may very well all be correct, but as I've said, I'm quite happy with my picture quality without them. It does leave little to be desired when the room is well lit because it appears unfinished.

It's located in my man cave though, where aesthetics concerns are ranked right up there with concerns on what beer and red meat are doing to my figure. (In other words, I don't care that much.) I have very dark green walls, so maybe that eliminated my need for borders. I've also read that black curtains covering unused portions of the screen have basically the same effect, though I've had no issues with the left over screen that's not being projected upon either.

It's not the most refined looking screen in the world, but it's very functional. I may yet trim it out, if so I'll update this with finished pictures.

Thanks to Instructables for featuring this, I was pleasantly surprised and am very grateful for the free premium membership. And thanks to all of the members that took the time to view and favorite as well.

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    47 Discussions

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    KarenW50

    2 years ago

    What a cool idea! It looks like something even a ten thumb person like me should be able to do. I already have a projector, it will be nice to have a screen to go with it so I can stop taking the pictures down from my walls every time I want to use it! Looks like I have a project for this weekend - no, it looks like HUBBY has a project for the weekend. :)

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    kaddigartpacman31415

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    The plastic sheet is $20. I suppose I did take for granted that I already had screws laying around. Had they not been on hand I doubt I'd have titled it "projector screen for $20.42". Probably would have still gone with $20. Sorry.

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    kaddigartjustjimAZ

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    From the little bit I read, typical paint may work but won't compare to the other low cost methods I've seen (black-out cloth, this one, even paper). It needs to have some texture to it to look like an actual screen, and the smoother the surface the more you'll get hot spots, which basically flood the image with white and washing out the colors. Think a very overexposed photograph.

    There is paint specifically designed for this, but it ain't cheap...you're looking at around $60+ for a quart of the stuff and that won't cover much wall. I did see in some of the forums dedicated to projectors/home theaters that some of the members had tried mixing sandblasting beads with regular paint to get closer to the desired texture with various results.

    As for color, all depends on your projector's lumens output. The brighter the lamp, the darker the paint you should use they say. Most I think are going for ultra-white to gray.

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    Ralphxyz

    3 years ago on Introduction

    One "Necessity" you fail to mention is the projector!! I do not happen to have one that will probable blow your $20.00 project.

    Thanks for the Instructable, it certainly has some useful information.

    Anybody have some links for projectors?

    2 replies
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    kaddigartRalphxyz

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    My pleasure. Given the fact that the title clearly says "projector screen", I'd assumed the exclusion of the projector itself would be common sense. I'll be sure to add a note to the opening statement.

    I recommend the craigslist listings for your area for projectors, or ebay. I wouldn't count on anything for $20 though.

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    LeonardA2

    3 years ago on Introduction

    A few years ago they built a Mall next door...
    I have a two story, blank wall three inches from my property line...
    Apart from the fact that there is no way to get a vehicle into my back yard, I have my own drive in theater...
    Somebody else paid Millions of dollars for my screen....

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    dbissonnette

    3 years ago on Introduction

    I was lucky enough to get one from work. They upgraded the old ones and said I could take one. Sam here though $3.99 on sale at WalMart with scrap wood and we drop it in the rain gutter to hold in place. We watch movies while in the pool.

    IMG_2283.JPG
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    kaddigartdbissonnette

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    That's pretty neat, I especially like the gutter mount system...making the most of what you have available is always a good thing.

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    JustJo

    3 years ago

    I made one a year ago for $7.99 (K-Mart) with a white shower curtain. I framed the top and bottom of it with wooden borders (from scraps) on both sides (front and back) in order to be able to hang it outside under the deck, and roll it away when not in use.

    I attached the frames together (curtain in between) with a few nails, and drilled 4 holes on the top border using the eyelets of the curtain for reinforcement.

    You can get rid of the wrinkles with hot water.

    image.jpg
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    jimf8JustJo

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    Good idea using shower curtains! I wonder how well it works with rear projection. I'd like to set a screen up outside that can take some weather abuse. We have a small stage and putting the screen up front would get it closer to the audience.

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    JustJojimf8

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    It works beautifully, I have tried it, and yes, it's weather resistant as it's plastic, just make sure that you waterproof the wood you use to frame the top and bottom. I will as more photos when I get back home.

    Can you comment on how isotropic the screen material is? What would you estimate its gain to be? Does it hot-spot?

    1 reply

    Well, the only baseline I have is the aged Da Lite I used prior and a cabinet that's painted white, so my knowledge here is limited.

    I can see it clearly from pretty much any angle;

    It's color is what I'd call "white matte" or "off white", so the gain should be pretty close to 1.1. It is viewable under overhead lighting, though it looks a bit dull if you compare it to a modern TV. Think old school projection TV without the crosshatching those always seemed to have.

    it doesn't hot spot at all so far as I can tell. The only distortion I've actually seen is when I projected my desktop and opened a document with small text, or surfed the web and viewed text heavy pages. It's still legible, just not as crisp. That could very well be the projector itself though. It's worth noting that the painted wood surface of the cabinet I mentioned was terrible with bright images in this regard.

    So to nutshell it: very, 1.1, no.