Complete Guide to Choosing a Projector Screen



The main reason why you want to build a home theater is because you want to recreate theater-like viewing – right in your own home. You yearn for the most vivid visuals and the greatest images. You have a projector, and you need to select a screen to go with it. If you think that you can do with just a sheet hanging on the wall, you certainly will not get the same results as you would get with a proper projector screen. When shopping for a screen, there are certain considerations you need to keep in mind. This guide will aid you in acquiring a projector screen that will work perfectly with your projector.


You want a completely light-controlled home theater room. The darker your theater, the more crisp the projection image will be.  Remember that a projector system cannot project the color black – for black is a space that occurs when light is absent. The amount of ambient light you allow affects the darkness of the blacks and the quality of your image.


Aspect Ratio

Aspect Ratio is the ratio of width to height. It is essential to consider the aspect ratio when selecting a projector screen. The aspect ratio screen for standard TV programming is 4:3, while the recommended aspect ratio for a dedicated home theater room is 16:9 (a good match to HD video projectors). If you get a screen with a different aspect ratio than the projector, you could have black spaces around the perimeter of the projector screen.

Types of Projector Screens

  • Fixed Projector Screens – The fixed projector screen is fixed and attached to your wall – without the need to be dropped or retracted by hand or motor. Fixed screens come in a range of sizes and are designed for use in permanent locations.
  • Manual Projector Screens – Designed with a pull-down screen, this type of projector screen is commonly found in older models.  Manual projector screens are more affordable and less fancy, yet they have the same properties as the more expensive screens.
  • Motorized Screens – The screen can be dropped or rolled back using an electric motor and can be operated by switch or remote control. This feature is more common with newer screens, and there are a several sizes available. This type of screen must be ceiling-mounted or positioned high on walls.
  • Adjustable Aspect Ratio Projector Screens – Aspect ratio refers to the width to height ratio of a movie image. This type of projector screen can be adjusted to match the aspect ratio of your movie – whether it’s full screen or wide screen.



Helpful Terms

Gain – Gain is a measurement of light reflection coming from a projector screen; it is measured from the vantage point where the screen is at its brightest. The higher the gain, the brighter the image will appear. However, bright images don’t necessarily mean better video quality.  The standard gain is 1.0, while 1.2 is 20% higher reflectivity. The gain of a projector can get as high as 6.0 in some cases. Screens in white, gray, or black have different gains. Your projector system will determine whether you need a high or low gain.

Viewing Angle – The viewing angle refers to the maximum angle at which the picture can be viewed without losing image quality.  This is the angle from the screen down to the projection axis. Miscalculating the viewing angle may lead to the pictures appearing blurry, having poor contrast, distorted, or lacking saturation. As gain increases, the viewing angle decreases.

Surface – Despite the quality of the projector, a less fine screen texture will cause the image to be fuzzy and soft. Screens with a good texture can deliver vivid and crisp images. Here is the basic screen surface information you need, including the corresponding gain and viewing angle each type of screen surface needs.




Viewing Angle

Standard Matte White Finish

The most versatile screen surface; consistently distributes light over a wide viewing area without sacrificing image quality.



High Contrast Gray Surface

This type of screen enhances contrast and improves black levels.



High Contrast Matte White

This is a great choice when ambient light can be moderately controlled.



High Power

This type of screen surface combines the reflectivity of a glass beaded surface with the ability to clean the surface when needed. Higher gain does not necessarily mean better image.




 How to Choose Screen Size

The ideal size for a projector screen is anywhere between 78-85 inches. One suggestion is to get a screen with a height that is 1/3 the distance from the screen to the audience seating.  The size of the room and where your projector system is placed will determine the exact screen size you need. Additionally, the viewing seating area will establish the best viewing distance. Make sure to research the lens characteristics of the projector system you will get.


General Tips

  • The performance of a projector screen is hugely dependent on the following: projector unit, viewing angle, lighting in the room, seating arrangement, and screen-to-projector distance.
  • Check consumer reviews and manufacturer’s site before purchasing a projector screen.
  • You can use warm water and mild detergent to clean your projector screen.  Do not let the soap build up as this will cause streaks on the screen.
  • Choose a screen fabric that is retardant and mildew resistant.


Contact our staff of experts to help you decide what type of screen projector will work best for you.

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