How to Make a Cheap Portable Green Screen

The bright fluorescent color of a green screen has nothing to do with 1960s retro chic. Did I mention they also come in blue? These two very bright and vibrant colors allow a person to ‘key out’ the background leaving only the subject. The portion that is keyed out is the green or blue color leaving behind the subject and pure movie magic.

Why not a pink or purple screen? Those are my favorite colors.

I feel your pain. Theoretically the key can be any color. However, we all have various reddish hues in our skin. A green screen (or blue screen) tends to have the least conflicts with human skin and clothing. The preference in recent times is to use a green screen. This is partly due to the fact that there are less clashes with clothing, eyes, etc., and that there is a slight advantage to using green when shooting digital video.

How to Make a Portable Green Screen

There are numerous methods to create a regular green screen for your home studio. For example, you could paint the wall behind you with chroma key green paint. But painting a wall will not help you much when you want to shoot away from home.

You could purchase a ready-to-go portable green screen, but for many it’s much less expensive if you make your own. There are several make-your-own methods I've seen posted using PVC pipe. These look good as well but I'm posting this wooden support method as an alternate that may suit your needs. Besides, isn't recyclable wood a much greener choice? I know, I know...

Materials You Will Need

  • One piece of green screen fabric at least 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall (foam back preferable but not absolutely necessary). If you will be shooting tall subjects who will stand, choose a longer length. A six foot green screen is suitable for sit-down interviews or shorter subjects.
  • Two 5 to 6 foot long 1"x 2" pieces of wood (match the length of your green screen fabric). I recommend 6 feet.
  • Staple gun (if you don’t have one you could use a hammer and small nails)
  • Duct tape (green if you have it – otherwise any color will do)
  • Two lighting stands (or c-stands or other cheap stand). They are relatively inexpensive and can be repurposed. However, if you do not own these already, this type of portable green screen may not be your cheapest option.

What to Do

  1. Cut the fabric if necessary.
  2. Lay the fabric out on a large, flat surface.
  3. Place each piece of wood at the far end of the fabric (lengthwise)
  4. Fold the fabric over each length of wood one time. Staple gun or nail and then duct tape for extra security. (see the video below if you start to get confused)
  5. Suspend the wood from the top of the light stand or clamp to your c-stand. You may also use duct tape to attach it.
  6. The fabric will now hang down from the top piece of wood. The bottom piece of wood provides weight to pull the fabric taut. It should not touch the floor.
  7. Iron the fabric if there are any wrinkles (note: be careful if you have purchased foam backed material. This will wrinkle less easily but may not be able to be ironed)

That's it! Now you have a very light, portable green screen that can also be used in your home studio. (either attach to a wall behind you or install screw-in hooks and hang down from the ceiling. You can view more detailed instructions on making the studio version here.)

Now what to do with that left over fabric? That's where the 1960s retro chic comes in. Green screen bell bottoms with matching shirt? Complete instructions to follow...


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