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Projector Screens Buying Guide

There are many points to consider when ordering a new projection screen for your home or school. Different needs and environments call for different projection screens. Some things to think about:


School Outfitters offers two types of projection screen finishes:

Fiberglass Matte White is the industry standard projection screen finish. Screens with this finish diffuse projected light evenly so images can be viewed from almost anywhere in front of the screen. For the best results, you do have to eliminate as much light in the room from other sources (ambient light) as is possible. This finish is a good choice for use with most projectors.

High-Contrast Gray offers excellent image resolution and can be viewed well from almost any angle, much like a matte white finish. The difference is that the gray surface enhances the black colors of digital projectors and also performs better with more ambient light. High-contrast gray is a good choice for most digital projection uses (films, television programs, or computer displays) and is recommended for everything but non-digital overhead projectors.


Gain is the measure for brightness of a projection screen. The industry standard for brightness is 1.0 gain, meaning that the screen neither takes away nor adds to the brightness of the image being projected.

A matte white screen has a 1.0 gain at any angle. Even students sitting farthest from the middle of the room will see a well-projected image.


There are three basic types of projection screens:

Manual Wall-Mount Screens attach to a wall or ceiling, can be of almost any size, and are raised and lowered by hand. Manual screens usually cost less than electric screens.

Electric Wall-Mount Screens raise and lower using an electric motor. They are generally more expensive than manual screens, but are easier to operate. They also tend to be more impressive to audiences.

Portable Screens are any type of screen that collapses easily for moving and storage. Portable screens come in smaller sizes and can be put up and taken down as needed. They are relatively inexpensive.


Screen size is usually the most difficult decision. Surprisingly, bigger is not always better. A good rule of thumb is that screen height should be 1/6th of the distance from the screen to the furthest seat. For example, if the farthest seat from the screen is 36 feet, then your screen should be about 6 feet high. A screen height of 60 to 72 inches is generally a good choice for a typical classroom. For larger auditoriums, much larger screen sizes should be considered, and we recommend calling one of our customer assistants for help.

The screen should not puddle on the floor when fully extended. When the screen is not fully extended – especially when more than 12 inches of the screen is still on the roller – it is more likely to bunch up and cause waves in the image.


If you know what type of projector and media you'll be using most often, you can choose a screen shape that significantly enhances the viewing experience. Your three primary choices are square, full screen, or widescreen:

Square: A square screen (1:1 ratio) is a good choice if you are primarily using a non-digital overhead projector. A square screen will also accommodate full screen, 4:3 ratio, (4 units wide by 3 units high) television broadcasts and widescreen images from a 16:9 digital projector, but the image won't fill the entire screen from top to bottom.

Full Screen: Full screens (also called NTSC screens) have a 4:3 ratio and are a good, all-around choice for most projection uses. A 1:1 square image will fill up most of the screen, and a projected TV or computer screen will fill it up completely. As with a square screen, widescreen images won't fill a full screen from top to bottom.

Widescreen: A widescreen shape features a 16:9 ratio which is the standard format for HDTV broadcasts as well as the majority of new DVD releases (often referred to as "anamorphic") and even many new video game releases. A widescreen format is the best match for widescreen digital projectors because the image fills the screen completely. When showing square or full screen formats on a widescreen format, the image will not fill the left and right sides of the screen.

You'll also find AV Format screens that are not as common but that accommodate a variety of projector types and range from square to wide in aspect ratio.

Some screens come with a black border or "drop" that helps frame the image and create a more finished look. The drop also masks any stretching of the edges of the image, which can sometimes occur with extremely large screens.

Choosing the screen that best fits your projector and media will give you and your audience the best possible viewing experience. A square screen (1:1) is best for normal overhead projectors while a full screen (4:3) is best when showing TV or computer screen images from a digital projector. A widescreen shape (16:9) should be chosen when most of what you show is in a widescreen format, especially when you are using a widescreen projector. When in doubt the full screen shape is a terrific choice because TV and computer projection are extremely common with digital projector use, and the full screen shape does a nice job displaying square and widescreen images, as well.

Cleaning & Maintenance

Use warm water and a mild soap to clean your matte white or high-contrast gray screens. Be sure to rinse the screen well with clean water; soap build-up will cause streaks on the screen.

Shop from our online selection of Projector Screens to find the one that bests meets your needs.

If you can't decide which screen type is best for you, we'll be happy to help. Call us at 1-800-260-2776.

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