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How Do Projector Screens Work?

How Do Projector Screens Work?

A projector is only as good as its screen allows. Good projectors need fitting screens to deliver the best visuals.

Some people attempt to rough it out with a plain wall. However, a projector screen is superior to a plain white wall.

Projector screens are designed to display every last detail of a projected picture.

They are covered with special reflective coatings. This can make projected images come out as clear as on an HDTV.

There are different types of screens in the market. They are designed for different uses and projection types.

You are probably asking, “how do projector screens work?” I mean, how do they lend so much extra appeal to projection?

In this article, we will find out just how exactly these varying screens work.

How Exactly Do Projector Screens Work?

Screens operate as the backdrop of transmitted images. They serve as the display surface.

Put an object in front of a light source and a shadowy image of the object is thrown onto any surface in front of the object.

If you move the object around, you create an animated image. This is more or less the general idea about how projector screens work.

The projector is the light source, and it projects the visual image onto the screen. The projection screen is the display surface for the projected light.

how a projector screen work

Keep in mind that projector screens are not just convenient surfaces. They come designed to improve display quality.

They are often very smooth and highly reflective.

This means that they capture a high amount of the light thrown at them and reflect it back to the viewer. They allow little loss of light or quality.

Screens for Different Kinds of Projection

Like we mentioned earlier, there are different kinds of projector screens.

Some of their differences are physical variations in design. Some may be retractable while others have fixed-frames.

Another difference is in the quality and performance of the screen. High-end projector screens deliver better pictures than budget screens.

Other differences are based on the kind of projection they can be applied to — front or rear projection.

We will now explain how different kinds of projection screens work to display their images.

1. Front Projection Screens

a meeting with front projection screen

Front projection occurs when an object is in front of a light source and a screen is in front of the object.

The light source casts a shadow of the object directly onto the screen. The viewer faces the same direction as the projector’s light beam.

Ultimately, the image you see on the screen is a reflection of the light from the projector.

Front projection screens are designed to be highly reflective. They come in light and dark colors.

However, darker screens are better for projection. They help prevent loss of light or image clarity in bright rooms.

They are coated with titanium dioxide, barium sulfate or magnesium carbonate. These chemicals enhance their reflectivity.

Front projection is the standard for enlarged image projection. Hence, it is the more common method.

As a result, front projection screens are very common. They are also less expensive than other types.

2. Rear Projection Screens

a group of friends using rear projector screens for movie night outdoor on a rooftop

Have you seen the scenes in horror movies that show objects and their movements from behind white curtains?

Those objects’ images are visible from behind the curtains. The images are formed through back projection.

The viewers face the screen, but the light source and the object are behind the screen.

In rear projection, the viewer and the projector are on opposite sides of the screen too.

A rear projection screen has certain benefits. It offers high clarity and contrast because the projector is placed behind the screen.

Due to the position of the projector, ambient light cannot interfere with the image and cause whitewashing.

The rear projection screen is transparent. This way, a viewer sees the image clearly from the other side of the screen.

What’s the catch? Well, the image often loses some of its brightness which is reflected back towards the projector.

To defeat this, rear projection screens are used with very bright projectors. After some brightness is lost, the image would still be bright enough for the viewer.

Rear projection is very convenient. People cannot get in the path of the beam and cast shadows on the screen.

Rear projection takes up space behind the screen, so it is mostly used in large spaces like cinemas. Rear projection screens are also quite expensive.

3. Acoustically Transparent Screens

a theatre with speakers behind projector screen

Acoustically transparent screens are popular because of the sound quality attached to them.

Regular projector screens are used with front channel speakers. The speakers may be placed to the right, left or center of the screen.

An acoustically transparent screen however, would allow you to perceive the sounds as coming directly from the screen.

Sound can pass through these screens. Hence, speakers and sound systems can be placed behind them during projection.

There are two main types of acoustically transparent screens: the woven and the perforated.

  • The woven screen:

A woven projector screen is more sound transparent than a perforated screen. It is manufactured on a loom just like textiles.

The woven material provides naturally varied spacing and patterns on the screen.

Woven projector screens allow sound to pass through perfectly. Sadly, they may lose some light through those holes.

When this occurs, it results in a double-imaging effect.

  • The perforated screen:

A perforated projector screen is created out of a very strong material like PVC. It has thousands of very small holes poked into it.

The holes are each 0.3mm in diameter or less. Woven materials typically have wider holes than perforated screens.

These holes allow sound to pass through the screen, but they do not allow light to pass through with ease.

How Does a Pull-Down Projector Screen Work?

a pull down retractable projector screen in a meeting room

A pull-down projector screen is also called a retractable screen. It can be wound or pulled up into its casing when it is not in use.

Pull-down screens can be motorized and controlled with a remote. They can also be retracted and released manually, like window blinds.

Fixed-frame screens are in direct contrast to retractable ones. They come already set-up for projection.

They cannot be retracted or collapsed into smaller sizes after use.

Pull-down screens are very beneficial. Their retractable nature makes storage and transportation a lot easier.


a hand writes F A Q and red circle

1. Are projector screens good for my eyes?

Generally, projectors are known to reflect light while TVs emit light from within them.

You might experience headaches or a dull throbbing behind your eyeballs after long periods of watching TV. This happens especially when you watch TV in the dark.

The discomfort is due to excessive brightness. There are limits to how much brightness your eyes can handle for extended periods of time.

Reflected light is easier on the eyes. When light is reflected, most of the invisible lights that cause eye damage get filtered away.

Reflection reduces the level of light aimed at your eyes. It reduces the stress on your optic nerves and makes viewing more comfortable.

A large image also puts less strain on your eyes. Projectors are obviously able to produce much larger images than other display devices.

So, yes, projector screens are better for your eyes.

Read more: Can looking into a projector blind you?

2. Is getting a projector screen worth it?

Wondering whether or not to get a projector screen?

For starters, if you already have a projector, you most definitely need a projector screen.

Projector screens have the size to give you a true cinematic experience. Most projector screens are beyond 120″ diagonally.

They are designed to display large images in their original quality. TVs cannot compete with projector screens in terms of size.

Also, projector screens are specially designed to reflect light. This makes them better than walls or white sheets.

Depending on the type of screen you get, you can make use of front or rear projection.

So, the answer is yes. You should get a projector screen for your projector. It is definitely going to be worth it.

3. How to use a projector screen

The first thing to do is to determine a suitable location. Consider factors like the size of the screen and the layout of the room.

Try to install your screen in an area of the room that is free of furniture. Also, keep it at least 2ft above the ground.

This will raise it to the eye level of a seated audience.

Make sure your screen is not in the direct path of any secondary lights. Images on a projector screen look better in dark surroundings.

A smooth surface makes for a smooth image.

There should be no obstructions or bumps on the wall behind the screen. This way it would lay flat against the wall.

If you own a retractable or collapsible screen, make sure to put them away neatly after use. This helps them last long.


The farther a projector is installed from the screen, the larger the image it projects. However, space might be an issue.

You may not have enough distance to project the kind of large image you want. In this case, a short throw projector will be ideal.

Short throw projectors have wide-angle lenses with throw ratios below 1.4. They can project large images from short distances.

Projector screens pose no health hazards whatsoever to users. They are fast becoming the choice alternatives to TVs even in home theaters.

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