It's no secret that choosing the right projector is the key to bringing that larger-than-life cinema experience to your home theater. But here's the real deal—even the most advanced projector will lack image quality unless paired with a high-quality cloth projector screen.
While you can use a bare wall to project images, the reality is that the quality is not as good as when you use a cloth projector screen. A wall reflects less light than a screen and can negatively affect the clarity of the image. A wall is also not as smooth as a cloth screen, which results in distorted or blurred image projection.
So if you care about getting the best image quality, then a cloth projector screen is your best bet.
Today, we'll dive into the basics of cloth projector screens, their benefits and fabric types, some factors to consider when choosing one, as well as a few helpful product recommendations from WEMAX, so you can choose the best option for you and your home theater setup.
What is a cloth projector screen?
A cloth projector screen is a large reflective surface with a support structure that's typically hung on a wall at some distance from a projector.
The cloth surface is designed to be viewed from the front and hangs flat like a curtain. It usually comes in either grey or white fabric. White is intended for rooms with more controlled lighting, while grey provides better contrast in environments where ambient light is a problem.
Compared to a bare wall, a cloth projector screen is built specifically to accommodate a projector. It offers a more uniform image surface for higher reflectivity that improves overall image quality.
Benefits of a cloth projector screen
Cloth projector screens come in a variety of compact and portable options that allow you to take it almost anywhere you go. Wherever your projector itself can go, your screen can go as well.
They come in handy for outdoor movie nights, parties, road trips, camping, and other events that require travel. This advantage also makes it easier when you need to transfer your home theater setup to another room in the house.
Cloth projector screens take up less space, which makes them more flexible for storage purposes—to give your home theater that professional and top-of-the-line aesthetic without taking up too much space. It’s perfect for those living in small apartments, condos, and rentals.
Cloth screens make it easier to arrange furniture and other components of your home theater setup. These screens also come with plenty of size options for you to choose from. You may start from some as small as 15 inches to larger screens of up to 120 inches wide.
When it comes to market prices, a high-quality projector and cloth screen combo is a lot cheaper than a TV that's large enough for your home theater needs.
A cloth projector screen is easier to install and doesn't need too many complicated cables and components. It's also a simple and durable item that reduces maintenance costs in the long run.
4. Improved Image Quality
A cloth projector screen is specifically designed to be paired with a projector. It's built with a flat surface and a special coating that enhances its reflective qualities—ensuring brighter and more detailed projected images than what you'd get with a bare wall or fabric sheet.
Types of cloth projector screens
There are three main types of cloth projector screens on the market today, and the one you choose will depend primarily on the room you intend to use for your projector:
1. Fixed Frame Screen
A fixed frame screen consists of an aluminum or wooden frame and is mounted to the wall or ceiling in a fixed and permanent position similar to a blackboard or picture frame.
This type of screen is intended for fixed venues and installed for continuous use, so it can't be moved from one location to another or stored away after use. Fixed frame screens are the perfect addition to a large-sized home theater that provides enough space for mounting.
2. Retractable Screen
A retractable screen is one that can be rolled down when watching movies and then quickly rolled up for easy storage when not in use. It offers a convenient and space-saving solution especially for smaller home theaters, as they do not take up valuable floor or wall space.
These screens come in either manual or motorized varieties. Manual screens are cheaper since they don't need electricity to work, but motorized screens provide the ultimate convenience by using either remote control or a wall switch.
3. Portable Screen
A portable screen is typically mounted onto a tripod stand so that it's flipped open like an umbrella when being used. This type of screen is a perfect choice if you want movies on-the-go. It's compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry around when traveling or for use outside the home, such as for outdoor movie nights, parties, road trips, or camping.
Factors to consider when choosing a cloth projector screen
If it's your first time shopping for a cloth projector screen, there are a handful of factors you'll need to take into consideration. Here are some of the most important ones to guide you through finding a screen with the right features for your home theater setup:
1. Screen Material
Cloth projector screens are made from a variety of different materials. As a general rule, your best bet is to choose a fabric with black backing, a white front, and a thick diameter.
Stretchy material like blackout cloth offers great portability and can even be used for outdoor viewing, while stiffer material works best for roll-down and fixed applications.
When it comes to screen color, the typical choices are either white or grey. White is intended for rooms with more controlled lighting, while grey provides better contrast in environments where ambient light is a problem.
All cloth projector screens have a "gain factor," which is a measurement of the reflectivity of the screen.
For home theater purposes, the best option is a screen with a matte white finish. This type of screen has a low gain factor and is capable of reflecting light back over the widest viewing angle. It also guarantees that the colors retain their crispness and brightness.
3. Screen Size
Cloth screen projectors come in different sizes to choose from but the most popular options are either 100 or 120 inches.
When it comes to size, bigger doesn't always mean better. It's important to take into consideration the size of the room and the viewing distance. To find the screen size that delivers a truly cinematic experience proportionate to the size of your room, you can calculate the viewing distance by multiplying the screen size by 1.2.
4. Aspect Ratio
The aspect ratio refers to the ratio between the width and height of the screen. This depends on the type of content you want to watch.
Lately, the most popular options are screens with an aspect ratio of 16:9 since it's suitable for a wide variety of viewing, from movies to sports, and even video games. But if your home theater is intended purely for movie watching, then you can also opt for a wider screen with an aspect of 2:35:1 that mimics the real cinema experience.
5. Ambient Light
Unlike real theaters that are pitch black, home theaters have one huge downside: ambient light. This refers to the light hitting your screen that comes from sources in your viewing space—either artificially like from light bulbs or naturally such as sunlight through windows.
If you have a lot of ambient light in your home theater or are struggling to completely black out a room, then your best bet is to choose an ambient light rejecting (ALR) screen. ALR projector screens increase the image quality while preventing the milky glare of ambient light from washing out the pictures projected.
6. Installation Options
There are several ways to install your cloth projector screen, but the three most popular are wall mounting, ceiling mounting, and portable options like a tripod.
If you want a permanent solution, then mounting on the wall or ceiling is your best bet. But if you want something that's more compact and portable, then a tripod stand is the way to go.
Which fabric is best for cloth projector screens?
When it comes to choosing the best fabric for cloth projector screens, there are quite a few options in the market to consider. Keep in mind that the fabric you choose can potentially affect the image properties.
Blackout cloth for projector screen
Blackout cloth is one of the most popular options and is commonly used in professional screens. It is extremely budget-friendly but is still capable of performing well.
Blackout cloth is made of a cotton-poly blend that effectively prevents light from permeating the front or back -- boosting image quality and overall projection performance. The fabric is also flat and durable, making for clearer and crisper pictures.
Because of its light-blocking abilities, blackout cloth is a great option for outdoor use or in rooms with lots of ambient light.
Can I use white cloth for a projector screen?
If you're looking for a more budget-friendly DIY option, then white cloth is a great alternative. It may not be the best option, but it provides better images than a bare wall.
Make sure to choose a thick fabric with a smooth texture. Ordinary white cloths like those used in bedsheets are too translucent for projection. They let the light through which leads to poor and washed out images.
A good option is polyester blend fabric, which consists of a combination of 20% spandex and 80% polyester. This fabric is compact and dense, capable of blocking just the right amount of light for sufficient image quality.
Can I use drop cloth for a projector screen?
If you have a drop cloth that's large enough to use as a screen, then you can also use it as an alternative DIY option.
To effectively block out ambient light, make sure the drop cloth is made of thick canvas material. Take into consideration the appropriate color required for the room. White works best in rooms with more controlled lighting, while grey provides better contrast in environments where ambient light is a problem.
WEMAX Cloth Projector Screens
The best cloth projector screen can make a huge difference to any home theater. If you're looking for the best options at the best price, then check out this line-up of premium cloth projector screens from WEMAX:
1. 120-Inch HD Foldable And Portable Projector Screen For Indoor And Outdoor
If you want that big-time movie theater experience from the comfort of your home, then the 120” HD Foldable And Portable Projector Screen is your answer.
With a massive 120-inch screen and an aspect ratio of 16:9, this product supports both 1080P Full HD and 4K ultra HD to provide you with the best and brightest image quality. The screen material features natural polyester covered with a silver-gray layer that not only effectively prevents light from seeping through, but also prevents folds and creases for smoother and more excellent picture accuracy.
2. 100-inch HD Foldable And Portable Projector Screen For Indoor And Outdoor
If you're looking for a portable screen for on-the-go use, then you'll love the standout features of the 100” HD Foldable and Portable Projector Screen.
Featuring a lightweight and compact design, this 100-inch screen can be folded into a smaller size that you can easily fit into a backpack or suitcase when traveling. Despite its portability, it delivers a wide viewing angle of up to 160° with an aspect ratio of 16:9.
The material consists of soft and elastic polyester material that is not only smooth and wrinkle-free but is also incredibly easy to set up in just a few minutes.
Maintenance and care for cloth projector screens
While most projector screens are built to last for years, they still need to be kept clean to ensure that your projector image remains crystal clear.
1. Cleaning the screen surface
Always wear gloves when cleaning your screen so you don't accidentally get oils from your hands or scratches from your nails.
Using a dry microfiber cloth, wipe the screen gently to remove excess dust. Make sure not to scrub or use an abrasive material to prevent scratching the screen.
Prepare a mixture made with 95% warm water and 5% dish soap. Moisten the microfiber cloth and gently wipe the screen from side to side. Make sure that the cloth is only damp, not completely soaked.
Lastly, pat the screen dry with a clean cloth. Ideally, it's recommended that you clean your screen every three months or whenever you see dust on the surface.
2. Storage And Protection
For portable screens with a tripod, most already come with a carrying case that you can roll it into and carry on your shoulder.
For fixed frame or retractable projectors, there are dust covers available in a range of materials and sizes to choose from. They are designed to keep dust and other debris off your screen, so you can be sure that your device is protected at all times.
If you have kids or pets at home, you can also use a roller shade to pull over the screen for more protection.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can blackout fabric be used as a projector screen?
Yes. Blackout fabric can be used as a projector screen and is one of the most popular options. Blackout cloth is made of a cotton-poly blend that effectively prevents light from permeating the front or back—boosting image quality and overall projection performance. The fabric is also flat and durable, making for clearer and crisper pictures.
2. Can I use a cloth projector screen outdoors?
Yes. Generally, you can use a projector screen outdoors. But if you plan to use it during the daytime, make sure to pair it with a projector with a high number of lumens to create the best viewing experience.
3. Can you use a drop cloth for a projector screen?
Yes. You can use a drop cloth for a projector screen. To effectively block out ambient light, make sure the drop cloth is made of thick canvas material. Also, take into consideration the appropriate color required for the room.
4. Is polyester suitable for use as a projector screen?
Yes. Polyester is suitable for use as a projector screen. A good option is polyester blend fabric, which consists of a combination of 20% spandex and 80% polyester. This fabric is compact and dense, capable of blocking just the right amount of light for sufficient image quality.
Wrapping It Up
A cloth projector screen can make a significant difference to any home theater setup—and knowing the important factors to consider will guide you to the right choice for your specific needs.
While it's possible to use a projector against a bare white wall, nothing beats the larger-than-life image quality of a cloth projector screen. They are smoother, more reflective, and provide better overall projection performance.
If you're looking to transform an ordinary room into the perfect home theater, WEMAX is your one-stop shop for all your visual application needs.
WEMAX is the leading brand for laser projectors, portable projectors, LED projectors, and projector screens of all sizes that provide a real home theater experience. If you want to know more about making the most out of your home theater, be sure to sign up for the WEMAX newsletter for more tips, how-tos, and exclusive deals.