How to choose a Projector Screen

Screens on which images are projected for viewing are known as a projector screens. These screens can either be fixed like those found in conference rooms or painted on the walls like those in movie halls. Typically, these screens are white or off white in color so that the image obtained is same as that projected by the projector.

The choice of the projector screen depends a lot on the type of projection, placement of the projector and the available light in the room where projector is to be used. Moreover, the quality of the image seen on the screen also depends on the luminosity of the image source. This article explains how to choose a projector screen based on these factors.

Projection Screen Material

The quality of image viewed on the screen depends on both the quality of image source and the reflective and distorting properties of the screen.  Hence it is important to choose the correct type of projection screen material as prescribed by the manufacturing company of the projector. For e.g. High Contrast Da Mart LCD projector screen material would offer good results with high light output type LCD front projectors. On the other hand Cineflex screen material would provide excellent results with rear projectors.

Projector Brightness

The brightness of the projector is also an important criterion for deciding on the type of screens. The brightness is measured in terms of ANSI lumens. Higher the lumen unit of the projector brighter is the projector. Typically, projectors having less than 1000 lumen rating are considered as dim projectors. On the other hand, projectors with more than 3000 lumen rating are ultra bright projectors. The basic idea is that as the size of the screen increases the brightness of the image on the projector screen decreases. Hence if you have a dim projector, you should try to keep the size of the screen small enough for a decent quality image viewing experience.

Ceiling mounted projector screen, license CC 2.0  [Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16725630@N00/470275816]
Ceiling mounted projector screen, license CC 2.0 [Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/16725630@N00/470275816]

Existing Light

The choice of a projection screen depends on the amount of existing light in the room. This light defines the illumination of the room and is typically known as ambient light in technical terms. Higher the ambient light in the room higher is the requirement of screen with ambient light rejection properties. For example, the Da Lite projector screen material (Silver Vision type material) gives better results in ambient light conditions than the Da Lite Cinema Vision material.

Front or Rear Projections

The projector screen selection is also based on the type of projector being used. When the projector is placed on the same side as the viewers, front projector screens are required. On the other hand when the projector is placed on the rear of the screen, rear projector screens are required. Although a rear projection screen provides a better viewing experience, it is much more expensive than the traditional front projection screen.

Two important technical terms to know before buying :

Projector Gain

The projector gain is defined as the ratio of light reflected from the projection screen to that reflected by a standard white board. A screen which can reflect more amount of light as reflected from a white screen is said to have a gain of more than 1. So a gain of 2 would mean that the projector screen would reflect 100% more light when compared to a white board. Similarly a projector gain of 0.8 means that the screen would only reflect 80% of the light.

Viewing Angle

Projector gain is calculated from a point perpendicularly in front of the center of the screen. As a person moves away from this point the brightness of the screen decreases. Viewing angle is defined as the angle within which people can see a decent quality image sitting in front of the screen. Typically, projection screens with viewing angle between 26 and 36 degrees can provide a good experience.


Projector gain and viewing angle are generally inversely related. Meaning, projector screens with lower gains are able to reflect light at wider viewing angles and vice versa. Therefore, high gain screens might not be a good choice when catering to a large number of people, sitting at oblique angles. High gain screens are more suitable for office conferences where people mostly sit perpendicular to the screen.


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