How to Add Reflective Coating to a Projection Screen Surface

By Ed Wills

Video projection adds clarity and professionalism to any meeting.
i Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images

Video projection is popular both at home and at the office. For conference room presentations and home theater fun, high reflectivity projection screens provide best viewing results, but can be expensive. Fortunately, you can create your own projection surface with simple materials, saving considerable money.

Prepare Your Surface

Your background surface must be flat and completely smooth. Sand any wooden or drywall surface with 100-grit sandpaper until it is smooth to the touch. Clean any residue from the surface with a vacuum followed by a damp microfiber cloth. Allow it to dry completely. If you are painting your projection screen directly on your wall, carefully mask the area to be painted. If you have opted for a fabric surface, such as a clean white sheet, iron, then frame the sheet, so that it is tight and wrinkle-free. When using a sheet as your background material, it is best to use the highest thread count you can reasonably find. The higher the thread count, the more tightly the fabric is woven together, which means less light will leak through the material.

Whiten Your Surface

Your background surface must be pure, bright white. For a plywood or drywall surface, paint with a latex high gloss white enamel using a low nap roller. Smooth out any drips with a sponge paintbrush. Allow the paint to dry completely before the next step.

Add Reflectivity

Just like a mirror uses a glass sheet with a silvered background for reflectivity, projection screens use tiny glass beads to add reflectivity to the white background. 100-200 grit glass-sandblasting beads are perfect for this application. They can be obtained from any sandblasting supply store. When using a free standing background, such as a sheet of plywood, lay the material flat on a drop cloth, apply a second coat of high gloss white enamel and sprinkle the glass beads while the paint is still wet. Be sure to cover the background material completely and evenly. Brush excess glass beads away after the paint has thoroughly dried.

If you are using a fabric background, lay the framed fabric flat on a drop cloth. Spray the fabric with a clear aerosol fabric adhesive. Sprinkle the glass beads over the fabric. Be sure to cover the background material completely and evenly. Brush excess glass beads away after the adhesive has thoroughly dried.

Adding Reflectivity to a Wall

Applying the glass beads to a vertical wall is more difficult. Apply a second coat of paint and blow the beads against the wall using the blower attachment of your vacuum cleaner. Be sure to wear tight-fitting goggles and a respirator. Alternatively, you can toss handfuls of beads onto the wet surface and collect the excess in a clean drop cloth at the base of the wall. Repeat the tossing action several times, until the surface is completely and evenly covered. You may be tempted just to mix the beads into the paint; However, that process covers the beads in paint, masking the reflective properties.