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Projector Screen Buying Guide

How to Select a Projector Screen

Whether you're looking to build a presentation area for conference room or a full-scale cinema, a high-quality projector screen is a key part of your toolkit. But what exactly should you be looking for in a projector screen?

At Projector Screen Store, we offer hundreds of projector screens, coming from the leading names in the projection screen industry. However, we also know how difficult it can be to navigate all of those names, numbers and options. Understanding those options is the first step to choosing the right screen for the job, which is why we've created a projector screen guide. To make it easier, we've put together this Projector Screen Buying Guide to help you step by step, in understanding the different types of screens, fabrics and formats available - in order to choose the right solution for your needs.

For additional help in selecting materials, or projector screens in general, feel free to give us a call toll-free at 800.637.3181.

The Different Projector Screens

The first step to choosing the right Projector Screen that best suits your particular needs or application, is to choose the type of screen you wish to use. From the mounting style to the method of the screens retraction, you'll want to take everything into consideration when choosing your screen type. The permanency of your screen type is also an important thing to look at. Are you wanting to add a permanent Wall or Ceiling mountable fixture to a conference room, classroom or home theater, or do you want something smaller and more Portable for occasional use?

Another simple way to narrow your choices, is by the type of functionality or retraction method you'd like your screen to have. You can choose from motorized Electric projector screens, which descend and retract with the push of a button. Manual pull-down projector screens extend and retract by a simple pull of the screens handle, much like a standard window shade. Fixed Frame projector screens are commonly used for solutions requiring a permanent wall-mounted solution, such as a deidicated home theater or auditorium.

Generally, if you would like a permanent installation, then the Electric, Fixed or Manual wall and ceiling mounted projection screens are your best choice. If you find that your needs require a more portable solution, then a Tripod, Floor Rising, Folding Frame or a Tabletop projector screen may be a better alternative. Ideal for on-the-go sales presentations, trade shows, or multi-classroom use.

Below are brief descriptions and examples of each screen type:

Electric Projector Screens

Electric projector screens can be Wall Mounted, Ceiling Mounted, Floor Mounted, or Ceiling Recessed(for a concealed in-the-ceiling installation). Electric projector screens are operated by an electric motor that raises and lowers the screen via remote control or wall switch. Some Electric projector screens have a simple plug-and-play design, while others like a ceiling recessed screen, require significant installtion and most likely the assistance of an electrician.

Electric Projector Screen Sizes

Electric projector screens tend to be larger, making them more suitable for use in auditoriums, conference rooms, classrooms and home theaters. This is due to the motorized operation of the screen handling a greater screen weight than a manual roller option. The motorized operation of an electric screen provides the user with a sleek, modern and flexible projection solution that doesn't hinder the decor or usability of a room.

Electric projector screens are also available in a Tensioned or Non-Tensioned(standard) screen surfaces. Non-Tensioned is the standard screen surface, which hangs freely from the casing support structure. Non-Tensioned screen surfaces are slightly more prone to creases, waviness or imperfections. Tensioned screen surfaces, on the other hand, provide a flatter more uniform screen surface that is consistently stretched, resulting in less possibility of imperfections. This tensioning is usually created by a cable and tab system on electric screens that pullsTypically, tensioned screens are viewed as the highest performing screens, that maximize resolution and light reflectivity.

Manual Projector Screens

Manual projector screens are smaller and less expensive than Electric projector screens. Much like a standard window shade in operation, these models tend to be relatively easy to use and install. Instead of a switch or remote control, manual projector screens extend and retract manually, with the user simply pulling the screen down by hand, locking it in it's desired height. To retract the screen, pull down the handleto release the rolling mechanism to lift the screen back into the casing.

One particularly convenient feature of many manual projector screens is a "controlled screen return" or CSR. This feature stops the projector screen from retracting into its case too quickly, preventing potential damage to the screen surface or the roller mechanism. This extends the overall life of the projector screen. Additionally, Manual projector screens, like electrics, are also available in a Tensioned screen surface or with a Ceiling Recessed casing. Recessed manual projector screens typically come with a hand crank mechanism to lower the screen instead of a pull-down method, since the casing hides the screen in the ceiling.

*Note - Manual ceiling recessed screens typically come with a hand crank mechanism for lowering the screen, because the casing conceals itself.

Manual Projector Screen Sizes

Manual projector screens are generally an inexpensive solution, smaller in size than electrics and designed for simple installation. The reduced cost and size makes manual projector screens perfect for Classrooms, Conference Rooms, and simple Home Theaters where budgets may be more restrictive.

Since "Manual" simply refers to the mechanism, there are many different forms of manual projector screens to choose from. Certain manual projector screens like Tripods, Floor Rising and Tabletop screens are perfect for on-the-go presentations or trade shows, because they can easily fold up for convenient transportation. Portable projector screens like these are perfect for any circumstance where a permanent fixture is not ideal, whether there's a space constriction, multi-room usage needed or a simple style preference.

Fixed Frame Projector Screens

Fixed Frame screens are among the most popular modelson the market, most commonly used for Home Theaters, Auditoriums and in any situation where a permanent wall-mounted solution is required. Fixed Frame Projector screens typically need more assembly time than others, installed in a similar manner to picture frames by hanging the screen off an anchor or bracket on the wall. This means the screen mounts on the wall more easily and with less installation and electrical work.

While flat frames are more common, Curved Fixed Frame projector screens are growing in popularity, due to the recent push in curved Televisions. These curved frames add a flare of style and ambiance to any Home Theater. The curve itself, creates the effect of enveloping the audience with its corners, wrapping the viewer in a full panoramic experience. The Curved Frame design however, offers more than just aesthetic appeal, it also optimizes light reflectivity back towards the audience.

Fixed Frame screens are also all designed with a Tensioned screen fabric, which creates the ideal flat projection surface. The perfectly flat tensioned surface maximizes the resoultion capabilities and light reflectivity of your projector, optimizing performance and creating the best possible picture quality. Many projection screen brands now manufacture HD Screen Fabrics specifically for Fixed Frames that provide the ultimate resolution, brightness and an amazing overall picture.

Portable Projector Screens

If your screen is likely to be moved on a regular basis every few days, weeks or months, a Portable Screen is your best option. Portable projector screens are offered in a great range of sizes and styles. Portable screens, like Tripods usually use a pull-up screen on a free tripod stand. Historically popular in schools, because of mobility and relatively little expense, tripods are also widely used in business for traveling presentations. Floor Rising projector screens come in Electric and Manual operation. Electrically raised or manually pulled from a weighted base/case, floor rising screens make the perfect travel companion and can remain unobtrusive when not in use. A terrific alternative to a sometimes bulkier tripod screen the lightweight floor rising projector screen requires almost zero assembly. Floor rising screens are even available with carpeted cases, designed to help the case blend in with the decor of its location.

Another lightweight portable option is the Tabletop projector screen. Generally maxing out at a 50" Diagonal size, these small ultra-portable screens are the most convenient when a large picture is either not feasible or just unecessary. The operation of Tabletop screens varies on the manufacturer; some pull up like a floor rising screen from a case, while others pull apart length ways and have stabilizing feet. Either way, this screen is ideal for any small presentation purpose!

Folding Frame projector screens are the best option for larger-scale applications, like auditoriums, trade shows, stages or the outdoors. These folding screens are much larger than the other portable options, and typically consist of multiple aluminum frame pieces with a tensioned screen surface. Frames of this type need to be snapped or screwed together, meaning they take more assembly time and effort but are very durable and stable.

In recent years, the popularity of Outdoor projection screens has skyrocketed. Neighborhood block parties and family movie nights now take place in the great outdoors with large screens in a variety of types and sizes. How these outdoor screens work varies depending on the manufacturer as well as the needs of the family - some are electric or manually retractable, terrific for mounting to patios, garages or sheds. While other options are more portable, like folding frames or even large inflatable outdoor projector screens for homes and large venue events!

Projector Screen Paint

Easy to use and apply, Projector Screen Paint applies to surfaces just like any other interior paint. While this projector screen type requires extreme care to create a smooth screen surface, the result is a clear and sharp image that can be used in literally any application. Most screen paints require a minimum of 24 hours to cure properly, but if need be the new screen can be used immediately after application. Due to the nature of this option, painted screens are permanent fixtures and can only be removed if the wall is repainted or removed. Unlike other projections screens, Screen paint can be used for literally any application; auditoriums, classrooms, boardrooms, home theaters, game rooms or even outdoor venues.

The Different Projector Screens Fabric

Selecting the right projector screen fabric can seem very complicated, however the better you understand the purpose of a screen fabric, the easier it will be to decide what's right for you. Different screen fabrics are designed to handle different applications depending on the resolution of the media being used, the lighting conditions, the viewing angle of the audience and the sound distribution within the environment.

The most important place to start when selecting a screen fabric, are with the Gain and Viewing Angle of the fabric. There is a lot to know about each and how they affect each other (as gain increases viewing angle usually decreases). Having a basic understanding of these features prior to making your choice of a projector screen fabric, is the only way to ensure that you will make the most out of your equipment within the constraints of your environment.

Understanding Gain

Gain, is a measurement of a screen fabrics light reflectivity from the projection device, when the measurement is taken for light targeted and reflected perpendicular to the screen. A typical screen Gain of 1.0, means that all the light being directed at the screen is being reflecting back with the same brightness. Gain is however, directly affected by ambient light in the environment of the projected image. The brighter it is in a room(whether natural light from windows, or artificial light from bulbs), the greater the light being reflected will dissipate and wash out the image. Conversely, the less ambient light, the truer the image brightness will remain.

Gain greater than 1.0 - Means that the projection screen fabric is increasing the brightness of the projected image back to the audience.

Application - Higher Gain screen fabrics are typically used in environements with higher ambient light, where the light cannot be adequately dimmed or controlled. For example: large auditoriums, convention centers or office building with windows. They are also used when a projector is not powerful enough to create the adequate amount of brightness for the evironment.

Pros and Cons? - Since an images brightness is a very subjective opinion, increased brightness may or may not be positive or negative. That all depends on the personal preferences of each individual. Too much brightness, however does eventually lead to the negative effect of "hot spotting". Projector screen fabrics with higher Gain exhibit mirror-like properties, namely a bright "hot spot" in the screen an enlarged (and greatly blurred) reflection of the projector's lens.

Viewing Angle

Viewing angle is a measurement of the distance from the center of the screen at which you can still see the same quality image as from the viewing axis. For example, some projection screens reflect more light perpendicular to the screen and less light to the sides, making the screen appear much darker (and sometimes colors distorted) if the viewer is not in the "sweet spot" or in the optimal viewing angle of the screen.

The difference between a narrow viewing and versus a wider viewing angle.

Grey Fabrics? Acoustic Transparency?

While white screens are the industry standard because of brightness, another important screen fabric decision involves the contrast of your projected image. A Grey screen is generally more capable of handling darker tones than its white counterpart. Contemporary grey screens are designed to have a gain factor similar to those of matte white screens, but a darker appearance with blacker black coloring. A darker Grey screen reflects less light, of course â€" both light from the projector and ambient light. This decreases the luminance (brightness) of both the projected image and ambient light, so while the light areas of the projected image are dimmer, the dark areas are darker; white is less bright, but intended black is closer to actual black. Many screen manufacturers thus appropriately call their grey screens "high-contrast" models.

Grey screens are designed to rely on powerful projectors that are able to produce adequate levels of luminosity so that the white areas of the image still appear as white, taking advantage of the non-linear perception of brightness in the human eye. A grey screen may thus succeed almost as well in delivering a bright-looking image, as a white screen would.

Another popular projection screen fabric feature is acoustic transparency, using perforated screen fabrics. Standard and microscopic perforations are available, which allow sound to pass through the screen with relatively little interference. The perforations in the screen fabric, thus create an acoustically transparent surface that does not compromise audio quality when speakers are palced behind the screen. The perforations are generally very small and barely noticeable at a distance. This acoustically transparent screen solution is ideal for many types of stage, cinema and home theater installations.

Projector Screen Sizes

Screens are sized in a few standard formats: square, video format and HDTV are some of the most popular.


Square format projector screens have a width to height ratio that is generally 1:1, with some variation. Square screens are usually used for data presentations and overhead projectors.

Video Format

Video format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 4:3.The 4:3 ratio for standard television has been in use since television's origins and many computer monitors use the same aspect ratio. Video Format screens are the best option if you'll be switching equally between fullscreen and widescreen viewing.


HDTV format projector screens have a width to height ratio of 16:9. HDTV screens the optimal format for home theater, offering the best matched fit for widescreen viewing and is the international standard format of HDTV. Wider options include Letterbox and Widescreen; not all but a few of our screens are available in these sizes.

Can't Come To A Decision?

Chat us now! We can help! Can't come to a decision about which size or format screen you want?
We carry a huge assortment of screens with masking systems that modify the format or size of your screen.

Selecting the right Screen Accessories

Do you need mounting brackets, projector mounts, cables or a remote?

We have a wide range assortment of speaker mounts and screen accessories for finishing your projection needs.

Once you have followed our selection steps, you should be able to identify what you need. We carry screens from the finest screen manufacturers on the market: Da-Lite, Draper, Buhl Industries, Elite Screens. If you have any questions, please give us a call.

Our projection specialists are ready to help you (toll-free 1-800-637-3181), 9 AM to 5 PM EST, Monday through Friday.

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