Projection screens

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So, you want to buy a projector screen? There are lots of things to consider and we know you may have some important questions that need to be answered first. We have tried to answer some of these for you below. Also you can find the best projector screens of this year in our expert comparison. But if you still have some questions, please get in touch!


Do projectors need a screen?

A projector and screen go together like spaghetti and meatballs! While you can have a projector without a screen, they are best together. A screen will help to bring out the best in your projector and there are a range of fabric types that can even enhance what the projector is outputting. Projection screens have a special reflective coating that ensures that the light is evenly reflected back to you, rather than being absorbed, which can be the case when projecting straight onto a wall. So while you do not have to use a projector screen, we would strongly recommend it to ensure that you get the most from your projector! If you can’t use a projector screen, you can consider using screen paint - this will replicate the reflective surface of a projection screen on your wall. You can take a look at our range of projector paint here.


Is there a difference between projector screens?

There are a huge range of projection screens out there, some of the differences are easier to spot, like when you compare a manual pull down screen to an electric ceiling recessed screen for example. Then there are the more subtle differences like the weight of the fabric, the gain factor, or how it’s controlled. These have more of an impact on the quality of your image and how you interact with your screen. If you take a look around online, you will find you can buy a projector screen extremely cheaply, but you will often find that these have very thin material that doesn't stay flat for long or have low quality mechanisms that do not last.

Is there a difference between projector screens?

So is there a difference between projector screens? Yes! As with anything, it’s important to get the right screen for your set up. Choosing the correct type, whether an installation screen or something more portable, then you can start to look at the finer details, like the type of fabric or control methods.

Which projector screen is best?

Of course there is no one correct answer to this question, so many factors come into play when deciding which is the best screen for your needs. Does it need to be portable or installed? How big should it be? Should I go for widescreen? We hope to be able to give you some pointers below but if you need some help deciding, please get in touch!

What type of projector screen do I need?

Choosing what type of projector screen you need really depends on how and where you plan to use it. Do you want something that is installed permanently on your wall or do you need it to be portable for use in different areas? First, let's take a look at installation screens

Manual projector screens

These are cost effective installation screens that are suitable in a wide range of applications. You are just as likely to see it in a living room for home cinema as you are in a classroom for education. They can be wall or ceiling mounted and the material can be pulled down in an instant, when you are finished, the material goes back into the housing for a neat and tidy finish. Look out for models with a slow retract mechanism to make using the screen even easier!

Electric projector screens

These look just like their manual counterparts, but offer a more sophisticated method of control! At the touch of a button your screen will roll down in front of your eyes giving you an extra special touch in the home cinema or office. The end result is very similar to that of a manual screen, but having the electric motor even offers you the possibility of automation - this means that the screen can come down automatically when your projector is turned on.

Battery powered projector screens

We even offer a range of battery powered screens that don’t require a constant power connection. This makes installation even easier and gives the possibility of installation in locations where an electric screen was not possible before, like churches or listed buildings.

Fixed frame screens

What is a fixed frame projector screen? It’s the ultimate in screen quality, as a fixed frame gives you a perfectly flat projection surface to work with thanks to the tension being applied right the way around the frame. This style of screen is often found in a dedicated home cinema room as it can’t be rolled away when not in use. You will find fixed frame screens in a range of finishes, velvet coated or a black paint are the most common.

Perfect tension from all sides!

Tab Tension screens

A tab tension screen looks to take what is good about a fixed frame screen and apply it to an electric screen. It has a series of tabs down either side with a cord running through them: the aim is to create horizontal tension on the screen fabric to help with flatness and eliminate ‘dog ears’ on the edge of the screen. These can be the perfect compromise between image quality and practicality.

Ceiling recessed screens

The ultimate in luxury for screens? A ceiling recessed screen allows you to hide your screen away in your ceiling, meaning it’s completely out of view when the screen is not in use. With many of the same features as an electric screen, a ceiling recessed screen is typically found in a high end home cinema or conference room.

Now let’s take a look at the portable screens available and try to answer the question, what is the best portable projector screen?

Tripod screens

The classic portable screen, most people have come across a tripod projector screen in their lifetime and the design hasn’t really changed! They are budget friendly and easy to use, their quick set up time makes them ideal screens for people on the move! They often offer great flexibility in viewing height and come in a range of aspect ratios.

Pull up screens

A modern reinvention of the tripod screen, the pull up screen gives a more elegant look to your projections. They usually operate with a pole system, but more advanced units have gas springs to support the screen which makes setting up a breeze. Just put the screen down on the floor and pull up the fabric, you are ready to project.

Tabletop screens

The perfect accompaniment to pico and portable projectors, think of a table top screen like a mini pull up screen. Typically coming in sizes up to 1m in width, they are ideal for use with modern LED projectors for those who need to be truly mobile with their projection set up.

Folding Frame screens

For the best results on a portable basis, a folding frame screen gives you a similar result to a fixed frame screen we spoke about earlier but with a portable twist! The frame folds down along with the legs allowing you to get a huge screen into a much smaller package. With the frame providing good levels of tension right the way round you’ll get the flattest possible screen surface from a portable screen. This type of screen offers you the possibility of rear projection too, as there are no structural parts obscuring the projection area.

Custom made projector screens

If you have a special requirement for a projector screen we have the possibility to manufacture a screen specifically to your requirements. Custom frame screens and custom electric screens are available, just let us know your screen size requirements, what type of fabric is needed and the delivery address, and we’ll get back to you with a price!

How big of a projector screen do I need?

As the saying goes, bigger is better, but is that really the case here? It’s all about getting something that is proportionate to your space! So how big should your projector screen be? Too large an image and you’ll find that you are having to look around the screen to take it all in, much like sitting on the front row at the cinema. Too small an image and your viewers may have a hard time reading any finer content. Lots of people end up purchasing a screen far too large for their space and end up having to send it back which can be costly, so be sure to have a good measure up before you purchase anything and if you are not sure, give us a call! If you already have your projector, it’s a good idea to set it up at the correct distance and see what size of image it can produce, that way you can get a good feel for what is right for you! You can also take a look at our projection distance calculator to find out what image size is possible with the projector of your choice.

How big of a projector screen do I need?

As a rough guide if you are using a projector for entertainment purposes, we’d suggest going for something a little over half your viewing distance, e.g. if you are sitting 4m away, you could look at a 2 - 2.5m wide screen. For text based presentations in offices, take the distance of the average viewer and base it on that, it's difficult to get the right size for everyone when people are sitting at varying distances! If it is for finer text and detail though try to make sure that the maximum viewing distance is no more than 4x the screen width.

Which aspect ratio is best?

This really depends on what you are using your projector for! 16:9 is the go to for entertainment, think movies, gaming, sports and TV. 16:10 is the modern business format, so if you are working from a laptop, perhaps giving presentations, web browsing or video editing, 16:10 is the way to go. 4:3 is becoming less and less common, it's an outdated format which is not found in modern technology, that said, it is still used and is often found in churches and educational settings. It’s important to match the screen you purchase to the aspect ratio of your projector, otherwise you will end up with a lot of screen area you can not make use of. Take a look at the graphic below to see how the incorrect format will look on your screen.

Which aspect ratio is best?

Is a projector screen better than a wall?

The simple answer is yes! While a wall can give you a perfectly smooth and flat surface to work on and give you some decent results, a lot of your projected light will be lost as the wall does not have a reflective surface. Projection screens are purpose built to optimise the light coming from your projector and diffuse it back to you evenly, some screens can even boost the brightness of your projector, this is called gain factor, which we will look a bit more into below.

What is gain factor?

The gain factor is the level at which a projection screen can boost the brightness of your projected image. A screen with a gain factor of 1.0 is neutral, whereas if you see a screen listed with a 1.5 gain, it implies you will see the image 1.5x brighter.

So should I go for a high gain

Just because the image can be brighter it doesn't mean it’s better! Screens with high gain factors can have narrower viewing angles and can have some issues with colour reproduction. You may also find some issues with hotspotting, where there are certain areas of the screen that look brighter than others. You can even consider screens with low gain factors, 0.8 for example. These are more likely to be found in a dedicated home cinema room to help with deeper black levels. Generally we would suggest looking for a screen with a gain factor between 1 and 1.2.

Is front or rear projection better?

This really depends on the layout of your set up. Rear projection is not an option most of the time, but if you find yourself in a situation that allows you enough space behind the screen, a rear projection set up can make everything appear much more neat and tidy! No one can see or interfere with the projector and they can’t cast a shadow on your screen by walking in front of it, but this can come at a slight cost in image brightness and generally rear projection options are more expensive. Most people will end up going for a front projection set up.

Is front or rear projection better?

Can I make my own projector screen?

Yes you can, but it can be tricky! It’s possible to purchase screen fabric so that you can make your own projection screen, the difficult part is ensuring that you get a nice flat projection surface to work with. If the screen material isn't pulled taut evenly from all angles, you’ll find you get waves in the projection that make for a bad viewing experience! If you need a screen made to custom requirements, please get in touch with us and we can get a quote for a custom made screen - it’s best to leave these things to the experts!

Can I use a sheet for a projector screen?

While you will get a visible image, a sheet is not a great projection surface as it lets so much of the light straight through it. It’s also difficult to get the material nice and flat, so chances are you are going to end up with a washed out, wavy looking image.

What is ALR projector screen?

Ambient light rejecting is the ultimate in screen technology. It cleverly rejects ambient light from around your projection area, think lamps, sunlight or ceiling lights and focusses the projected image. It’s essentially being selective about what you should see and what you shouldn't. ALR screens can be used to enhance black levels and the overall quality of your projected image, you may see them called ‘high contrast screens’ and you will find certain fabrics designed for darker environments and some that excel in brighter rooms. A good ALR screen can make an old projector look like new again!

ALR projector screen

How far back can the projector be from the screen?

This really depends on your projector and its throw ratio. The throw ratio can seem confusing when you look at the numbers, but it’s just telling you how far away the projector needs to be to produce the image size you require. A throw ratio of 2.00:1 for example means that the projector will be 2m away for a 1m wide image - it’s as easy as that! Most projectors have some zoom, so you will usually see a smaller number and a larger number, for example 2 - 2.5:1. Here, the 2 refers to the closest distance the projector can be and 2.5 refers to the largest distance it can be, so for a 1m wide image the projector has to be 2 to 2.5m away, while for a 2m wide image it needs to be 4 to 5m away. Don’t forget to check out our projection distance calculator if you aren't sure.

Can I put a projector screen in front of a window?

While a lot of projector screens have a black backing that is impervious to light, we would not recommend using it directly in front of a window. Heat can cause problems with the flatness of your projection material and you do not want to end up with a wavy screen! Some projection fabrics are more resistant to heat than others but PVC based screens will struggle. If you want to use a projector screen in front of a window, we would always suggest using an additional sun blind to block out any direct sunlight that would hit the screen.