Projector Screen versus Wall – Which Is Better?

The projection screen is better than a wall when it comes to featuring a projection from a projector. To be more specific, a projector screen is built specifically in order to accommodate a projector while a wall isn’t. Even if you modify a wall in order to make it better suited for projections, like putting reflective paint on it or smoothen it out, it will still ultimately be inferior to using a screen.

Many people wonder which is better, the projector screen or the wall. Or rather, they’re curious whether or not it’s possible to use a projector without a screen so that they can save a couple of bucks from buying such an item. Is a projector screen even necessary when push came to shove?

The Benefits of Projector Screen

The difference between a screen and a wall is like the difference between using a hammer and a wrench to hammer a nail.  Theoretically, you can use both to do the same thing, but the hammer (just like the screen) is more effective at that task since the wrench (the wall) is made in mind for other applications. There are more than a couple of reasons why using a projector without a screen or with a wall isn’t ideal.

The Benefits of Projector Screen
The Benefits of Projector Screen – Image source by Paladin

 

Projector screen vs Wall debates tend to end with the screen winning and the wall being an alternative to the screen if you absolutely cannot get a screen. With that said, here are the benefits of getting a projector screen.

 

  • Customized for Projector Viewing: As we’ve established, a screen is made for projection. You can choose between black, grey, or white screens to boot. The white screen faithfully recreates the projection in low-light conditions with maximum reflective properties. The only screen better than white screens at reflecting light back is the cinematic silver screen.

Grey or gray projectors increase the contrast between white and black portions of the image even in the presence of ambient light. Meanwhile, black screens work best in low-lighting situations with pitch-dark home cinemas or theaters since it makes the bright parts stand out more.

  • More Reflective and Smoother: Compared to a wall, many projector screens out there—even the black screen—are much more reflective. What’s more, if your wall has textures on it, it will tend to distort the picture being projected on it, even if it’s in full Ultra HD 4K and HDR mode.

The color of the wall can also give your picture an unwanted tint to it, like a green wall can make your projector image look like it’s being filmed in “The Matrix” or something. Walls, even white walls, have many imperfections that the naked eye can’t identify but become clear when you project an image on them. This isn’t a problem with a well-made screen.

 

  • Special Projector Screen Coating: Projector screens, unlike a simple white blanket or bed sheet, are also painted with a special reflective coating that improves their ability to reflect the light from the image or projection to make it sharper and brighter.

Without this coating, the image will tend to look dull and faded unless you’re in the low-light conditions or absolute pitch darkness that makes even the weakest of lights much brighter to the naked eye. An image projected on a cemented whitewall or wooden wall with regular white paint on it won’t be as striking and clear when compared to what it could like on a traditional projector screen.

 

The Advantages of Wall Projection 

Image projection is possible with a simple white wall. However, it has its respective pros and cons. A wall is cheaper and more available to many a homeowner compared to a screen. If you can take the downgrade of viewing something on a wall, it’s perfectly serviceable. However, the surface of a wall isn’t as reflective as a projector screen. Sure, a mirror is more reflective than either surface due to its smoothness and the nature of glass, but for projector purposes, a screen has optimum reflectiveness.

The Advantages of Wall Projection
The Advantages of Wall Projection – Image Source by Matthew MacGregor

 

There is a significant difference between watching something on a screen and on a wall. The picture is duller on a wall because a screen has a more reflective surface to make the projection look almost like it is coming straight from an HDTV.

 See more: Can You Use a Projector on a Dark Wall?

  • Smoothen Up The Wall: You don’t need to buy a projection screen if your wall is smooth enough to accommodate the projection. Therefore, it’s only prudent to make the wall as smooth as possible to ensure no texture will warp the picture. Some might not bother with this step, thinking that the wall they have can do the job as is

However, sometimes depending on the wall, the resulting image will look as bad as a snowy TV screen with bad reception or a low-res YouTube video at 144p. Tiny shadows can obscure what you’re watching or playing. Smoothening out the wall’s surface can do wonders for image clarity. Turn your lights off and your flashlight on to see problem areas for smoothening out the wall. Use a pencil to mark said areas too.

 

  • Paint The Wall: A dim or dull projection is hard to deal with. Even the brightest of projectors with the highest of lumens that can take on the light-robbing effects of ambient light can run afoul an unpainted brick or mortar wall. A wall designated for use with a projector should be painted with projector screen paint.

It’s not 100 percent necessary but it’s certainly helpful and will make your wall more screen-like than before. The reflectiveness of your wall will make the projection look brighter or sometimes even outright appear as though it’s coming from a self-lit screen of an HDTV. The issue with the paint though is that it doesn’t come cheap. It’s cheaper to buy the screen.

 

  • Reflective Paint Costs: On Amazon.com, a quart of screen paint is half the price of a projector screen, and those are among the cheapest of paints. To save money, you can paint the area with a primer or regular paint first. After you’ve sanded that out and applied a second coat, you can apply a thinner coat of screen paint over the same area.

This is the more cost-effective option over spending quarts and gallons of reflective paint than painting over them rather than using them as the finish. If you have a quart of reflective paint, then 1-2 thinner coats over a regular primer or white paint is a great option over a smaller budget versus using multiple reflective paint coats.

 

The Great Debate – Projector Screen versus Wall 

Using a wall for your projection needs is a labor-intensive effort involving loads of reflective paint, sanding, and smoothening of the wall to make it primed for projector use. This is as opposed to simply buying a ready-made projector screen made for the job. A projector can be bought as a square for a 4:3 aspect ratio or as a rectangle for a 16:9 aspect ratio, reflecting the screen shapes and sizes of CRT TVs and HDTVs. In contrast, you can leave your wall frameless and have the image be placed anywhere on it without worrying about lining everything up.

  • Painted versus Ready-Made: Ready-made projector screens are better because you won’t have to paint them yourself and you’re sparing yourself material and labor cost through their mass production. What’s more, a full gallon of high-quality screen paint should cost the same as a high-end projector screen, so what’s the point? Most people who opt to use their wall do so with the expectation of saving money instead of adding DIY labor on top of their expenses in order to watch something decent with their projector investment.

 

  • Walls Are More Space-Saving: Even though screens like the 100-inch Silver Ticket Fixed Frame projector screen are more economical than buying a can of reflective paint to turn a wall into a screen, those who don’t mind the lower quality projection might find wall screenings more practical. They might even think that sanding the wall smooth and buying that quart or gallon of reflective paint worth it since a wall is more space-saving than having a cumbersome projector screen around.

 

  • Convenience versus Quality: If you’re a gamer or film connoisseur with a middle-class income or from a middle-class family, then you’re probably after quality. In that case, the projector screen is a no-brainer over the wall. You might even spend extra bucks in turning your wall into a spare projector screen while still keeping the screen if you’re part of the upper class. If you’re poor, you make do with what you have. You might buy a projector and screen combo or use anything from the wall to a bedsheet in order to watch Netflix on your projector using an account you’ve borrowed from a friend. 

Conclusion

After spending some time researching this subject, here are some easy answers. Yes, it’s possible to use a projector without a screen. Just expect a downgrade in the visuals. Many people find the downgrade tolerable. However, other people who are obsessed with 60 Fps frame rates or high-fidelity 4K resolution with HDR like gamers and cinemaphiles will buy a screen in order to get that full cinematic experience from their games or movies. You lose a bit in translating a projection from your projector to a wall. It’s like having a bad Google-based machine translation versus a careful translation from a pro translator. Something will get lost in the translation.

James Core
I write dozens of helpful informational articles based on topics that I have identified again and again throughout my research and work experience. I am here to help you find the right projector.

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