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How To Make an Overhead Projector?

How To Make an Overhead Projector?

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One of the most prominent reasons people put off getting a projector is its cost. More than once, you have probably considered acquiring a projector for your classroom, art projects, or even a romantic date. The cost of high-tech digital projectors does not have to keep delaying your intentions.

The good news is that DIY overhead projectors can be made at home and in just a couple of minutes. If you want to make a budget-friendly projector that will work just as effectively as a store bought one, this article is for you.

In this article, I am going to discuss the easiest and most cost-effective way to build your own overhead projector.

Overhead projectors are tools built to project magnified images onto a screen or background. The images are often drawn on see-through plastic film through which light passes. These projectors are great for various things including: interactive classes, storytelling, slide presentations, and displaying magnified image outlines for drawing murals.

Let’s take a look at the steps involved in making an overhead projector.

Steps to Making an Overhead Projector at Home

You can make a good projector at home with materials found in the house. The process I will describe below is for making a 12″ cube projector.

Note that you can choose to make your projector’s dimensions larger or use a cuboidal box instead. Don’t be afraid to flex those creative muscles.

How to Make a Projector for Wall Murals

Materials for Building an Overhead Projector

  • A 12″ cube cardboard box or 24 × 36″ black poster board
  • A straight edge
  • A pair of scissors
  • Glue
  • Marker or dark pencils
  • Single bulb lamp
  • A roller tape
  • A cutting blade
  • A projector stand
  • Transparencies: plastic sheets or clear food bags

clear food bags

Making Your Projector Box

For this you will need the 12″ cardboard box or black poster board. The poster board is better because its dark colour traps in the light.

Step 1: While the box is flat, draw an 8″ square on one side with the straight edge and marker.

Step 2: Cut the square out with the cutting blade.

Step 3: If you’re using a 24×36″ poster board, cut it into 6 squares of 12″ each. Then cut the 8″ square hole in one of the squares.

Step 4: Set up the box with glue. Make sure the edges are glued tight together and keep the open hole facing you.

Step 5: Run your tape along all the glued edges. This will seal every opening and make it impossible for light to get out.

The aim is to make the screen cut-out the only avenue for light to pass through. Once you have carried out these steps, you have successfully set up your projector box.

Fitting a Light Source

a flashlight

To project an image from transparent material and onto the projection screen, you would need to put a light source in the box. You can make a projector with a flashlight or a single bulb lamp; you can even use a phone torchlight if you have a phone stand.

Step 1: Get a single bulb lamp. Make sure your light source is bright and working well.

Step 2: Cut a rectangular opening in the bottom of the board with your cutting blade. Cut it to be big enough to put your light source through.

Step 3: Insert your light source (lamp) through the hole in the bottom and make sure the lamp is facing the square opening on the box.

A simpler hack is to place the light source on the projector stand and place the projection box over it, making sure it goes through the hole in the bottom.

Creating the Image for Projection

drawing the sun

The images for your homemade overhead projector have to be on a transparent sheet. The transparency makes it possible for light to pass through the sheet and project the image onto the screen.

Step 1: If you’re working with a clear food bag, cut the sides with a scissor so that you have one long rectangle.

Step 2: With scissors, trim the transparent sheet into a shape that can fit comfortably over the 8″ opening in front of your projector box.

Step 3: Use a marker to draw the desired image or writings on the plastic sheet. You can also print on transparencies.

Step 4: Place the plastic sheet with the image traced on it over the square opening on the projector.

Step 5: Make sure that your image is on the part of the plastic sheet directly over the open 8″ hole. Hold it in place with tape at the edges.

A simpler hack for getting the exact image you want is placing the transparent sheet over a picture and tracing the image onto the sheet with a marker or pencil.

The transparencies used during a projection can be wiped clean of marker ink and reused at a later date.

If you have completed the steps outlined above, you have a complete overhead projector to create your own projector art. If your light source is inserted and turned on, you will see the image on the plastic sheet projected clearly onto the board, wall or canvas.

Adjust the projector stand to the desired height so that the image is reflected onto the surface you want. At home, you can use a stool as a stand for your projector or stack boxes until you get your desired height.


How can I make my projected image fit onto the projection screen?

How can I make my projected image clearer?

  • Draw the image on the plastic sheet with a dark marker. Pencil it in properly
  • Darken the room; close all windows and turn off other light sources. The projected image is always clearer in a darker room.
  • Use a brighter and more focused lamp or light source.

My image is backwards on the projection screen. How can I fix it?

Well, this is a common first-time problem with a simple solution. Turn the plastic sheet backwards when placing it over the projector’s hole.

Make sure the image you drew on is facing inwards, into the box. When light passes through the sheet, the image will be projected correctly onto the screen.


Overhead projectors are limited when it comes to presentations that involve moving pictures or sound. However, they do not come with the burden of wires and software malfunctions. As a simple set-up, they offer satisfactory functions.

While the homemade overhead projector may not offer as many high-tech functions as its digital counterparts, it has proven very useful for creative expressions in education and art.

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