DIY Screen FAQ/Reference - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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If you want something added/changed, please drop me a note or post in this thread:

There have been a number of requests for a consolidated FAQ/Reference for the Screens forum to help new members sort through the vast sea of posts to extract information. I have also seen a number of the same questions continually reappearing. Hopefully this will provide a good starting point for members to get a quick answer or find a reference point to start their search.

There is no way that the information contained in many thousands of posts can be distilled into a single thread and convey all of the data and insights that have been put forth by all the AVS members who have contributed to this forum. Hopefully though, this will provide a good enough summary to get the small questions answered and enough direction to lead you to where you need to go.

This is an ongoing reference thread that should continue to be updated. I have included what I believe to be most of the highlights or more prominent topics that may be of interest. If there are things that are missing/incorrect or additional references (links) that should be added, let me know.

If people find this to be useful, then we can possibly ask the mods to make it a sticky note so that it will be easily accessible.

NOTE: The search function of the forum is a powerful tool that too often goes unused. If you cannot find the answer you are looking for in here, make sure to do a search of the forum for keywords you are interested in. Also, a lot of the older posts have been moved to the Archives forum. A search in there may also yield the answers you seek.

DIY Screen Materials
There are a number of reasons people choose to go the DIY route for a projection screen. High on the list is probably cost, but other reasons such as the need for a quick solution or personal innovation may factor in.

The search for DIY solutions can probably be initially categorized as Basic Screens and Enhanced Screens. The Basic Screens are materials and/or paints that provide you with a matte white screen. This is the everyday plain jane screen. If you are just looking for a standard screen and not looking to solve any deficiencies, this is the screen for you. The Enhanced Screens are materials and/or paints that are used in an attempt to provide improvements in specific area(s). The improvement areas normally targeted are: contrast, brightness (gain), and shedding ambient light.

Basic Screens (matte white)
The materials most commonly referenced are:
Blackout cloth
Parkland Plastics Poly-Wall
Do-able Board
Sintra foamboard
Artist Canvas

What is Blackout cloth?
Blackout cloth is a white fabric with a cloth side and a rubbery side. It's intended use is for lining drapes to black out the light coming in through the windows. It can be found at fabric stores such as Joann's.

Which side of the Blackout cloth should I project onto?
This is personal preference. Both sides have been used and different members have expressed different preferences. Try both and pick the one that looks best to you.

What is Parkland Plastics Poly-Wall?
Parkland Plastics Poly-Wall, or often referred to as simply Parkland, is a plastic waterproof panel. It is a flexible material, so will need to mounted to prevent it from sagging. It has been found at home improvement stores such as Home Depot (SKU 179-646) and Lowe's, though not in every one across the U.S. It is normally sold in a 4' x 8' piece. Larger pieces are available directly from Parkland Plastics, but they have realized the large number of HT enthusiasts who have started using their product as screens and have started to market it as a screen material and raised their prices significantly.

This is the thread that first discussed Parkland:

What is Do-able board?
A MDF hardboard made by Do-able Products Inc., it has a melamine finish and is referred to as a white vinyl panel. Sold at Home Depot, SKU 174-278, model #63036. It is available in a 4' x 8' piece (actual dimensions are 49" x 97").
Note: so far, it's only available in these states: AZ, CA, CO, ID, NV, MT, OR, UT & WA.

This thread is dedicated to Do-able and it's use as a quick and easy low-cost solution if all you need is a white screen:

Where can I find Parkland or Do-able?

What is Durotherm?
Durotherm is a corrugated plastic panel, with a similar surface as Parkland. It seems that it has been found to only be available from Menard's, SKU #: 5072700, PP's UPC #:637553000937. ($30.00)

What is GatorBoard?
Gatorboard, also referred to as GatorFoam is a foam core board that has been laminated. Usually can be found in 4' x 8' piece but can be custom ordered for larger.

What is Sintra PVC?
Sintra is a rigid, closed-cell PVC that is normally used for making signs. It can usually be found at sign supply stores.

Can I use a framed artist canvas as a screen?
A number of members have had good results with using an artist canvas as a screen. Since the texture is rough, you would probably want to look for a canvas with the smallest weave. The advantage of using a canvas is that it is readily available and can be bought stretched on a frame. Probably the biggest disadvantage is the size limitation of what you can find.

What is laminate?
Laminate is a countertop material. Some advantages are that it can be found in sizes larger than 4 x 8 and it is readily available from a number of manufacturers. The most tested/referenced material has been WilsonArt Designer White laminate sheet color 354-60 that is being referred to in various threads as DW.

Free 2x3 inch samples can be requested from the manufacturer at

Wilson Art Designer White Laminate is available at most Home Depot as a special order material and comes in standard sizes of 4x8 5x8 5x10 5x12. Optical qualities are similar to Do-able.

Main laminate thread (mentions DW starting at around post #34)

Laminate screenshots

Enhanced Screens
The materials/paints researched were all in the pursuit of a better screen. Better means different things to different people, depending upon the deficiencies they want to improve upon. The two approaches taken are either through the use of available materials or the application of a specific paint formula.


Silver PVC fabric
The Silver PVC fabric is used to increase gain. However, the large drawback with the use of this material is the hotspotting. The current state of this research is to use a frosted vinyl sheet on top of the material. Another alternative is to make a curved screen to minimize the hotspotting.

Formica is available in a variety of colors. Finding a suitable color to provide the picture-enhancing qualities desired would provide an easy ready-made solution. Not many have tried this, although there was some success with it.

Paint Formulas

Glidden Misty Evening
Glidden Folkstone
Behr Silverscreen

These are off-the-shelf colors that a number of people have had success with. Misty Evening (often referred to as ME) was found by member CMRA to enhance the contrast of his projected images. Behr Silverscreen, recommended by member bcortez is the latest color that has garnered a lot of attention for also providing contrast enhancement.

Ddog v1
Member ddog was one of the early pioneers on this forum to develop a screen paint formula. This was highly touted at the time and can still be used for reference. Ddog also briefly reappeared to present the Ddog v2 formula, which used automobile paints. However, for whatever reason (difficulty in obtaining the paints, applying?), it did not appear that anyone else tried the formula to confirm or dismiss it's effectiveness.

Base coat: Semi-gloss Pure White
Top coat: 50% (behr style) silver, 40% faux glaze, 10% pure white

Apply 3 base coats and 3 top coats

ddog v2 reference

algol's gesso formula
This was not a very long running thread but it does show the experimentation with acrylic paints, which had not been discussed much up to this point.

16 oz. Liquitex Basics Acrylic Gesso, white
8 oz. Liquitex Colored Acrylic Gesso, neutral gray
2 x 2 oz. Liquitex Concentrated Medium Viscosity Acrylic Artist Color, iridescent white
2 x 2 oz. Liquitex Concentrated Medium Viscosity Acrylic Artist Color, iridescent bright silver
2 x 2 oz. DecoArt Pearlizing Medium

Color-neutral Gray
Tom_Bombadil did some research on creating a color neutral gray screen. The impetus being that off-the-shelf gray colors would often have other colors added to them. So in using them to gain benefits such as contrast enhancement, you would also be introducing undesirable color-shifting.

He arrived at two formulas (per quart):
"Bombadil Gray"
(0 4 0) Lamp Black
(0 2 0) Raw Umber

"Light Bombadil Gray"
(0 3 0) Lamp Black
(0 1 0) Raw Umber

Mississippi Mud
Mississippi Man had created a Goo-like paint mix to provide increased contrast and image detail enhancement. This was used independently early on, but through the collaboration with CMRA, was incorporated into the Light Fusion screen.

All Paints are Flat Latex
1 quart of Behr Deep Base (1300)
1 quart of Behr Ultra Pure White Flat Ceiling
1 quart of Behr White Opal Pearlescence (Behr Premium Plus with Style Pearlescent White Opal No. 751)

Silver Metallic/Mississippi Mud (SM/MM) and Light Fusion (LFS)
A quick AVS Screens forum history recap, as this topic has probably generated the most acronyms and lengthy posts. At the time, the references to these formulas were probably the most difficult for a new member to follow. It's probably less of a concern now since these formulas have not been discussed in a while. But just in case you are referencing some of the older threads:

MM Mississippi Mud (see above)
SD Super Deluxe
SM Silver Metallic
SM/MM Silver Metallic/Mississippi Mud
SP Superplex
SD/MM Super Deluxe/Mississippi Mud
LF Light Fusion

When CMRA first starting experimenting with plexiglass, Super Deluxe was the formula for the top coat. This was applied to a sheet of plexiglass and silver metallic paint was applied to the other side. This screen was also referred to as Superplex.

Working with Mississippi Man, they determined that Mississippi Mud was a preferred topcoat and switched over to that. Additionally, instead of the plexi with silver metallic, a mirror was used instead. So the use of MM on top of a mirror was coined Light Fusion due to a plasma-like glow that is supposedly exhibited.

The SM/MM is a similar concept, except it is silver metallic painted on a wall as a base coat and Mississippi Mud on top.

CMRA revitalized the Super Deluxe formula by proposing a spray-only application method to help bring out all of the benefits of the silver and the glaze, and possibly avoid the need to go the plexiglass Light Fusion route.
Follow the link starting here:

More Gray paint
wbasset has a nice analysis of the best shade of gray to use:

After "Light Fusion", the DIY forum went through what I will call the "RGB Era". The goal was to create an ambient light shedding screen along the lines of the Sony ChromaVue or DNP SuperNova. The way the ChromaVue works is that it primarily reflects light of red, green, or blue wavelengths and minimizes it for the rest.

Many variations of the formulas were created, spearheaded mainly by MM and pb_maxx. There was also quite a bit of controversy within the forum at that time, which I will not rehash here. In any event, probably the most prominent formulas were RS-MaxxMudd and Silver Fire. RS-MaxxMudd attacked the ambient light issue by using pearl and silver. Silver Fire went much further and involved many components and used individual color components for red, green, and blue. Not for the faint of heart.

RS-MaxxMudd (for moderate ambient light)
16 oz. Delta Pearl Metallic #02601
12 oz. Delta Silver Metallic #02603
7 oz. UPW flat
4 oz. Delta Pale Metallic Gold #02624
14 oz. Minwax Polycrylic - Satin finish
10 oz. distilled/tap water

RS-MaxxMudd LL (for lower lumen PJ's, and for completely controlled lighting)
16 oz. Delta Pearl Metallic #02601
10 oz. Delta Silver Metallic #02603
10 oz. UPW flat
2 oz. Delta Pale Metallic Gold #02624
14 oz. Minwax Polycrylic - Satin finish
10oz. distilled/tap water

Tiddler's consolidation of pb_maxxx's formula progression can be found here:

Silver Fire
(base components)
24 oz. Delta Ceramcoat Pearl #02601
16 oz. Delta Ceramcoat Silver Metallic #02603
8 oz. Behr Interior UPW Flat #1050 (or Exterior #4050)
6 oz. Delta Pale Metallic Gold #02624

(viscosity components)
24 oz. Behr Matte Poly (water-based)
10 oz. Distilled / Tap Water

(color components)*
60 ml (2 oz) Distilled / Tap Water
60 ml (2 oz) Delta Pale Metallic Gold #02624
30 ml Delta Cardinal Red #02077
17.5 ml Windsor & Newtwon "Galleria" - Pthalo Green (PG7)
12.5 ml Delta Ultra Blue #02038

* use 3 oz. of the 'color components' and add/mix it to the 'base & viscosity components'

Silver Fire - L (Lite)**
** use 2 oz. of the 'color components' and add/mix it to the 'base & viscosity components'

Silver Fire - SL (SuperLite)***
*** use 1 oz. of the 'color components' and add/mix it to the 'base & viscosity components'
and here's a post that summarizes the current incarnations of these formulas:

Black Widow
A number of the members of the DIY forum collaborated to help bring the DIY paint formulas back to the simple mix. The goal is still to achieve a "neutral" gray, and in this case, an aluminum paint is being employed (pioneered by wbassett's tests with aluminum). The original formula was dubbed 'PFG' for 'Pigment Free Gray' meaning it was a gray but not created with conventional store tints and pigments. mech has done quite a bit of analysis in demonstrating the advantages of this mix.

So what exactly is Black Widow? It is a gray made using Henry Aluminum roof paint added in the proper ratio to a common base paint. You can't just use anything, it has to be a water based aluminum paint so he went with Henry 558.

There are two versions of the mix:
1. Use one part Henry 558 to five parts Winter Mist (True Value)

2. Use one part Createx Auto Air Aluminum Fine to four parts of either Bermuda Beige or Bare Beige (PPG paints, can be matched at Lowe's, Ace Hardware, or Home Depot)

Black Widow clones
Black Widow spawned many clones with different types of paint. Tiddler does a nice job with some comparisons and analysis of a set of these.

Acoustically Transparent (Perforated) Screens
Another important goal when planning your home theater is the interaction between the screen and the audio component of the theater. From an audio perspective, you can achieve the best sound stage by having your front speakers at the same level and coming from behind the screen. This helps anchor the sound to the image.

If this is an important factor, then the screen selected/created needs to account for the speaker placement behind the screen. Thus, an acoustically transparent (neutral) screen is required to allow the sound to pass through unhindered. This is the typical setup at the local movie theatre.

Acoustically transparent screens are usually either perforated with many holes or are some type of woven cloth material. The drawbacks of these types of screens are that not only are they acoustically transparent, they are also light transparent, and let a good deal of light through. So they are usually unity gain or less. Another potential drawback is moiré, due to the interaction of the perforations and the pixel structure from the projector.

Some references:

Most of the commercial versions of these screens are fairly expensive, from the common vendors such as Stewart, Da-lite, Draper, and Screen Research. There hasn't been much DIY activity in this area, and probably the only notable pure DIY implementation of an acoustically neutral screen is from budwich, who used a sheer-weave window blind:

The most discussed economical DIY alternative has been the use of Dazian Coated Celtic Cloth. A number of members have used this material for constructing screens. And it may come in larger sizes than that of blackout cloth. The following are a couple of threads discussing it:

Of late, SandmanX has done extensive testing of Open Weave Vinyl Screen material. He has found good results with the Shearweave 4000 product and has had it tested for both visual and acoustical performance.

Referenced Commercial products
These are commercial products designed specifically for painting screens. To keep in line with the forum rules and avoid the promotion of these products, they will not be discussed here. Do a search and you will find threads that provide the relevant info on these products.

Screen Building Examples
There are a number of threads/websites where members have described the screens that they have built and in some cases, provided a detailed tutorial. Here are a handful that for reference. A detailed search will probably yield a lot more results.

Blackout cloth

Other cloth

Cloth on Aluminum frame


Other General Screen-related Questions

What is masking for?
First of all, let's make a distinction between masking and the border for a screen. A black border is usually placed around the screen to finish the screen and increase the perceived contrast of the image.

Masking is placing black cloth over the unused part of the screen to absorb light overspill and the black/gray bars that you would get when watching a movie that is a different aspect ratio than that of your screen. Some people find these bars distracting and and the masking hides them so that the viewable part of the screen is entirely filled with the image of the show.

The commonly used materials for masking are velvet, velveteen, black felt, duventyne tape, and commando cloth. Basically anything black that will absorb the light.

What Aspect ratio should my screen be?
It depends upon your viewing habits. If you are watching mostly regular TV, then 4:3. If you're watching HDTV, then 16:9 would be the way to go. However, a combination of different sources makes it a little trickier. As is the follow-up question:

What widescreen aspect ratio should my screen be?
If you choose 16:9 (1.78:1)
Pros -
Standard HDTV format
Don't need to adjust projector for zooming image
Cons -
Wider aspect movies (e.g. 2.35:1) are smaller and need top/bottom masking

If you choose 2.35:1
Pros -
Gives you the largest image possible for the wider movies (which quite a few are shot at)
Constant height, so still get the same size image for 16:9
Cons -
Need to do side masking
Need to zoom the image at the projector when going to lower aspect ratio (however, if using a HTPC, can possibly control zooming there)

Now that HD is so prevalent and we are on the verge of all TV's going digital, widescreen is really the default choice.

Where should I position my screen?
The general rule of thumb is that eye level should be 1/3 of the screen height up from the bottom of the screen. When seated, eye level is usually 3 ½' to 4' from the ground. However, there are other factors such as projector placement that may play into this decision.

How far away should the screen be from my seating position?
Here are links to two calculators that you can use to calculate the maximum screen size that your projector can create given the room size, your optimum viewing distance, etc.

I have projector xyz, what is the best screen for me?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. In addition to the specific strengths/weaknesses of your projector, there is the question of personal preference, viewing habits, and other environmental factors that play into this. Does your projector need contrast enhancement? Are you viewing in a light-controlled environment? Do you have a light cannon or would your projector benefit from a high gain screen?

What is the fabric sold on ebay (by moates) and how does it compare to blackout cloth?
A number of members have purchased the fabric off of ebay and have been pleased with it. However, not too many people who have purchased it have done a direct comparison with BO cloth. There has been a reference that they were similar in performance, but not enough responses to say one way or the other.
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