There are many variations of projector screens available, and they can be quite expensive. You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on the size and style. So, many people wonder what other options they have when it comes to using a projector at home or in the office.
Here are 6 cheap projection screen alternatives:
- A blank wall
- Projector screen paint
- Painted cardboard
Let’s take a closer look at these options, including where you can buy them and the pros and cons for each.
Also read: How To Use a Projector Outside During the Day
Best Cheap Projector Screen Alternatives
There are plenty of options to consider for a cheaper alternative to a projection screen. Because they tend to be so expensive, projector screens can add to the already high cost of a projector. So, instead of spending all that extra money on a screen, check out these cheaper options.
1. A Blank Wall
This is a free option for most, and it means that you can use your projector just about anywhere. Whether you’re looking for an at-home setup or a place in the office to present to your colleagues, sometimes a projector screen isn’t available. Well, a blank wall will work just fine.
Make Sure There Is Nothing Else on the Wall
The wall needs to be blank for this to work because any pictures or posters will wash out the screen display. Before trying this method, be sure to remove anything from the wall that could distract from the projection. This will help the picture appear more clearly.
The Color of the Wall Will Make a Difference
If possible, the wall should be white or light-colored rather than dark. This is because your projector will reflect better off a light surface rather than dark which tends to absorb the color.
White will provide you with the best possible picture, but if that’s not an option for you, then choose the next best color. Yellow, baby blue, and light pink are other valid color options that’ll help you see the projection better.
Wall Texture Can Make a Big Difference As Well
Most indoor walls have the same or similar texture, but if the paint isn’t smooth, that may make your projection more difficult to see. Impasto texture is a common technique in older homes that may impede your ability to see the screen.
Impasto is a rough method of painting commonly used to make your paint uneven and textured. This will cause your projection to hit the wall unevenly and make it harder to see.
Texture also matters when considering outdoor projection. For example, projecting a movie on the side of your house may seem like a great party idea, but if your siding isn’t smooth, then it may create the same problem. Shingles and generally uneven texture may affect how clear the picture projects on the surface.
You Won’t Be Confined To Set Spaces if You Use a Wall
One of the biggest complaints about projector screens is that they only allow you to show one projection size. You’ll often need to adjust the picture so that it’ll fit onto the screen, making it smaller than it could be.
This is where a wall will give you more freedom. With the available space of an entire wall, you can show your projection whatever size you want, allowing people to see better from a distance.
Any Wall Available Is a Free Option
Depending on how much money you do or don’t want to spend, this method is by far the cheapest. You won’t need to purchase anything in order to make this method work. Just find a light-colored wall in our home or office, and you’re all set.
A whiteboard is a great option, especially for an office setting where there may be one already available. If not, there are cheap options out there to add to your home. Not only would it be a great projection screen, but you can also use it regularly when you’re not projecting.
Not the Cheapest Option but the Most Versatile
Whiteboards aren’t just made for classrooms and office settings. They can be useful in your home too. Home offices are becoming more and more popular, and a whiteboard is a great way to stay organized throughout your day.
Also, if you have kids, they’d love to have a huge surface to draw on. Keeping the kids entertained can make a whiteboard well worth the money. So, not only would a whiteboard give you the ability to project clearly, but it could be useful in your home or office.
A White Board Is Cheaper Than a Projector Screen
Most whiteboards are decently priced such as the Amazon Basics Dry Erase Board (available on Amazon.com). It has a melamine surface that can be written on and easily wiped. It’s a lot cheaper than any projector screen. The prices range from higher to lower depending on how large of a board that you want. Overall, it’s a much better deal than paying for a screen.
The Reflective Surface May Cause Issues With Some Projectors
One downside to using a whiteboard as a projector screen is that they’re reflective surfaces. Your picture may be interrupted with a reflection depending on the projector that you have.
Some projectors are made to not reflect and can be used on any surface, though not all of them are built this way. Positioning the projector correctly can help with reflection issues. Otherwise, there may be spots in the projection that you can’t see very well.
Sheets are relatively cheap and common. The chances are that you probably have an extra set of sheets available in your home. Whether it’s spare sheets for your bed or maybe even a guest room, a sheet can certainly replace an expensive projector screen.
You Can Easily Take the Sheet With You Anywhere You Go
The best part about using a sheet as a projector screen is that it can easily be moved and transported to other locations without much fuss. Your projector can become even more portable with the screen folding up nicely and fitting in a small bag. Many projector screens are permanently attached to the wall or stand too tall to even fit in a vehicle without taking it apart.
The Sheet’s Color Can Change the Picture Quality
As discussed above, darker colors will wash out the colors of whatever you’re projecting. So, stay away from dark colors. Just like walls, white is the best color sheet to use for a projector screen alternative, but any light color will do just fine if you don’t have white.
There May Be Lower Picture Quality
Sheets are a convenient and cheap option for a projection screen, but they certainly aren’t perfect. Things like thread count and wrinkles can determine your projecting experience with a sheet.
For example, wrinkles in your sheet can cause lines and marks in the picture. This may not seem like a big deal, but sheets tend to wrinkle quite a bit. So, you may need to spend time preparing your sheet before you use it to ensure there are no wrinkles. If the thought of ironing your sheet may seem like a big chore, check out some alternatives to ironing that can help get the wrinkles out of your sheets here.
Lower thread count can also make a difference with how effective your sheet is as a projection screen. Low thread count sheets tend to be thinner, which means that light will filter through the sheet. The thicker the sheet, the more useful it’ll be in terms of capturing the projection accurately and the better it’ll look.
4. Projector Screen Paint
Though this can be a little more expensive than the other options, you can get your money’s worth with screen paint. Whether you choose a cheap or expensive option, you can easily use it in many different places.
Projector Screen Paint Is a Pricey Option
A high-end projection screen paint such as the Paint On Screen Projector Screen Paint (available on Amazon.com) which has an active 3D system may have you paying close to $300 for a can, while cheaper brands can go as low as $50. While this is expensive, it may be well worth your time to consider.
Screen Paint Provides Flexibility That Screens Don’t
Remember that when you purchase projector screen paint, you’re paying for an entire can. This means that you could use it in many different places before running out. If you want the versatility of having a screen in multiple places, this is a great way to achieve that without buying multiple screens.
This option also allows you to purchase multiple projectors without worrying about a screen for each of them. Instead of moving one screen around to different places, you can pay once and have the ability to paint a screen exactly where you want it. Though pricey, paint is a great option if you want versatility.
5. Painted Cardboard
Cardboard is another versatile option that’s cheap and allows you the freedom to move it around as you please. You can buy some cardboard which is cheap, or you can recycle a box that you would otherwise get rid of and make it your new screen.
Cardboard Can Be Moved Around
One of the best things about cardboard is that it’s lightweight and can be moved very easily from one place to another. You can fold it for storage purposes or put multiple pieces together to create a larger surface for your projector.
Hanging Cardboard May Be Difficult
One downside to using cardboard as a projector screen alternative is that you need to figure out how to hang it. Most of the time, it’ll stay up if decently taped or glued, but you’ll be risking your wall paint to do this.
There are products to consider that can help prevent wall damage such as the 3M Replacement Strips (available on Amazon.com). These strips are versatile, strong, and can stick to a variety of surfaces like glass, tile, or metals. However, that may not be worth the risk, especially for people who rent their homes and need to leave the walls in pristine condition.
Cardboard Can Easily Be Replaced if Needed
Accidents happen, whether it’s us, our kids, or our pets. If your projection screen gets scratched or broken, then you can end up paying a lot of money to get a new one. Using a cardboard screen would help mitigate that risk.
Cardboard is easy to find and cheap to buy if you need to. It’s easy to replace if something goes wrong, like kids drawing on it or a pet scratching it. If that happens to a nice projector screen, you could be out a lot of money. However, cardboard is cheap and can easily be replaced.
You Can Paint Cardboard White To Get a Better Picture
If you plan to use cardboard, it may not be the clearest option for projecting. So, you can paint over it to help get a better picture, and white paint is the best option. White will allow your projector to show more clearly, and dark colors in the picture won’t be able to get lost in the dark color of cardboard. So, grab some cardboard and some white paint to get started.
A tarp is a great option for a projection screen if you’re looking for something you may already have at home. Because it’s normally large, the tarp will give you the ability to make the project as large as you would like to.
Light Color Tarp Will Work Best
Just like other fabrics, a white tarp is going to give you the best possible viewing experience. If white isn’t an option, then try to find the lightest color possible as the picture will show up better. Dark colors will drown out a lot of colors in the projection.
Tarp Can Be Hung From Anywhere
The great thing about tarp is that it can be hung from just about anywhere and made into a screen. Hang it from a curtain rod or even over a fixture on the wall. It’s lightweight and won’t need a strong base to support it. So, it can be hung from almost any object in your home and made into an impromptu theater in no time.
There May Be a Glare With Tarp
The only downside to using tarp as a cheap projector screen is the possibility of a glare. Most light sources that hit tarp will cause a slight glare, and it may obstruct your view of the screen. Depending on the light provided by your projector, it may be just a small glare.
However, larger projectors can cause glares that block the screen. The location of your projector matters too. So, try moving the projector around in order to prevent the glare from happening, if it does.