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Will a Projector Work on a Wall? (White, Grey, Black, and Colors)

So you just got a new projector and you want to make the most of your home theatre room. Well, there are a few options out there when it comes to screens. A great option is to paint the projector wall to use it as a screen. This has become a very popular way to prep a home theatre room. But what is the best color to choose?

A projector will work on a wall and for the best viewing experience, pick a special projector screen paint and find the right color. Grey usually works the best as it balances both black and white’s contrast and light absorption qualities.

But before you start painting, a few things should be on your mind. Paint is just one part of the equation. To get the most out of your new home theatre, you’ll need to look at the environment and projector to come to a conclusion on what the right color for your wall is. To learn more about choosing a projector wall color, and other things you need to know before you paint, read on!

Using a Projector on White or Grey Walls

Digital projector on table projecting on wall

When it comes to projector screens, there are a lot of choices out there (that’s why we have another guide). While you might think that choosing a color is an easy task, a lot of variables come into play that you should be aware of. You see, the task of a projector screen is to reflect light back to the audience from the projector itself. The color of the screen plays a big role in dictating the viewing angle, brightness, and contrast.

You should also have a basic understanding of how a projector works. We already know that they utilize the screen to project light, but they also produce colors using red, green, and blue light. The combination of these colors makes up the entire spectrum of visible light. For example, the projector will block out the other two colors in that area to display a blue.

The light that is reflected back to the audience is, as a result, blue. White is the combination of all these colors at once. In contrast, black would be the lack of color. This is important to note as our next topic is using a white or grey screen.

Using a White Projector Screen

You might consider a white projector screen to be the end of the discussion. They are the best at reflecting light, so they should be the best for a home theatre set up, right? While in some instances this holds true, white screens can be troublesome in certain environments.

This has to do with a screen and projector property called gain. Basically, the gain is the measure of the reflectivity of a surface. The gain number represents a ratio of light reflected from the surface from a light source like your projector. We measure gain by finding the vantage point where the screen appears at its brightest. This is important to understand as the higher the gain, the more light reflects off the screen.

You may stop and say, well, this makes a white screen the best choice. But white, as the most reflective of all colors, reflects all light. If you have a room with lots of ambient lighting, this means the screen will also absorb and reflect that light as well. While white screens can produce some stunning images, they are limited for use in only truly dark rooms.

It is also worth noting that higher gain screens tend to have limited viewing angles. If you are not front and center, colors can get distorted and washed out easily. Another factor that comes into play is how the projector represents the color black.

Since black is the absence of light, white screens that reflect the maximum light don’t display them as truly as other screen colors. This makes for a less-than-ideal viewing experience. So if you do choose to go for a white screen, make sure you are taking into account factors like ambient lighting, viewing angles, and black/natural contrast.

Using a Grey Projector Screen

If you opt for grey in lieu of white, you might have a better viewing experience. Unlike white, grey doesn’t reflect all the light coming from the projector. Instead, it will absorb some light and not reflect it. This means that there will be less to worry about for rooms with ambient light sources.

Since the gain is not as high, grey walls tend to offer better viewing angles. This can be great if your home theatre is in a non-traditional setup, meaning seating is not like a typical theatre. Seats off to the side of the “cone of viewing” will still have a good chance of seeing what is happening. Grey surfaces absorb more light, providing more contrast between darker and lighter areas. Blacks will appear more distinct, but white areas will also be affected.

What usually happens with grey surfaces and projectors is that the white areas will appear slightly grey. Where you might see bright and vibrant colors on a white surface, you might see a duller color scheme with a slight grey overtone.

This will depend on your projector, though, as the higher the lumens, the higher the gain, usually. If you opt for a lighter grey, you will be getting the best of both worlds. While you might still experience some grey tones, it won’t be as significant as using a darker grey tone that would be closer to black.

Can You Use a Projector on Colored Walls?

While you can use a projector on almost any color of the wall, some are better than others. The image quality will depend heavily on what color you are using and the quality of your projector. Consider that the color you choose for your projector wall is going to have an impact on the image. We have an article dedicated to making the best our of your wall for a projector.

Remember that both white and black play a role in color creation. Consequently, if you opt for, say, a red-colored wall, the whites will appear red as the underlying color tints them. Similarly, black will also appear as reddish in tint. This is because black is the lack of light when it comes to projecting, so whatever color you have as your background is going to appear more distinctly. Color also plays a role in contrast.

The more light-absorbing color you use, the less contrast you will have. In an opposite way, the darker the color you use will play a role in contrast as well. This could mean that the final image is darker, which for some, is better. While there are general rules to follow when considering wall color, in the end, viewer subjectivity comes into play. If you know that you like a heavy contrast on your films, then, by all means, opt for a darker colored wall.

Can You Use a Projector on a Dark Wall

Small Projector with dark wall in background

When it comes to color choice, we know that white and grey reflect light back to the viewer. This works because the basic function of a projector is to reflect light off a surface to a viewer’s eyes. Darker colors will not reflect as much light and rather absorb more.

Colors like dark blue, dark grey, or black all have this feature. They can be a great choice for a room with a lot of ambient light, as the color will absorb the ambient light and make the screen more viewable. This will, however, have an effect on image quality, gain, and contrast. This means that your screen may not give you the kind of “true” colors you are looking for.

Your projector type and quality will play a significant role here. If you have a more powerful projector with a higher lumen output, it will reflect more light off the darker surface. This means you’ll get a better image when using a color like black.

Black screens will display black more truly and amplify the contrasts between other colors. A black screen often will help keep colors crisp and clear compared to other colors like grey. In general, black screens are only good for areas with a high volume of ambient light.

What’s the Best Color Paint for a Projector Wall?

So what’s the best color for a projector wall? As we’ve explained in our guide on the topic, results will vary depending on a few factors, however, one color seems to be the best in many situations. If you can, choose to paint the wall you intend to project onto a lighter shade of grey. This will ensure that enough light is absorbed not to mess up the colors but still provide the greatest viewing area.

Keep in mind that the following factors will play a role in how well your projector works: 1) the power of your projector (in lumens), 2) the distance from projector to screen, 3) viewing angles, and 4) ambient lighting. If you have to deal with a black, white, or another color wall, you can usually make due.

There will be some slight drops in image quality depending on the above factors, but the screen will certainly be visible. If you are using the room as a dedicated home theatre, you might want to either invest in a proper projector screen or use a paint-on-projector screen.

Using a Paint-On Projector Screen

So you’ve decided you want to change the color of your wall for better use with a projector. Before you head down to the hardware store and pick out your favorite shade of grey, you should make sure you’re using the right type of paint. While you can probably get away with using any old paint, for the best results, you should opt for a projector screen-specific paint. This way, you’ll get the best results.

Again, the type of paint you choose is going to depend on factors we already know about, like ambient lighting and lumen output. Regardless of these variables, the best paint to use is special projector screen paint. These are usually easy to find and are best suited for the home theatre experience.

There are lots of different products to choose from. You can opt for a grey but prepare for a myriad of choices for shade. Darker shades, like this Paint on Screen S1 Ultimate Contrast Paint (on Amazon), or lighter shades like this Paint on Screen Silver (on Amazon). There are also choices for shades of white that can work in certain lighting conditions.

Keep in mind that these will be permanent solutions. Additionally, this paint can get expensive, so decide whether or not it will be worth the investment. You can easily purchase a roll-up screen, like this one from Super Deal (link to Amazon), for a fraction of the price of a gallon of projector screen paint.

Is Projector Paint as Good as a Screen?

When it comes to which is better, screen or paint, there is some debate. Generally speaking, a pre-made projector screen is going to offer the best bang for your buck and require less setup. When thinking about using a projector screen paint, you have to worry quite a bit about installation.

With paint, you need to worry about the surface of the wall. It needs to be smooth and free of any rough patches. Any irregularities will show up when your project on top of them. It might not be a big deal for some, but those little bumps will distort the image and create a less than perfect viewing experience.

Compared to an untreated wall, though, screen paint provides much better viewing. This is due to how the special paint reflects light in the right way. Remember, light reflection is how a projector operates, so it’s important to take this into account. So, overall a projector screen will be a better option. But, if you put in the proper work, you can make just as good of a viewing screen with the right paint. 

How to Paint-On a Projector Wall

So you’ve decided to paint your own projector wall. You’ve got the right paint, you’ve found the right spot, so the next steps should be easy, right? Before you start breaking out the paint rollers, there are some tips that will help you get the most out of the project.

Other than that, you’ll pretty much be painting a wall like you normally do. Make sure you are lining up your sweeps for consistency, apply even coats, and you should be good! Below, you’ll find some tips that will help your new projector screen wall give you the best viewing experience the next time you fire up your projector:

  • Paint it properly — While you might have the right paint, you’ll want to make sure you are prepping with a base layer of white. This will give the projector paint the best chance at reflecting the proper light levels.
  • Inspect the wall — You might not think that small bump or that crack will be a big deal, but when it comes time to watch a movie, they will surely stand out. Make sure to sand and repair any area that will cause trouble down the line.
  • Paint last — You’ll want to make absolutely sure you have the right size screen before you paint. The best way to accomplish this is already having your projector mounted in its final location. Shoot for a screen size about ⅔ of your viewing distance.
  • Use a mock-up — Project a high def image onto the wall and use it as your guide before laying down your base layer.

How to Hide a Projector Screen

Ok, so you might be reading this and thinking, “I don’t want an obvious grey square on my wall.” Well, if that’s the case, you might think about hiding your screen if you can. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to minimize the impact of a projector screen on your wall.

The first tactic to employ is using the screen paint across the whole wall. Since most screen paints are neutral colors like grey or white, they can easily match up with any decor. It will take more paint, but in the end, you’ll have a wall that will be indescribable as a projector screen.

The next option you might consider is purchasing a roll-up screen. We already touched on this earlier, and if you are looking for something you can hide away, they are your best bet. Not only do they provide a better image, but they are often cheaper than paint-on-screen options.

Can You Use a Bedsheet as a Projector Screen?

So you’re looking for the best bang for your buck. You might have found an old bed sheet that looks like it would make the perfect projector screen. Before you decide to throw it up against the wall, there are a few things to consider.

You can use a bedsheet as a projector screen, but similar to paint-on projector screens, the color matters. A general rule of thumb is to use the color grey. If you opt for a white sheet, it may mean the colors come out wonky. They’re also not great if a room has a lot of ambient lighting. But that’s not the worst part.

With a sheet, you just can’t get everything smooth. Any little push of air or even a slightly off-center nail could make the sheet wrinkly. These wrinkles will make for giant image distortions when the light hits them. There really is no way to remedy this problem. So, while a sheet can work in a pinch, it is not a good long-term option.