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Beginner's Guide To Simple DIY Painted Screens  

post #1 of 90
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Post any comments, suggestions, or corrections to the
"Beginner's Guide Discussion Thread".


This guide is intended to convey the basics of DIY painted front projection screens. It is aimed at the novice seeking enough information to proceed to implement a screen. This is not intended to be a presentation of the "BEST" possible solution nor will it represent the most up-to-date and technically correct solutions either. This is intended to get the novice up and running so that they can enjoy their new projector using a painted screen. These simple painted screen solutions will produce an image quality comparable to mid level commercial screens at a fraction of the cost. For many people this may be more than adequate while others may wish to go on and explore more advanced painted screens or alternatives to painting. Where possible links will be provided to more detailed technical information as well as information regarding more advanced screen solutions.

The basic concepts of white and near neutral gray screens will be covered along with some general guidelines for selecting a suitable paint base. In addition there will be some instructions on wall preparation as well as alternative substrates. All materials and tools discussed in this thread will be available from local retailers in North America. This document is intended to be more of a "Quick Start Guide" rather than a definitive work on DIY Projection Screens.
post #2 of 90
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Introduction >>>

Screen Substrates >>>
Wall Preparation >>>

Stretched Fabric >>>

Sheet Materials >>>

Hanging The Screen >>>

Portable & Lightweight Fixed Screen Frames >>>
Application Techniques >>>
Tools >>>

Basic Roller Painting Instructions >>>

Two Roller Technique For A Smoother Finish >>>

Application Enhancing Additives >>>

Comments On Spray Painting >>>
White Screen OR Grey Screen? >>>
White vs Grey Demonstration >>>

Controlling Ambient Light >>>

Room For A White Screen >>>

The Best DIY White Screen (No Painting!!!) >>>
Guide To Gray Paint >>>
Introduction >>>

Using EasyRGB.com To Identifying Near Neutral Gray Tints >>>

Considerations For Selecting A Base Paint >>>

Summary Of Brand Name Bases >>>

DIY Custom Gray Tints for Behr Ultra Pure White Paint >>>

ICI Paints Neutral Gray Shades >>>
ICI Paints == CIL, DULUX, Glidden, Ralph Loren, Canadian Tire, Color Your World, . . . .

Additional Brand Name Near-Neutral Gray Tints >>>

A Method For Selecting A Shade of Gray >>>
Painting Retractable Screens >>>
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If you are reading this Beginner's Guide, it is likely you are considering the idea of making your own projection screen. There are many reasons to go the DIY Screen route, not the least of which is cost. What you may not realize is that significantly reduced cost does not have to come at the expense of an excellent image. Here is a screen shot that demonstrates the quality of image that can be achieved through the use of a simple off-the-shelf flat gray paint with a clear matte polyurethane top coating.

Variation of a popular DIY SCreen Paint solution that is a mixture of aluminum paint and acrylic wall paint applied to an EluneVision Retractible 120" screen.

The simplest and quickest way to make a front projection screen is to paint the wall with a suitable white or gray paint. It is also quite inexpensive ranging in cost from $30 to $50 depending on whether a one can solution is desired or a base coat with clear coat solution is undertaken.

A painted screen solution can be implemented not only by painting the wall but you can use any smooth rigid sheet material or some form of stretched fabric. A stretched Blackout Clothe screen works well as a matte white fixed screen but it can also be painted to implement a gray screen. Stretched canvas screens are also a very good option for screens of various sizes including large 4:3 and 16:9 screens. It is possible to get artist's canvas in very large widths to make that colossal screen you have always dreamed of.

There are some excellent alternatives to painting such as using Blackout Cloth (BOC), laminate material, or some known sheet materials from your local home improvement store. Here are some links to threads covering those solutions if you would rather not paint:

Laminate (counter top) Material

Blackout Cloth (BOC)

Do-Able Sheet Material

Parkland Plastics "Polywall" Sheet Material

Parkland/Do-able Locations Thread
post #8 of 90
Thread Starter 
Screen Substrates

This is just a fancy name for the surface you are going to paint and use as a screen. It could be your wall or a nice smooth flat material that you will hang on the wall. Stretched fabric such as blackout cloth (BOC) or artist's canvas also make for good surfaces to paint.

Regardless of the surface you are going to paint it should be smooth, flat, and have no blemishes in it. In the case of the typical sheet rock wall, it may look good under normal circumstances as a wall, but once you hit it with a bright white scene in a movie you may not think so.

In the following posts we will explore some of the possible substrates available. In the case of a typical wall MississippiMan has prepared a comprehensive how-to guide to wall preparation.

You may be wondering why paint anything other than the wall. There are some basic reasons like you live in an apartment and you are not allowed to paint the wall. The wall may be in terrible shape and hanging a piece of sheet material may be the easiest way to get a smooth surface to paint. You may want a very lightweight screen that can be easily moved or stowed up against the ceiling. The wall is usually the most obvious thing to paint to make a screen but as you will see from MissisippiMan's wall preparation instructions it may not be the easiest way to get a smooth flat blemish free screen surface.
post #9 of 90
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Wall Preparation

Author: MississippiMan

Drywall evaluation / preparation:

If the usage of a actual wall surface is to be considered, both the surface texture as well as the "trueness" (...is the wall 'flat') should be carefully considered. A wall that is not "flat or true" will present the most severe issues to deal with so I'll address those issues first.

1. Checking "trueness".

Of course, one can just place their ear against the wall at the extreme far edge of the desired screen area and look sideways. Drastic bumps or dips should be very apparent. Subtile deformations are more easily ascertained by screwing on a long piece of 2" x 2" wood on top of the perimeter area (Top & Bottom edges) where any trim will overlay.

Dealing with a Rise(bump)

The first thing to do if you see a "rise" is to press on it firmly with your hand. If it recedes inward, merely applying a drywall screw through the wall into the stud might be all that is required. But be advised that if the "rise" was caused by a poor job of setting the original screws, when you pull the wall inward by screwing, the heads of some screws/nails might punch outward through their mudded coverings. C'est la Vie. Better to find those now than have such occur after your screen surface is finished. We'll address finishing over those "pops" later

If the rise is due to a stud whose leading edge protrudes beyond the level of all the others, decisions must be made. Having done a considerable number of "Painted Wall Screens", it has become obvious that in most 'normal' situations, the only time one can notice a slight protrudence (...or dip...) is when after trim is applied, and one looks sideways across the trim/screen edge, you can see the 'waviness' . In those instances, I'd recommend against trying to correct something only noticible from a 179 degree viewing location.

Big "Bumps are another thing altogether. First you must determine if the 'rise' extends completely across the screen area, or affects only the top-middle-bottom areas. Usually, it's going to be the first situation, and if so, that will require that you contemplate 'surgery'. How complicated that will be is determined by if the wall involved is an exterior or interior wall.

Exterior wall situations are actually easier because you seldom have to worry about accidently punching through the other side. First you must remove the drywall from on top of the "rise" area. Remove at least 12" wide area...6" to each side of the stud to be operated on. Taking a skill saw set to a cutting depth of 1.5", slice the offending stud horizontally every 3/4' or so. Take a hammer (...and wood chisel if possible) and knock out the pieces. Take a new stud and place it alongside the 'notched out' one, with the new lumber receding at least 3' inside the top/bottom edges of the cut out opening. If it's a really straight stud and the fit is too tight to place the stud 'on edge' you may lay it 'flat' Screw it in at the top & bottom through the drywall using at least three screws, all at least 1' away from the cut edge.

Cut two 3/4" Plywood strips about 5" wide and as long as you had to cut the stud to reach across the 'gap with 6" to spare. Slide those pieces of ply into each far side of the gap, leaving at least 1/2 of the material on the 'outside. Screw into place aggressively You now have a goodly amount of 'deadwood' at each side of the replaced stud as well as a center spine. Using Drywall screws (corse threaded is best) and setting your 'clutch' on 4-5, place your patch of NEW drywall into the cut out area. Carefully drive in the screws until the tapered heads just dimple the surface, allowing a straight edge to pass over them without bumping.

Once all that is finished, the taping and mudding described later on can be effected. The amount of effort required to 'repair' a bump might discourage some, but in cases where a suitable substrate cannot be found/had, or when a screen's size outstrips the practicality of acquiring, moving, and setting into place an enormous piece of material, it doesn't seem all that bad.

Dealing with a "Dip":

This instance requires the application of a filler. Usually such a situation consists of at least a 28" wide area 'between' two normally placed studs. Inasmuch, and if the 'dip' is under 1/4" to 3/8" deep at center, (...place a 4' level across the 'dip' and measure the center depth of same...) it can be filled with normal Drywall compound. But it requires that such be applied via several layers, with the final two layers 'leveled' using a long straight edge like a metal or plastic 4' level as your Mud Knife. I usually apply mud starting at dead center and working outward. After 2-3 normal applications, I use my 4' level to check on the height of the fill, and to see where more/less should be added. Taking the level and moving it downward across the mudded area easily shows off your levelness, and that is also how you skim the surface once you reach a parity with the outer edges, using the level like an enormous Mud Knife. But you use the level like that ONLY and immediately after you have applied fresh mud. otherwise you could drag mud away from the desired area. Once you do in fact reach the point where you virtually level across the "dip", you then switch back to using as large a Mud Knife as you can (14" is cool) .

"Taping and Mudding and Smoothing Drywall Compound"

So your faced with doing an actual removal / replacement of a piece of Drywall, eh? No real problems there, 'cept if your gonna do it, you must do a good job of it. First thing to consider is having all the right tools / materials on hand.

1.Drywall Compound (1 gallon Pre-mixed "Green trimmed" Plastic Tub -Home Depot-)

2. 2" Plastic "Drywall applicator Knife"

3. "Mud Tray" to hold your DWC. The Tray has metal edges on both side to allow you to "wipe/scrap" your Drywall knife before reloading or when smoothing pre-applied Mud.

4. 8" (& if your doing large areas...) 14" Mud Knifes. get the "Stainless Steel" varieties. The "Blue Steel rusts.

5. A Metal Drywall Grate Block. Get one that has a "Medium" expanded metal grate. This tool is for quickly knocking down any excess Mud applied. That WILL happen, and so being, it's nice to not have to laboriously sand down excess. 5-8 quick swipes and your level.

6. Drywall Sanding Sponges Medium/Coarse (8" x 3") + Fine/Medium (Ditto if possible) <<<< See Photos below >>>>

7. Fiberglass Drywall tape (self adhesive)

8. Drywall Knife (Fixed or Retractable) with Heavy Duty NEW Blades

Large 3" x 8" Sanding Sponge. This illustration is a Fine/Medium variety. Hard to find but highly desirable. A medium/coarse Sponge will work as well if the medium side is used with extremely light pressure.

The difference between "Large" AND "small" Sponge sizes is/can be considerable. Big is better.

As pictured below, the difference between the size of the sponges allows for a far more equal disbursement of pressure, and much more coverage per 'sweeping stroke'

The Brand of Sponge I recommend is made by "Norton Abrasives" and designated "3x Wall Sanding Sponge". It is found at most Home Depot outlets, as well as being "orderable' online from several supply outlets.


The following instructions apply also to simple application of Mud to smooth out texture, but with a few variations on the theme.

Assuming that your not dealing with much "Texture", (...covered in depth later...) when replacing 'old drywall' with a new piece, it's actually easier sometimes. That's because the level of the new piece is very slightly lower than the painted area, making you "Fill up to" an edge, not "Float over" two edges. If you must use the "removed" piece, The following is something no experienced drywall repair tech would ever fail to do. "Remove" the Top 2 layers of Paint/Paper from the piece to be replaced. Using a Drywall Knife, score the edges of the existing Drywall out at least 1.5" and remove 2 layers of Paint/Paper as well.

Now you apply your Drywall tape within the inside edge of the depression you made in the existing drywall, overlapping the joint between the two pieces. Trim away any "runout" edges, for the tape will stick together wonderfully when mud is applied, but can come way from a paper surface all to easily if you over work the mud even a little too much.

Take your 2" Plastic Mud Knife and dole out 6-8 scoops of mud into the Mud Tray.
Take your 8" Steel Mud Knife and scoop out a sizable amount "centered" between the two ends of the Knife. In turn, take the now loaded Knife and literally "smear on the mud" over as much of the length of the Tape/paper area as the load allows. Don't press any harder than it takes to make sure it spreads out and doesn't fall away from the wall's surface. Repeat until you have the required Joints/Paper covered.

If the area is small enough that you can see as to where the 8" Knife will not have to overlap it's own path, then use that size Mud Knife as you continue on. If it's an area where you'll have to spread on a wider swath than the knife itself, you switch to using the 14" Knife to minimise creating "Line" or "Ridges". Oh....your still bound to get 'em....even pros do, but at this point, it's even coverage your after, not a finished surface.

Take the Knife of choice and swipe it across a mudded area with light but evenly applied pressure. This should effect a even fill of most of the depressions, at least to where you want to be at this point. Wipe the Knife on the metal Edges of the Mud Tray, and do an adjoining area, running into the edges of the previous swipe, while feathering out our approach into that area. Repeat this until you have removed the excess mud.

Now taking your Knife, repeat the swiping process, but use only LIGHT-Even pressure and do it in only one swipe in each area if possible. Now get away from it and let it dry COMPLETELY before going onto the next step.

Second Mud Coat over Taped joints.

First, check to see if yoinadvertentlyly left a Bump/s of excess Drywall compound. If so, take the Mud Knife and using it like a large Scraper, you "lightly scrape" across the area just a few times.

Now you repeat the instructions above, except that for this Mud coat (...unless you started with a really deep variance between edges....) you will only load an amount of mud wide enough to cover your desired area with minimal overlap into the surrounding area. Apply with "firm" (not hard) pressure in as long a stroke as you can. Continue until you have recovered the area needed, thing once again, using the large Knife, sweep the area lightly. You must do this ASAP after applying the second "coverage" coat because if that coat drys even just a bit, swiping can remove chunks of mud, or leave deep troughs. It won't be as easy to hurt your cause by leaving "more" than it can by removing too much. That's where your Metal Sanding Grate comes in. You take that tool AFTER the second coat is dry (and not "cool" to the touch") and firmly but gently scrub in lonstrokeses the areas where you can obviously see points that are significantly higher than the surrounding areas, keeping watch tmakeke sure you not gouging, or exposing any of the Tape.

Repeat thprocedurere outlined in the lasparagraphph, except now you do apply the next coat of Mud with the largest Knife you have, and spread it across the smoother area with quick, firmly applied strokes. After drying, lightly sweep sand with a Large Fine/Medium Sanding Sponge. By this time, even a Nubee at this sort of thing has gotten the idea of the basics. Hopefully. I myself deferred such work to others for many years, doubting my own ability to make something as smooth as a Pro can. I should not have, for in fact, it's really not hard to accomplish in the least. If I only had all the cash I doled out to Drywall finishers....

Smoothing out "Orange Peel" or "Texas Splatterwall" texture

Mask off the area you need to smooth out using two widths of 3" "Blue" Painter's Tape (...NOT Yellow Masking Tape!!!) You want at least a 5' wide masked area to overlap a bit on.

First off, using a medium Sanding "Block" or Sponge, or a Medium Grate", you attempt to knock down the "peaks" or high ridges down to where the overalheightht of the texture is the same, and there are no "points" remaining. Your not trying to do much more than that, nor should you.

You treat this application like you would such as mentioneaboveed, less the "Tape" The first Mud coat is applied heavily, and quickly, imanagablely sized areas, and wiped off using light pressured sweeps. Then you go relax, for this too requires you leave it alone until it's DRY.

Second coat goes on slightly heavier, but as quickly as possible, and then swiped ASAP using light pressure. Remember to clean the Knife off on the Mud Tray to prevent the spreading out of the Mud across the blade to the edges, or such will result in you applying "ridges" that you have to also remove.

Repeat this process until you have a completely covered surface that shows no texture. Along the way, if prominent ridges or lumps are noticed, sand/lightly grate them away.

Note: Do not try to speed things up by applying Mud too thickly, or cracks, pinholes might appear, and of course, your drying time between coats will also be increased proportionally.

If you need anymore information please contact MississippiMan with a private message.
post #10 of 90
Thread Starter 
Stretched Fabric

The most common stretched fabric screen is a simple wooden frame with blockout cloth (BOC) stretched and stapled to the back of the frame. Since it is a fabric there will be some give to the surface so care must be taken not to apply too much pressure when rolling the paint.

Here is a link to a very nice demonstration of how a BOC screen is typically made.

It should be noted that a BOC screen is a very good matte white screen without any painting. Be sure to seek out the highest quality of BOC available in the local fabric stores. If there are any choices you want the whitest and most opaque BOC you can find. Typically BOC has a smooth rubbery side and a side that shows the fabric weave. It is often suggested that you try each side to decide which you like best. If you are likely to paint the BOC, then always have the smooth rubbery side facing out.

Photos of a very well executed BOC screen by luclin999:

Click images to enlarge

Stretched Artist's Canvas

This material is available from art supply stores and comes in quite large widths. For details on how to build a frame for this material please take a look at bud15415's thread Self-tensioning frame for a DIY canvas screen. In Bud's case I do beleive he used a paint brush to apply the paint but I see no reason why a roller could not be used. It might be advisable to prime it using a brush first though.

Some previews of Bud's Canvas Screen:

Click images to enlarge

Since the canvas is available in larger widths, this may be one of the best options for making screens larger than 120" diagonal. As you will notice it was this larger width of material that made it possible for Bud to construct a very large 4:3 screen.
post #11 of 90
Thread Starter 
Sheet Material

In general any material that is smooth, flat, and will take paint is suitable as a painted screen substrate. There is a variety of sheet materials available from home improvement stores, and plastics shops. I will not try to identify all of them here.The difficulty is finding sheet materials large enough to make a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen. The standard 4'x8' sheet will make a 16:9 screen 85"x48" which is a 98" diagonal screen size. Some materials can be ordered in sizes larger than 4'x8'.

One such material is Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF). This can be special ordered in sizes of 5'x10' and 5"x12' to make 100" and larger screens. MDF is a compressed softwood fiber product that is very flat and smooth. It takes paint very well. It is vulnerable to water damage so I recommend you paint both sides and the edges. Unfortunately MDF in larger sizes is hard to find in thicknesses lower than 3/4". It is therefore it makes for a very heavy 120" screen.

Another material that can be ordered in larger sizes is counter top laminate material. This is the hard material that is glued to the top of tables and counters. It is about 1/16" thick and very tough. It can be glued to the wall or to a frame to keep it flat. The finish is very smooth and can be primed with good quality primers such as the Glidden Gripper Primer. Any primer that will adhere to melamine will stick to most laminates. In Canada the Glidden Gripper Primer is sold under the CIL brand as Smart3 Anywhere Primer. The other thing to note about laminate materials is that certain colors and finishes make excellent screens without any painting.

1/8" Thrifty White Hardboard is available from Home Depot and probably all similar building material stores. This a compressed fibre product with a white coating on one side. Very often the coating is a white vinyl. It should be primed before painting. Like laminate material it can be clued to the wall or attached to a frame for support. This material is very inexpensive at around $15 for a 4'x8' sheet.

Sintra (Expanded PVC) is a light weight plastic. It goes by other names too numerous to list here. The point here is to go to your local plastics shop and tell them you are looking for a printable material in the size you are looking for. They should be able to suggest several options of fairly in-expense products.

Masonite (compressed paper fibers) is similar to the white hard board but it has no white coating on it. It accepts paint well and comes in sheets 1/8" and 3/16, and 1/4" thicknesses. Again it will require support to keep it flat. So it will need to be attached to the wall or a frame.
post #12 of 90
Thread Starter 
Hanging The Screen

There are many ways to attach a screen to the wall. For very lightweight screens simply hang it on a couple of screws. For the heavier screen a more robust method is advised. One such method is called a French Cleat. The following video will demonstrate it far better than I could ever explain it.

French Cleat Video

Avery attractive way to mount a screen is to have it set out from the wall. The wall behind can then be painted a dark color or black. It is even possible to cover the wall behind with black drapes. The image on the screen then appears to float in space. Once again here are a couple of helpful photos from "luclin999" showing how he mounted his floating BOC screen to the back wall.

Click images to enlarge

This method of standing the screen off the wall also offers the opportunity to tilt the screen down to accommodate projectors that have a vertical off set. Instead of using keystone correction the screen could be tilted down a few degrees to square the image.
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Portable & Lightweight Fixed Screen Frames

Author: EM3

Since the beginning of time (ok projectors) man has struggled for a cheap easy lightweight solution for a screen.

The PVC Solution.

PVC pipe has been used to create a screen frame and here is how it is done. PVC elbows for the 4 corners and 4 tees two top and tow bottom for a 16:9 screen. This will strengthen the long side of the screen and make parts shorter to fit in your car. In order to attach the screen the fabric store sells grommets that come in 2 pieces and you place them on each side of the material and with a special punch tool (comes with them) you smack it with a hammer and they attach. Just like the eyelets in a tarp. I have had best luck with these when I doubled over thin material. With Black Out Cloth you may or may not have to double. Place these eyelets/ grommets about every foot around your fabric and then use bungee cords from top to bottom side to side to hold tension, or lace it up with some cords.

Tools required scissors, hacksaw, and hammer

Aluminum frames have also been used to some extent and here are some thoughts on that.

1 1/2 inch square aluminum tubing can be found at Home Depot. They have it in the hardware section. It was easy to cut with a hack saw in a regular miter box. It comes in eight foot lengths which worked out fine for a 100 inch screen.

The great thing about the aluminum is that it's very light and very straight. I had been looking through the lumber and it all weighed a lot and it was hard to find a piece long enough that wasn't warped.

Also at Home Depot I found a framing clamp for putting corners together. You put the two pieces together and screw it tight. I used this to hold the corners square while I drilled the holes for the brackets. I put 3 inch corner brackets on the back at each corner.

In the spray paint section I found textured black paint. This came out looking just like a powdered aluminum finish.

At the fabric store I got some budget blackout cloth, and a lot of black velcro. I put velcro around the whole edge of the cloth and the back side of the frame. To do this easily you can lay the frame on the cloth and use a sharpie marker to draw around the inside. You won't see the line by the time you stretch the cloth a bit. Then just put the cloth on and go around a few times stretching it out. The velcro is strong enough to stretch it flat.

I had some extra velcro so I put another strip of it all the way around the sides of the picture to cut down on reflection.

I put two brass hooks on the top and hung them on brass screws in the wall. The screen is so light that I didn't even bother looking for wall studs. It came out looking totally professional.

I used black, stick-on Velcro.

Here are some tips:

1) The cutting of the tubes.

I used my hacksaw in the miter box - which limited my range of motion - instead of a box saw. I also didn't clamp the tubes down tightly as I was using a cheap Stanley folding workbench that came with table clamps. The offshoot of this was that although the miter cut came out pretty well, they were subtly uneven. This caused alignment headaches later in the angle clamp/L-brace hole marking step.

Recommendation - Use an electric saw (or better, a miter saw ) and clamp securely, or get a machine shop to pre-cut your tubes.

2) Marking the holes to drill.

Rather than trying to mark the screw holes on the tube, I should have just drilled starter holes while I had the tubes and the L-brace secured in the corner clamp. The L-braces are a little bit wider than the tubes, so I had to
use little thick pieces of paper to even up the clamp. Also, be careful to favor the inside frame edge even-ness on the L-clamp rather than the outer - otherwise you'll end up with little edges of the brace peaking out into where the screen will be showing.

3) Attaching the L-braces.

Attach the screws while you have everything secure in the corner clamp. I'm not sold on the self tapping screws for the aforementioned reason. Get a variable speed screw gun, a drill screw bit (or good first aid kit.)

!Alert! Before you attach the final L-brace shake out the little aluminum shards from your handiwork at the other corners or it will rattle.

4) Velcro.

I got the 2" wide industrial strength black. Since my frame
is only an inch thick, I cut the velcro lengthwise to get double the material. You can do this pretty easily by folding sections in half,securing the end with a wide potato chip clip and cutting it down the fold. Btw, it says right on the box that the velcro is not recommended for material. It also recommends that you wait 24 hours for the adhesive to cure before straining it.

Painting the frame:

The Rust-oleum black textured paint recommended did work really well - no drips, etc. I would recommend that you have bright lighting wherever you do the actual painting because it was easy to miss several under painted areas that showed up later.

Hooks for hanging

Make sure you drill smaller starter holes in the top of the frame
Slowly hand screw the hooks into the frame. I felt more
secure going into the wall studs despite the light weight
of the frame (I have needed to take the screen on
and off the wall many times.) I also went with 2 1/2 inch
brass wood screws which seemed to extend out of the
wall a good length for the hooks (although the phillips
heads barely withstood the screwing and stripped
out at the very end. (I didn't pre-drill through the studs.

Floating Aluminum Frame

I used the 1" aluminium tubing from Home Depot with a few modifications.

I'm "floating" the screen a few inches away from the wall and don't bother with black masking. Therefore, I've wrapped the blackout cloth around the outside of the frame.

Two 4'x1" square aluminum tubes
Two 8'x1" square aluminum tubes
(Or three 8'x1" square tubes)
Just over 8' blackout cloth
4 right-angle brackets
Large Binder Clips

The outer height is 50" (4' + top and bottom 1" sections) Therefore the width needs to be just under 89", so cut about 7.11" off the 8' top/bottom rails. No need for a mitre cut!

By wrapping the screen around the tubes, the corners will not spread; the fabric tension keeps it together. Use simple angle brackets screwed into the back and squared with a framing square. Sand the front corners down so the aluminum will not cut the fabric.

Rather than use velcro, I wanted something that would allow me to restretch the fabric, or replace it. I came up with a very simple solution. (It can be hidden with additional fabric, but I haven't bothered.)

Staples has LARGE binding spring clips that can just stretch over the 1" tubing and fabric. After screwing the frame together, lay the frame over the fabric, with the angle brackets up, and clip the
fabric to the frame using the same "diamond" pattern that people use when stapling to wood frames. (Start in the center of each side.)

I let screen pull in slightly at the top and bottom to create tension. Purists may want to install a third vertical bar in the center of the screen.

After all the clips are in position, the handles for the clips can be removed. With the clips in the back, the front surface is a beautiful, smooth, lightweight, tight screen.

For a removable Mask some have tried this method.

Rip down some 1/8 in masonite into 1 or 2 in strips.
Spray them with 3 M glue. Take a wide piece of felt and wrap one end over the strips. Place velcro on the screen frame (over the top of your screen) so that you can adjust the width of the mask. Place velcro on the back of the frame to secure the excess felt.

Stretch Bar Method at this time there is very little discussion going on about this.

I may have found a nice alternative to a custom made frame. They are heavy duty "stretch bars" used by artists to stretch canvass. It should be perfect for a DIY screen. The edge is wood, allowing for stapling, and the other side is aluminum for strength. I will be making a 120" diagonal screen and have already ordered the bars. The cost goes up due to shipping charges for the oversized items, $80 in my case.

I ordered mine from http://www.utrechtart.com/Canvas/Str...s_Accessories/ and you can see a sample here:

Food for thought.
1. Snaps are labor intensive but a feasible method to fix cloth to the frame
2. Screws with washers (or maybe rectangular brackets with two screws) provide a cheap and easy way to fix fabric to the frame.
3. A center brace and strong corner brackets are a must
4. Brushed aluminum does not hinder the viewing experience in a concerning way - I don't think these frames need to be painted.


Special thanks are given to the originators and contributors of these threads http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=700398 Thank you HanktheTankND, RTROSE, and bud16415. Thanks got out to all of those that contributed to this thread http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=366191 Thank you Graver, MikeSRC, rdwalt,RONM, Rob Ricket, jonnyb, BreakStuff, myhdgig, Mit07, SR7, trpltongue, mhernie, JeffHT, dd2, ukchris, djordan, Rudy81, mbroder, razorfish. KCK7, stansell, SpeedyG, rrolsbe, aftp302, zambelli, bzb, DavidVTHokie, Mbosco, newpj, sadd3j, ghengis, daurang, timesnewroman, BHendershot, nowknown, Cary_R, PhilM, yeller, sparnold, pjgirl, ambient, quake, feds27, colofan, garyfritz, sfj, Robert Clark, newfmp3, sfj, triodeuser, retroeric, smithmal, DarrinH, DarthGak, tomes, chr1sk, ScreenRider, HuskerHarley, 1 Time, fs123, vultures knob, Vashon Donique, citizen arcane, BlackCatt, (Godlightsoul), JamesE, awesomebase, metropole, jicbulk, Rizman!, uognarf, Smegger, PatrickGSR94, Highside, ellisr63, doublestar, tiddler and stevesemailbox.
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Application Techniques


For the average home owner, the most familiar method of applying paint to large flat surfaces is by rolling it on. For that reason the author concentrated on applying paint by rolling. That is not necessarily the best or even easiest method of painting large flat surfaces. Very recently Wagner has introduced a self contained paint sprayer that does not require a compressor. This new model, the Wagner Control Spray, has been given trials by several people with spray painting experience. The verdict seems to be that it works well and will produce a nice smooth texture-less surface. In addition there are throw away spray painting systems available such as the Preval Spray Gun. This device has been tried by at least one individual that I know of. The initial impression is that it works very well.

The emphasis in this thread will be on applying DIY screen paint with a low nap roller. That is not to taken as a rejection of spray painting. It was simply decided to stick with the most common method people are likely to attempt. I highly recommend you investigate the use of spray painting as a method to apply any of the DIY screen paints described in this guide.

Good results can be achieved through the use of low nap lint free synthetic rollers. There is another type of roller that can help to produce and even smoother finish. These are the hard white foam trim rollers. The 6" hard white trim roller can be used to apply and smooth latex paint. In the case of larger screen areas the combination of the fuzzy rollers to apply the paint and the hard foam trim rollers to smooth it out has also worked very well. These methods will be described in some detail in the following posts.

However you chose to apply the screen paint, the goal is a smooth finish. Any method you know of to minimize the typical roller texture is advised.
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(1) - Large plastic ice cream containers are good for mixing large batches of paint.

(2) - A measuring cup is useful for measuring out distilled water.

(3) - These ladle like measuring spoons are good for dipping down into a can of paint.

(4) - Small syringes are great for measuring out small quantities of paint for sample batches. You can pick up small syringes at the drug store. They sell these for giving medicine to infants.

(5) - Large 2 oz. syringes are great for measuring out medium size batches of paint.

(6) - A rubber spatula is great for cleaning the paint out of the pan so that you don't waste it.

(7) - You will need a flat screwdriver or something similar to open paint cans.

(8) - A rubber mallet is good for sealing the paint can lids.

(9) - This type of squirrel cage paint mixer is great for mixing large batches of paint or stirring the paint in a gallon can. The squirrel cage is in two parts. The bottom part is removable so it works better in a quart can.

(10) - This smaller propeller type mixer is good for mixing small batches of paint and stirring paint in quart cans.

(11) - A longer handle reduces the amount of stretching and bending you have to do when rolling.

(12) - Standard roller handle. I prefer the shorter 7 1/2" rollers. I find it easier to control the pressure and they are a bit lighter.

(13) - Synthetic 3/16" nap 7 1/2" wide roller. These are great for getting the paint on the surface. They also produce a fairly smooth finish. This is all you need if you are using a flat paint.

(14) - Smooth 6" foam trim roller. These rollers produce a very smooth finish. It does have some texture to it but it is a very fine texture.

- Small plastic margerine or cottage cheese containers are great for mixing smaller sample batches.

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Basic Roller Painting Instructions

Co-authored by KristiSwallow

Choosing A Roller

The best roller for applying flat latex paint as a projection screen surface is a 3/16" nap white synthetic roller. A 1/4" nap roller is also acceptable but will produce a slightly heavier roller texture.

This type of roller will hold the right amount of paint to cover one vertical strip on a 120" 16:9 screen. You can get these rollers in 9" and 7" widths. I personally prefer the 7" width because it is a but lighter and easier to control the pressure applied across the length of the roller.

Application Pressure

It is important to let the roller and paint do the work. It is not necessary to apply enough pressure to squeese the paint out of the roller. Only apply enough pressure make the roller roll. If the roller handle is not free spinning and requires excessive pressure to get it to roll then clean it or replace it. Roll at a nice steady pace that does not fling paint drops at you. Too much pressure will lead to roller tracks in your screen surface. Pressing too hard is probably the most common mistake made when roller painting.

Maintaining A Wet Line

This is a very important concept for wall painting as well as screen painting. The paint is applied in vertical strips from top to bottom. Then the gap is blended into the previously applied strip. This method ensures that you are not inadvertently dry rolling paint that has been on the wall long enough to start drying. You always want to apply paint next to paint that is still wet.

Keep It Thin

When painting a screen surface it is important to get good coverage but not to apply too much paint. Too much paint will lead to a lumpy finish, roller tracks, and may also result in runs.

Let It Dry

Be sure to let each coat dry completely. For common latex wall paints that means about three hours. If you start rolling the next coat too soon the first coat can get lifted off in clumps and ruin the smooth screen surface we are striving for. If you are applying a polyurethane top coat the I recommend leting the latex base coat dry for at least 12 hours.

Flat Paint Rolling Tips

Flat wall paint is very forgiving. Wall blemishes will not be visible in the projected image. It is still advisable to prepare the wall properly and employ painting techniques to produce the most uniform surface possible.

  1. Load the 3/16" nap synthetic roller with paint.

  2. Apply the paint in vertical strips. Start at the center of the vertical strip and roll up and down with longer and longer strokes until you are rolling from top to bottom of the screen.

  3. Apply each strip adjacent to the previous one. Leave only a 1/4" to 1/2" gap between the strips.

  4. Once the current strip of paint has been applied by spreading it from top to bottom, do not stop the roller on the screen surface. Roll completely off onto the masking tape. If you change roller direction on the screen during the following smoothing and blending strokes, it will leave a texture that is different from the rest of the screen. That discontinuity in the roller texture will be visible in the image.

  5. Now you will blend the current strip into the previous strip. This is done by continuing to roll up and down while moving sideways across the gap. It should take about 6 up and down strokes to work your way across the gap. Once the roller is completely across the gap then continue rolling up and down but work your way back across the gap. Again this should take about 6 strokes. At this point the current strip and the previous one should be indistinguishable. Stop rolling now and load up for the next strip.

The procedure is repeated until you get to the other side of the screen. Since the last strip will not be blended into a subsequent strip you can put a few more smoothing strokes on it if need be.

Special Thanks: to "KristiSwallow" for her input to making these instructions much clearer and easier to understand. Kristi spend a considerable amount of time reviewing and suggesting revisions for these instructions.
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Two Roller Technique For A Smoother Finish

Basic roller painting knowledge will be assumed, so if you need a refresher read "Basic Roller Painting Instructions". It is even better if you have had a chance to practice the basic techniques while applying the primer or base coats of a multi-layer application.


With the advent of higher resolution High Definition projectors the roller texture created by low nap fuzzy rollers may become an issue. With flat or matte finish paints this texture is usually not apparent in the image. However if you are trying to increase the gain of the screen by adding some satin polyurethane to the flat/matte paint, then roller texture can be more of an issue.

One way to minimize the roller texture is to use a hard foam trim roller. The drawback to using these hard foam rollers is that they do not hold much paint. It is therefore necessary to load and apply paint several times to get one vertical strip applied. By using the low nap fuzzy roller and the trim roller you can take advantage of the strengths of each. The fuzzy roller is great for getting the paint strip applied while the foam roller is better for smoothing and blending.

Making The Paint Smoother

I have not found this technique to work well with flat latex paints. It does work much better with a thinned paint. By using polyurethane to thin the paint you can also improve it's leveling characteristics. The intent here is not to add gain by increasing the sheen. For more extensive discussion of adding a satin polyurethane to increase gain please refer to bud16415's thread Screen Paint.

For the purposes of making the paint smoother you should use a flat or matte polyurethane such as one of the products described in the Application Enhancing Additives chapter-post. In addition to the polyurethane you can add 10% distilled water to further thin the paint. As a general rule the polyurethane should not exceed 1 part to 2 parts paint. The maximum water content is then calculated as 10% of the combined polyurethane and paint.

If your paint is self-priming then the first coat should just be the paint, thinned with water by about 10 to 15% by volume. If you are using a separate primer then again thin it as well.

Details of measuring and mixing your smoother paint are covered in the following chapter-post Application Enhancing Additives.

Dual Roller Technique For Applying Thinned Paints

The 3/16” Synthetic (fuzzy) Roller is good for putting a strip of paint on the screen.

The 6” Trim Roller is good for smoothing out the paint and performing the strip blending.

Never stop a paint roller on the screen surface while smoothing and blending. Roll right off onto the masking tape.

  1. Load the fuzzy roller with paint.

  2. Start at the right side of the screen. Apply a vertical strip of paint using a reciprocating (up & down) rolling motion, working from the center of the screen spreading the paint up and down to the masking tape. This is to spread the paint from top to bottom in a strip the width of the fuzzy roller. Do not work the paint any more than necessary to spread it evenly. If there is an adjacent strip then fill in the gap by rolling up to a half roller back into the previous strip.

  3. Switch to the trim roller. Wet it by rolling it on the sloped part of the pan but don’t roll it into the paint reservoir. This is only to wet the roller not to load it with paint. Remember the purpose of the trim roller is to smooth out the fuzzy roller stipple texture.

  4. Using the wetted trim roller smooth the strip of paint with a light vertical reciprocating rolling motion. Start with the roller half on the leading edge (left edge of wet paint strip). The round end of the trim roller should point in the direction you are moving, so that would be to the right. Roll completely back into the previous strip. Of course, if this is the first strip then there is no previous strip.

  5. Do not turn the roller over as shown in the following photo. The round end should continue to point right for this part. It is important that you only apply enough pressure to hold the roller against the surface very lightly and no more. Just barely enough pressure to make the roller roll. Starting at the top of the previous strip, roll only down. Work your way to the left one half roller at a time, So you will be overlapping these downward rolling strokes by one half roller. The last downward roller stroke should overlap the dry surface by one half roller.

    NOTE: Since the writing of this set of instructions I have been using the trim roller pointed in the opposite direction as shown in the photos. That means the rounded edge should be the last to pass over the paint. It also means the roller handle enters the roller at the leading end of the roller and therefore the least amount of pressure is being applied at the rounded end. This is important to avoid roller tracks.

  6. Switch back to the fuzzy roller. Repeat steps 1 through 5 until you have covered the screen.

I found the above technique enabled me to get the paint on the surface quickly, thus maintaining a good wet line. It also allows you to produce a very smooth uniform surface. The best of both rollers.

It is also important to let each coat dry before overcoating. If the paint is not dry it can be picked up by the roller as globs of much thicker paint and ruin the screen.
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Two Roller Technique For A Smoother Finish

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Application Enhancing Additives

The main drawback to rolling screen paint is the texture that is produced by this application technique. Some paints will flow enough to smooth out the texture. Paints that do this are said to level out well. Some paints tend to retain a very stippled like texture.

It is possible to add water to the latex paint to help create a smoother surface. The water will evaporate leaving a thinner paint film. This will reduce the depth of the roller texture. The paint being thinner may then require three coats to give good coverage where normally two coats would have been sufficient. I would follow the directions on the paint can regarding the amount of water to add. Typically this is in the order of 10 to 15% water.

In addition to water there is a product called Floetrol Latex Paint Conditioner. This product is meant to help the paint flow and level out to a smooth surface. I have tried it in a 10% concentration with an equal amount of water added:

Unaltered Paint <=> 10% Floetrol + 10% Water Added

Click images to enlarge.

Unfortunately there are some focus issues with these two macro photos but, it should be apparent that the Floetrol sample is a bit smoother.

If you have ever applied the Behr Clear Matte Polyurethane #780 you have probably marveled at how well it levels out. This characteristic can be taken advantage of. By adding the Behr Matte Polyurethane to the latex base paint you can create a much smoother surface when applying the paint with a roller. The Behr polyurethane is matte but may add some sheen to the surface. In some cases this is a good thing. For example if mixed with the Behr Flat latex #1050 the result is a gray paint that levels out very well with a very low sheen like a matte paint. I would suggest a mix of 2 parts Behr UPW #1050 to 1 part Behr Matte Polyurethane #780.

Unless your intension is to add some sheen you should only add a matte or flat polyurethane such as one of the following products:
BEHR PREMIUM PLUS WITH STYLE® Crystal Clear Water Based Polyurethane No. 780

Pratt & Lambert: Interior Acrylic Latex Varnish Dull Finish Z39 / Z39C
A fast drying, clear acrylic dull finish with low odor and non-yellowing qualities when applied over latex stains. Provides excellent adhesion, leveling and uniformity.

American Traditions Faux Acrylic Flat Latex Clear Protector #64675 (Quart)

Paint Thinning Example:

  • Screen size 98" 16:9
  • Substrate: 1/8" Thrifty White Hardboard.
  • Paint: Behr Ultra UPW #4850 (self-priming)
  • Polyurethane: Behr Matte Polyurethane #780

  • Quart of Behr ULTRA UPW #4850 (tinted if desired)
  • Quart Behr Matte Polyurethane #780
  • Distilled Water
  • Ammonia based window cleaner.
  • Paint mixing attachment for your drill.
  • 2oz. plastic tipped syringe.

Basic Steps:
  1. Clean the substrate really well with window cleaner.
  2. Mix the paint well unless freshly shaken.
  3. Draw off 16oz. of paint and put into a separate container.
  4. Add the maximum mount of distilled water as directed by the manufacturer.
  5. Apply the first coat of paint to the screen.
  6. Add 8oz. of polyurethane to the unaltered paint in the can.
  7. Add 4oz. of distilled water to the paint+polyurethane.
  8. If you have any of the original thinned paint leftover you can add it back to the can.
  9. Mix the paint+polyurethane+water well with the drill attachment.
  10. Apply two more coats to the screen using.

NOTE: You can use either the basic roller painting instructions to apply the paint. For the smoothest finish use the two roller technique to apply the thinned paint.
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First some extremely wise words from Harpmaker:
I HIGHLY recommend using a breathing respirator, and I don't mean a hospital-type dust mask. Lowe's and Home Depot have ones made by 3M for about $30. It's money well spent. I learned the hard way... no permanent damage, but many hours of breathing discomfort after I had finished spraying.

This is the respirator Harpmaker used:

This product is not currently available from Home Depot.

Some alternate respirators:

Click images to view web pages.

Comments On Spray Painting

The author has no experience with the use of the following spray painting equipment. Others have tried the following spray painting equipment and have reported good results. If you are so inclined I would recommend investigating spray painting your screen. It has the advantage of producing a smoother finish and a thinner paint layer. This thinner paint layer could be extremely beneficial when painting a retractable screen material.

Wagner Control Spray

Wagner Control Spray - $58.50 @ GleemPaint.com

Preval Spray Gun

Some Spray Painting Threads
A Wagner for MississippiMan?

A "Painted" *Thrifty White Hardboard (*TWH) Tutorial
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