Are you planning on building your own outdoor or backyard movie screen? If so then firstly I recommend that you read my guide to making an outdoor movie screen on the cheap.
In that guide, I talk through some of my recommended materials for doing so… but if you just want to quickly know what the best material is to use, then please read on!
Material 1: Bed Sheet Projector Screen
Probably the one you have already considered; using an old bedsheet.
It’s a method that you will see time and time again on website forums, but would I recommend it? Probably not, and let me tell you why.
Bed sheets tend to be very thin. What this means is that light from your movie projector can pass through the sheet, and can highlight patterns, colors, and shapes behind the sheet.
So, in practical terms, if you are planning on hanging a bed sheet in your garden or backyard, and projecting a movie onto it, it’s going to look terrible.
Even if you hang the bedsheet as a projector screen against a wall you are still going to get a reduction in picture quality.
That’s why I don’t advise this method, as it can be a real downer on your outdoor movie night. There’s no point in planning a great evening if the movie is going to be ruined.
But, there are some ways in which you can mitigate these types of problems, such as;
- Place a black sheet or black panels behind the bed sheet
- Double-up the bed sheet to make it thicker
As a final point in the bedsheet method, even if you do manage to reduce the light coming through the material, you are probably then going to have problems with creases and wrinkles.
This is especially problematic if you double up the bedsheet.
You will need to really pull the bedsheet tightly over a frame, or tack it to a wall or structure really well.
To conclude on using bed sheets for outdoor movies, I’ve never seen anybody use this method very well – so I would recommend alternative solutions, as listed below.
Material 2: Cheap Projector Screen Material
If you have read my guide to building your own outdoor movie screen, then you will know how I recommend a cheap material called Carl’s Blackout cloth. It comes as a full kit, or you can just buy the special material.
If you are serious about your backyard movie night, then get this stuff, as it’s specifically designed and manufactured for people projecting movies outdoors.
It’s a tough material and means that the movie can be seen from any angle and any time of the day. You can also purchase it as a full DIY kit to help you build your screen, so for me, is one of the best products and materials on the market.
To see for yourself, take a look at Carl’s DIY projector screen material on Amazon. It’s relatively cheap and has outstanding reviews from customers who have already built their own outdoor screen.
Save Time & Money: You Could Just Buy the Cheap DIY Kit
Bear in mind, that’s just the material – Carl also does the whole kit package as well which comes with a stand and frame – it’s a little more expensive, but still very cheap and you can view the latest kit prices on Amazon.
Or Just Using Something Really, Really Cheap
Another cheap outdoor projector screen material you might want to consider would be Tyvek house wrap. You can buy a roll of the stuff from any hardware store, such as Home Depot (click here), or even now available on Amazon cheaply.
Would I use Tyvek house wrap?
Only if I was really working on the cheap, and was doing a one-off outdoor movie event. It’s not great and the picture quality won’t be anywhere near as good as using Carl’s blackout cloth I recommended earlier.
Material 3: Homemade Projector Screen Material
If all else fails, make your own homemade projector screen material out of paper. I have seen people use large pieces of paper which they have then taped together and either hung or attached to a wall.
How well does paper work for an outdoor movie projector screen?
Not very well at all!
It’s only really a resort for the absolute cheapest solution.
The paper is going to blow around, the picture will be awful, and you will see the taped joins when you watch the movie against it so definitely not a great recommendation.
Material 4: Paint Your Wall Gray – Not White!
OK, so this isn’t strictly using the material, but you’re looking for a cheap solution for an outdoor movie projector screen, so it would be remiss of me not to mention it.
If you have a nice, flat wall, which is high enough to project your movie onto, and you don’t mind painting an outdoor wall permanently, then simply get the paint out!
But why do I say gray, and not white?
The color gray absorbs light better than a white screen does. This means that when you project your movie against it, the black level on the screen will be maintained.
The reason this works so well is that assuming your outdoor movie projector has ample lumen output (most modern and digital projectors do), then the white shades will remain white, whilst blacks will be maintained too.
Don’t worry too much about the science behind it though, just trust me on this.
I don’t know many people who want to paint their walls gray, so it’s probably not an option, but if you do decide to use this method, then all I can say it does work reasonably well.
There’s a great video on YouTube which shows a guy doing this exact method indoors. You could do this outdoors in a similar fashion – check it out below.
In an ideal world, you would smooth the wall out completely before painting it as that will give you the best possible picture.
If you don’t have the time or inclination to do so, then simply paint the whole thing. You can add a border to it to make it look more professional too, just like the guy in the video does.
An outdoor or backyard movie can be so much fun, but the fun will soon stop if you can’t even see the picture properly.
It’s so important to not only use a decent movie projector but also make sure that you have an effective screen – after all, what’s the point in spending money on a projector if you are then going to scrimp and save on the actual screen itself.
If you are serious about outdoor movies then I would recommend you invest in a proper piece of kit, but if you just want something cheap, quick, and easy that will actually work then choose my second recommendation with Carl’s product on Amazon. It’s a great material from your screen which can be used time and time again.