Sitting in a darkened home theater and watching a movie projected onto a large screen is an unparalleled experience. Vivid colors and larger-than-life images play out before your eyes in a way that LED, OLED, and other electronic screens cannot provide in smaller formats.
One crucial element that helps make this cinematic experience complete is the projector screen. A movie projector coupled with a screen can easily double your viewing real estate, often for the same or less cost as LED or plasma TVs. In just one day, you can build your own indoor projector screen, and only basic woodworking skills—such as driving a screw and cutting wood—are required.
DIY Indoor Projector Screen Basics
Projecting an image onto a white or light-colored wall is one way to watch a movie. It's free and the screen never has to be put up or taken down. One downside is that the wall surface is not sufficiently reflective to register clear, vivid images. Another downside is that the image is not boxed in with black matte to provide contrast and limit wayward ambient light.
Expensive projector screens abound. But all you really need for a basic projector screen is a properly reflective surface stretched tightly across a frame, with a matte black periphery for contrast. The DIY projector screen in this project is lightweight, easily removable, and can be stored in a bedroom closet or garage. Plus, it costs thousands of dollars less than those other screens.
Painting fabric or canvas results in ripples that cannot be removed. Instead, you will need to purchase unfinished-edge, seamless raw screen material from a specialty screen supplier.
Projector Screen Specs
For this project's 16:9 aspect and 73-inch diagonal image, the screen will be 63.5 inches wide and 36 inches high. To aid with stretching and to account for overlap, the screen material you buy should be 80-inches wide by 45-inches high.
This project is scalable. For a 146-inch diagonal image, for example, all measurements would be doubled.
When to Build a DIY Projector Screen
Building a DIY projector screen is a fairly simple, clean project that can be made indoors at any time. It is helpful but not necessary to build the screen after purchasing the projector so that the screen can be built around the projector's specifications.
Equipment / Tools
- Speed Square
- 2 spring clamps
- Cordless drill
- 6-foot step ladder
- Laser level
- Electric miter saw
- Tape measure
- Carpenter's pencil
- Staple gun
- 6 1-by-2 softwood lumber pieces, each 8-foot long
- 4 flat 2 1/2-inch corner braces
- 2 flat 2 1/2-inch T-braces
- 2 two-hole D-rings
- 2-inch screws
Cut the Wood for the Frame
With the electric miter saw, cut the 1-by-2 wood according to this list:
- 2 36-inch pieces
- 1 33-inch piece
- 2 62-inch pieces
Dry-Fit the Pieces
On a flat, level surface (not carpet), lay the five wood pieces flat to form a rectangle.
The two 36-inch pieces form the left and right sides of the screen frame. The two 62-inch pieces form the top and bottom of the screen frame—and they are on the inside of the two 36-inch pieces. The 33-inch piece runs vertically down the center of the screen, exactly in the middle. Use the tape measure to find the center.
Screw the Corners Together
Use the Speed Square to establish a corner of the rectangle. You may wish to clamp it into place. With the cordless drill, screw one of the flat 2 1/2-inch corner braces into place, using the screws provided in the pack. Continue to the other three corners and screw the braces in place.
Install the Center Rail
After measuring for the center, place the center rail so that it is parallel with the two side pieces. With the cordless drill, secure the center rail into place with the two flat 2 1/2-inch T-braces.
Use the Speed Square to make sure that all of the corners remain at 90 degrees.
Mount the Screen Material
Place the screen material with the reflective side facing down. Smooth it out. Place the screen frame on the screen material with the brackets facing upward.
Staple the material in place by wrapping it around the wood and stapling once on a lengthwise side. Then move to the opposite side and staple there. Work down the length from there. Finish by pulling the material at the end while stapling. Cut off excess.
When mounting the screen material, it helps to have an assistant stretch back the material while you staple it.
Add the D-Rings
Screw the D-rings into place in the two top corners of the back of the screen.
Mount the Screen
As if you were hanging a picture, mount the screen on the wall. Use the six-foot step ladder and the laser level to drive two screws into the wall, preferably into studs. Hook the screen into place on the screws.
Provide Screen Contrast
Since ambient projector light is difficult to control, it helps to mount the projector screen on a dark wall. If you are a serious movie-watcher, you may wish to paint the back wall flat (matte) black to reduce bounced light.
Alternatively, you may wish to apply adhesive felt matte black border, found at specialty movie screen suppliers.