Building your own home cinema can be challenging, but it can also be well worth it. After all, projectors can produce high-quality images that are much bigger than standard televisions, and sometimes much cheaper. A lot of thought goes into picking the right projector for your home cinema, but that’s not the only decision you need to make. Don’t forget about the projector screen itself.
Many people leave this as an afterthought and simply use a wall or some other cheap piece of material. This is a mistake. You need to take as much care over both picking and installing your projector screen as you do picking the projector screen itself. Thankfully, projector screen material isn’t as expensive as a projector, but it’s still something you need to take care with. There are actually a few different types of material that work best for home projectors. If you want to know which is best for you, and what the pros and cons of different materials are, then keep reading for all the information you’ve been looking for.
Knowing what material to use is important whether you’re building your own screen or buying one. Some options will be more expensive, and some will be easier to work with. It’s important you pick a material that’s right for you once you’ve weight up all the options. Let’s have a look at what you need to know first…
What material is best for a projector screen?
First thing’s first when it comes to picking a material for your projector screen—it needs to be flat. Before you start looking at the finish of a material, you need to find one that stays flat. That’s the most important factor in making a good projector screen. Remember, if your screen isn’t flat, your screen will be distorted. It’s probably the most important factor in picking a great projector screen material. Everything else comes after, but flatness is imperative.
So which materials provide the flattest screens? If you aren’t using something permanent like a wall or whiteboard, you’ll need a material that can be folded or rolled but still produces an absolutely flat finish when put in place. This isn’t as simple as you might think.
There are basically two options for your materials. Stretchable materials and non-stretchable ones. But as you can imagine, there are lots of different options that fall inside each of these categories. Most of the screens you come across will have non-stretchable materials, but these aren’t always the best option, especially if you’re building your own screen. Stretchable screens are more common in fixed frame screens, though.
You probably want to start with a stretchable material. It’s easier to produce a completely flat finish and is easier and more affordable to work with. It’s also a lot more forgiving and creates far fewer issues when stretched out, like creases. Creases are a much bigger problem with non-stretchable materials. Non-stretchable materials can still do a good job but only if you get something heavy-duty like blackout material or specific projector screen roll.
It’s also a lot easier to stretch a stretchable material, as you can probably guess from the name. This makes it easier to apply tension and get the flat finish you desire.
There might be a few situations where you prefer to use a non-stretchable material. The main one is when you want a screen that lets sound pass through it. Let’s say the setup of your room is in such a way that your speakers can only be placed behind where the screen is sitting. In this instance, you might want a non-stretchable material as the acoustic properties should be more appropriate. However, we’re going to assume that you have speakers in their proper place and that you don’t need a screen like this, so you’re going to want a stretchable screen.
You will need a fixed frame in order to stretch the material in every direction. If you are only hanging the screen from one fixed end, then a non-stretch material might be the only option. But this isn’t the way to get the best finish. Not only can creases occur, but the screen will also not be fixed in place enough. It could blow around or otherwise move. That’s why full fixed frames with a stretchy material are the best option. However, if the non-stretchy material you use is heavy enough, they could be the cheapest and easier to hang. The material might even be easier to work with. We’ll look at some good examples of this material slightly later in this article.
You’ll also want to look at size and cost. The bigger the screen, the more it might cost. It’ll also be harder to fit the screen in place. If you’re building your own screen, you will want to think about structure material as well, rather than just the material of the screen itself. Good options for the frame are PVC piping, but you can also use wood if you know what you’re doing. The piping should be at least two inches in diameter.
If you can’t get hold of the right stretchy material, you will need a heavy-duty option that is less likely to get creased. You might want to try blackout curtain material, as this is a good option and has good light qualities for a screen (with less loss).
Whichever type of material you go for, you will probably want to choose one with a matte white finish. You can also buy specific projector screen material that does a good job, although it isn’t stretchable.
Hopefully, you now know a bit more about what sort of material might be best for your screen. Even if you’re still not sure about whether to go for stretchy or not, the most important factor is obviously a material that produces a flat finish. If you can find the right non-stretchable material that is heavy enough and can be rolled rather than folded, this might be a good place to start for a beginner who can’t stretch the material and wants it to hang. However, for lighter screens or ones with a fixed frame on all sides, lighter non-stretchable materials are much harder to work with and won’t produce the best results.