One of the great things about a projector is that it offers you a lot of versatility in how you set up your room. You don’t even necessarily need to project onto a designated screen. If you’re wondering what you can use for a projector screen, we’ve got you covered. Check out the DIY screen ideas below. One of them might be the perfect choice for your home theater!
Option 1: A blank wall
The lowest-effort (and lowest-cost) alternative to a projector screen is to simply project straight onto the wall. Solid white walls work best; any color or patterns on the wall will affect the image projected onto it, so keep that in mind. The texture on the wall can also alter how the image projects. Smoother is better; if the wall has a lot of texture, you may want to consider sanding it down before using it as a projector surface.
Advantages: No extra cost and no set-up time
Disadvantages: Picture won’t be as sharp or bright as with a screen
Option 2: A clean sheet
Most people already have sheets in their house. If you don’t, buying one is a lot cheaper than buying a projector screen. Since you can hang a sheet anywhere, inside or out, it’s a more versatile option than a wall. Just like above, a plain white sheet works best. It doesn’t have to be a bedsheet, either. Any piece of smooth, white cloth will do the trick.
The trickiest part of using a sheet as a projector screen is hanging it properly to avoid wrinkles, folds, or movement. Depending on the thread count of the sheet, you will likely also need to put something behind the screen, whether that’s a large piece of cardboard or a few extra layers of cloth, to keep the light from shining right through.
Advantages: Affordable, easy to get, and can be used anywhere
Disadvantages: Picture won’t be as bright as with a screen and set-up will take more effort
Option 3: Projector paint
Projector paint, like this one from Screen Paint Supply, lets you turn anything into a projector screen. It’s more than just white paint. Surfaces treated with projector paint reflect light the same way a screen does. This means you can use a blank wall without sacrificing picture quality. You can also use it to create a stand-alone screen by painting a sheet of plastic, particleboard, or cardboard.
Cost-wise, projector paint is about equal to buying a screen. With projector paint, though, you’re not limited to the screen dimensions and styles you’ll find for sale, making it a great option for custom projects. The flip-side of this is you’ll have to spend a few hours painting you start watching. Untreated surfaces will need a layer of primer as well as two coats of paint.
Advantages: Versatile, high picture quality
Disadvantages: Costs the same as buying a screen, the highest initial set-up time.
Option 4: Wrapping paper
The blank, white side of a roll of wrapping paper has a smooth, glossy surface that reflects light well. Like with projector paint, this option gives you lots of versatility. Cut a piece of cardboard or particleboard to the size you want and tape sheets of white wrapping paper to it for an affordable custom projector screen.
The main problem with wrapping paper is that it’s not the sturdiest material. Any wrinkles or rips will be visible in your image. You can roll it up to store it like you can with a store-bought screen. It’s also not a great outdoor option, since moisture will destroy it.
Advantages: Low-cost way to get a good picture quality
Disadvantages: Moderate set-up time, easily damaged and difficult to store
Option 5: Roller shades
You’ll want to cover up the windows before you use your projector anyway to avoid light pollution. Pull-down roller shades can serve double-duty in your home theater, covering the windows and functioning as a great screen. Look for one that’s smooth and either white or pale gray in color. Make sure the screen is at least 6” bigger than the window on all sides to avoid light bleed around the edges.
And you don’t have to hang the blinds over a window, either. You can mount it on the wall wherever you want your screen. Roller blinds typically cost between $25 and $50, depending on the width and material. This means they’re a bit cheaper than projector screens but need a bigger budget than most of the DIY options above.
Advantages: Good picture quality, can serve multiple purposes
Disadvantages: Not a big money saver
So what can I use for a projector screen?
The answer is pretty much anything, as long as it’s white and relatively smooth. The glossier the surface, the better it will reflect light. Keep that in mind if you want to DIY but still want a clear, bright picture.
Choosing a DIY projector screen really comes down to your motivation. If you’re looking to save money, your best bet is to find something that’s already in your home, whether that’s a white sheet or a roll of unused wrapping paper.
If you’re going the DIY route because you want a cool, custom screen, projector paint is the way you want to go. You can use it to turn anything into a projector screen. It’s safe for both indoor and outdoor use, too, so you can use it for all your projector projects.
With all the great alternatives out there, it seems almost boring to just buy a projector screen and call it a day. Hopefully one of the options above will fit perfectly into your home theater!